These Are the 10 Germiest Spots in Your Home (Beyond the Toilet)

The kitchen is home to some of the biggest culprits.

<p>Corina Ciocirlan/Getty Images</p>

Corina Ciocirlan/Getty Images

When you think of the germiest spots in your home your mind probably goes to the toilet, doorknobs, and cutting boards. But, there are surprising places in your home where dirt and grime linger that can be a breeding ground for germs. The National Sanitation Foundation, formally known as the NSF, conducted a study a while back to determine the germiest places in the home. We’ve since checked back in with the NSF, and asked three other cleaning pros to tell us about the yuckiest spots in the home. Below, find out which spots you should be paying more attention to and how you can keep a cleaner home.

Related: 7 Places in Your Home You're Probably Forgetting to Clean

Kitchen sponges and dish rags

Not surprisingly, sponges and dish rags that are used in your kitchen easily pick up bacteria during the cleaning process but are not always sanitized between uses, explained Lisa Yakas, senior account manager, product certification with the NSF. “This can lead to significant germ growth,” she says. To clean sponges, dampen them and place them in the microwave for two minutes once a day and replace them often—every two weeks or more, as needed, Yakas indicates. Your dishrags can also be sanitized by washing them in your clothes washer on the sanitizing cycle or washing them with added bleach, recommends Yakas.

Coffee reservoirs

Regardless of the type of coffee or espresso machine you use, cleaning the reservoir is often a low-priority task. “However, given its dark and damp location, it can be a prime area for bacteria, mold, and yeast growth,” Yakas said. To keep your brewing station cleaner, set a reminder on your smartphone to clean the coffee reservoir at least monthly. “Common practices include adding up to four cups of undiluted vinegar to the reservoir and letting it stand for 30 minutes before running it through the unit,” continued Yakas. Then, run two to three cycles of fresh water until the vinegar odor is gone. Most manufacturers recommend a deep clean every 40-80 brew cycles or monthly, she stated.

Kitchen countertops

According to NSF’s Germ Study, 30% of homes tested had countertops with coliform bacteria present. The sources of coliform bacteria include raw meat, poultry and unwashed produce, said Yakas. Plus, when hands come into contact with the bacteria and are not washed right away, the bacteria can be transferred to other areas, such as pet bowls or appliances. To clean countertops, Yakas suggests to first wash with hot soapy water and rinse with clean water. Then, apply a bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water) or use a sanitizing agent recommended for the countertop type.

Pet bowls

Pet bowls can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other microbes. “Often, owners forget to clean their pet bowls regularly,” Yakas noted. To that point, she said to wash pet bowls daily, either in a sanitizing dishwasher or by hand with hot soapy water.

Kitchen sink faucet handle

The kitchen faucet handle is another surprising place where germs tend to hide. NSF’s Germ Study found that coliform bacteria, yeast and mold were found on both kitchen and bathroom faucets, reported Yakas. “One reason for this could be that faucets are a high-touch area but are not always included in cleaning routines,” she said. “Make sure you clean faucet handles daily with a disinfectant or bleach solution.”

Toothbrush holders

It’s not surprising the bathroom is a germ destination, and your toothbrush is a big culprit. “Whenever you brush your teeth the head of the toothbrush is usually wet so it helps to build bacteria on the toothbrush holder,” said Gladys Vonglahn, CEO of Gladys’ Cleaning Service in Union, NJ.  “Normally, people do not pay attention to cleaning the toothbrush holder and with the humidity it builds mold easily.” To prevent this issue, Vonglahn suggests cleaning your toothbrush holder regularly. “The easy way is to put the toothbrush holder in the dishwasher with hot water and it will kill germs and bacteria,” she said.

Trash cans

It should be no surprise that trash cans are a haven for germs and bacteria. “But people often leave it off the list when it comes to kitchen cleaning,” said Michael Silva-Nash, VP of operations of Molly Maid, a Neighborly brand, who is based in Dallas, TX.  At the very least, you should thoroughly clean your garbage can every month, he said. “If your family is large and you are going through a lot of trash each week, you might need to increase this frequency,” Silva-Nash adds.

Shower curtains

Mildew can build up quickly on your shower curtain. “You should machine wash your shower curtain/liner at least once per month to keep it mildew-free,” recommends Silva-Nash. “A pro tip is to have two curtains so you can rotate them out while the one is being washed.” When washing a plastic curtain in your washing machine, always be sure to keep the machine on a cool setting—and never put your plastic curtain in the dryer. “Always air-dry a plastic shower curtain or liner,” Silva-Nash adds.

TV remotes

Predictably, the TV remote is another germy destination. “Don’t forget to clean the remote control,” Silva-Nash says. “Since the remote is shared by all family members and is a high-touch area of the home, you want to make sure it’s part of a regular cleaning routine.” He said it’s best to wipe down with disinfecting wipes and especially timely during cold and flu season.

Washers and dryers

We rely on these important home appliances to keep our clothes clean and fresh—but grime and germs can breed in both appliances. “Many do not know that you should be opting to clean your washing machine about once a month,” said Kimberly Romine, a Tide scientist in Cincinnati, OH. “This can be done by using your machine's cleansing cycle and a product such as Tide Washing Machine Cleaner—which will prevent musty odors from building within the drum.” In addition to the inside of washing machines, she advised to wipe down the washing machine’s rubber door seal and regularly check the machine's filter and water supply hose for potential build-up.

On a similar note, your dryer also needs to be regularly cleaned. “It's important to remove lint from traps within dryers before or after every cycle,” Romine says. She adds that about every six months, you should clean your dryer screen with warm water and mild soap.

Related: Yes, You Need to Clean Your Washing Machine

How do you keep your home cleaner?

Committing to and maintaining a regular cleaning schedule can go a long way in reducing the growth and spread of germs in the home, Yakas with the NSF says. “Consider assigning cleaning tasks to specific days of the week and using a reminder application on your phone, computer and/or smart home appliance to keep you on track,” she recommends. “If you live with a spouse, other family members, or a roommate, split up smaller tasks so that together, you can make sure all of the important areas are cleaned regularly.”

Related: The Ultimate Cleaning Checklist

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