6 Items You Should Clean More Often Than You Do

Here's where little buggers hang out and what you can do to get rid of them

No matter how often or how vigorously you clean, you can still have myriad household germs lurking around your home. Unbeknownst to you, invisible microbes like viruses and bacteria might be making you sick.

For example, flu-causing viruses can remain active for as long as two days; in some cases, specific viruses may spread infections for an extended timeframe, for months. These pesky germs tend to stay active longer on hard surfaces like stainless steel and plastic than on softer surfaces like fabric.

Like viruses, certain bacteria may also survive without a host. A 2013 study published in Infection and Immunity shows bacterial infections like Streptococcus pyogenes (strep throat) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia) could remain active for “extended periods of time,” resulting in one possible way infections are transmitted from person-to-person.

Where are all these little buggers hanging out? Here, we look at six places you don’t realize household germs are hiding. But before you get thoroughly creeped out, we’ll tell you what you can do to make your home less hospitable to them.


Your Kitchen Sponge

woman cleaning dishes with sponge


Yes, the little sponge you use to clean your dishes and countertops harbors all sorts of critters—over 350 different species of bacteria.

According to a 2017 ​study in Nature Scientific Report, researchers analyzed the microbial makeup of 28 used kitchen sponges and found species of disease-causing bacteria like Acinetobacter, Moraxella, and Chryseobacterium, among other pathogens.

How to Clean Your Sponge

Do you need to stop using sponges altogether? Not necessarily. Michigan State University offers the following tips to sanitize your sponge: Avoid using your sponge to clean up meat products. Instead, consider using paper towels and immediately tossing them in the trash.

Also, you can clean your sponge by soaking it in a combination of water and bleach for one minute, running it through the dishwasher on the hottest and longest setting, and microwaving it on high for one minute. Finally, swap out your used sponge for a clean once every one to two weeks to cut down on the bacterial load you might be wiping around your kitchen.


Your Cell Phone

Woman on Her Cell Phone
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Like most people, you probably take your phone with you everywhere you go (including the bathroom) and don’t think twice about it. This creates a dynamic situation in which your phone can become a carrier of a variety of germs like E. coli, MRSA, and Streptococcus. Additionally, British researchers discovered one in six phones were contaminated with fecal matter. Doesn't sound too pleasant, does it?

How to Clean Your Phone

While traditional sanitizing wipes can be harsh on your phone, the best disinfectant involves combining a little isopropyl alcohol (70% is preferred) with distilled water in a spray bottle. Shake the mixture up and spray it on a microfiber cloth. Next, wipe down your phone.

Additionally, you can purchase premade phone wipes at most electronic stores.


The Door Handles and Knobs

Door and Locks
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When you think about cleaning, it’s easy to overlook the tiny details in your home like door handles, knobs, and deadbolts. On any given day, your hands frequently touch these spots, and that presents another opportunity to spread viruses and bacteria around your environment.

How to Clean Door Handles and Knobs

Cleaning these areas is a simple fix—grab a disinfectant wipe and run it over the small areas you and your family come in contact with the most.


The Pet Bowls and Toys

Dog with Bowl
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Unfortunately, your beloved, four-legged friend isn’t exempt from passing around germs that could potentially make you sick. In 2011, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) ranked pet bowls as number four and pet toys as number seven on the list of the most germ-filled places in your home. Pet products can harbor bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and more.

How to Clean Pet Products

To clean your pet’s food and water bowls, wash them with warm soap and water each day and disinfect the bowls on a weekly basis by putting them in the dishwasher.

Additionally, since your pet is licking, chewing, and dragging toys around the house, it’s a good idea to throw those items in the wash every couple of weeks and use a non-toxic disinfectant to wipe down any toys that aren’t washable.


The Vinyl Shower Curtain

Vinyl Shower Curtain
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Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder found the soap scum that accumulates on your shower curtain may be more than just an unattractive sight. In fact, vinyl shower curtains are a haven for disease-causing microbes like Sphingomonas and Methylobacterium, which can be dangerous for immunocompromised individuals.

How to Clean Your Shower Curtain

To properly clean your shower curtain, try washing it in your washing machine on a gentle setting. If that doesn’t remove the unwanted soapy buildup, it might be time to buy a new shower curtain.


Your Toothbrush

Woman with Toothbrush
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One British study showed more than 10 million bacteria reside on your toothbrush—that’s a higher number of microbes than what’s on a toilet seat!

Experts say your toothbrush is exposed to a tainted, aerosolized mist of water every time you flush the toilet, and droplets have been known to land as far away from the toilet as 10 feet. Inadvertently, you’re likely brushing your pearly whites with fecal matter and other pathogens.

But before you stop permanently brushing your teeth, know that most of these germs aren’t harmful to you, and the benefits of brushing your teeth outweigh the risks.

How to Keep Your Toothbrush Clean

To decrease the prospect of developing bacteria on your toothbrush, close the lid on your toilet when you flush it. Also, rinse your toothbrush and let it air dry; placing it in a container while wet creates a welcoming environment for pathogens.

Finally, the American Dental Association recommends you replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles on the brush become frayed.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza (FLU): Cleaning to prevent the flu.

  2. Kramer A, Schwebke I, Kampf G. How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic reviewBMC Infect Dis. 2006;6:130. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-130

  3. Marks LR, Reddinger RM, Hakansson AP. Biofilm formation enhances fomite survival of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenesInfect Immun. 2014;82(3):1141-1146. doi:10.1128/IAI.01310-13

  4. Cardinale M, Kaiser D, Lueders T, et al. Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by AcinetobacterMoraxella and Chryseobacterium species. Sci Rep. 2017;5791(7). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06055-9

  5. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Contamination of UK mobile phones and hands revealed. Published October 14, 2011.

  6. Protection from toothbrush contamination in a snap secondBr Dent J. 2016;221(44). doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2016.503