They’re out there—lurking in your shower drain, under the doormat, around your kitchen sink, even in Humbert the Cat’s dinner bowl. Germs may be invisible to the naked eye (if they aren’t then you have a bigger problem than we might be able to help you with), but they’re almost everywhere.
Aside from the general nastiness, germs can cause illness and disease and trigger major allergies. And just in case you’re resting easy, thinking of this as a warm-weather problem, sorry to burst your bubble of smug complacency: We happen to be in prime germ season right now. Scientists don’t fully understand why people tend to get sick in winter, but hanging out with bacteria sure can’t help. It can’t help at all.
Be afraid. Or better still: Be prepared. Show those germs who’s boss!
So just what is your home’s Germ Central? If you think it’s the bathroom, think again. NSF International swabbed 30 surfaces you very likely touch in your home every day—ranging from kitchen surfaces to cellphones—to measure levels of yeast, mold, and coliform bacteria (a virulent family of food- and water-based bacteria that includes salmonella and E. coli).
Take a look at some surprising spots where germs lurk:
According to NSF, here are some cleaning tips for those 10 spots:
1. Kitchen sponge
Microwave wet sponges at high heat for two minutes once per day—seriously, every day—and replace every two weeks. These things get filthy. If you’re the type who measures the life span of kitchen sponges in years, stop being that type.
2. Kitchen sink
Is it any surprise that the kitchen sink is the second germiest place in your home, a virtual Wild West of bacteria? Tame it. Wash and fully disinfect the sides and bottom once or twice a week. Sanitize kitchen drains and disposals monthly by pouring down a solution of 1 teaspoon household bleach in 1 quart of water.
3. Toothbrush holder
OK, this one caught us a bit off guard. Germ-laden toothbrushes? Going into our mouthsdaily? Gross. Hand wash the holder with hot, soapy water, and clean with a disinfecting wipe once or twice a week.
4. Pet bowl
Give your furry loved ones—and their owners—a break. Place bowls in a solution of one cap of bleach in 1 gallon of water and soak for about 10 minutes once a week.
5. Coffee reservoir
A common disinfecting method is to add up to 4 cups of undiluted vinegar to the reservoir, let it stand for 30 minutes and run the vinegar through the unit. Run fresh water through the unit until the vinegar odor is gone. It’s a bit of a pain, but it works. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning every 40-80 brew cycles, or at least monthly.
6. Faucet handles
Clean daily with disinfecting cleaner or wipes. A paper towel and a splash of water isn’t enough.
7. Pet toys
Clean monthly: Hand-wash hard toys with hot, soapy water, and use washer to wash soft toys. You’re on your own with the plastic Donald Trump squeeze toys.
Yes, we know you clean these every day. Clean them better, please. Wash with hot, soapy water, rinse with clean water, and apply a bleach-water solution daily.
9. Stove knobs
Remove knobs, wash in hot soapy water, let dry, and reinstall once a week. Do it.
10. Cutting boards
Place in the dishwasher after each use or hand-wash with hot soapy water.