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This Is Where Germs Are Lurking In Your Home

Zuzana Bleha
September 27, 2016

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Most homeowners take pride in keeping their homes clean and tidy. The kitchen and washrooms get most of our attention when it comes to cleaning, but does all that time scrubbing, shining, polishing and sweeping really make a difference when it comes to keeping germs away? And are we spending too much time cleaning specific areas of the house but neglecting other areas where bacteria lurk even more?

This article will identify the areas of the house that have the highest concentration of germs, or better known as "germ hot-spots". Some of them may surprise you!

 

1. The Kitchen 

 

The room in the house that is used to store, prepare and eat meals is undoubtedly one of the germiest. But you may be surprised to know that the areas you clean the most, are not the ones that should concern you. For example, the sponge or dishcloth that typically lingers in the kitchen wet and saturated with food stuff for a long period, is one of the most bacteria-ridden items in the house! Dr. Charles Gerba, better known as the Dr. Germ, found that kitchen sponges and dishcloths had the most amount of e.coli and other fecal-GettyImages-591991146.jpgbased bacteria in the house. It's because they tend to stay wet which allows bacteria to multiply fast. Also, avoid wiping your counter tops with your sponges because you will only be spreading bacteria all over your kitchen. He recommends to toss your sponges weekly or zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds to kill bacteria and using a paper towel with disinfectant to clean counter tops. Likewise, the kitchen sink is another huge germ offender, also because it is usually wet. It is recommended you disinfect your sink frequently with for example a bleach solution.


Other items of concern include cutting boards, which always comes into contact with raw meat, veggies, and other food. In fact, there are 200 times more fecal bacteria on the average cutting board than on the top of the toilet seat according to Gerba. If you don't take care to clean your cutting board thoroughly by placing in the dishwasher on high, you risk cross-contamination and spreading bacteria to your hands that can cause foodborne illness like e.coli and salmonella.

Finally, think about how often you clean your fridge, once a month? Maybe? It's less than that for the average homeowner. The inside of the refrigerator is a germ hotspot, particularly the bottom shelf where you might put produce or raw meat for defrosting. It's recommended to clean it every 2-3 weeks.

 

2. The Washroom

 

Washrooms make us squeamish, even if it's our own, especially cleaning in and around the toilet. Yes, the toilet is definitely a place you want to take care to clean regularly, however, there are other neglected items in the washroom that are far worse! As Dr. Gerba says "The cleanest area in the home seems to be the top of the toilet seat. If anybody ever dares you to lick a surface in a home, pick the toilet seat." That being said, always flush the toilet with the lid down otherwise, you will be spraying droplets of toilet water bacteria around your washroom and on items like toothbrushes and towels nearby. Since we're on the topic, Gerba says "You'd get more fecal bacteria on your face if you wiped your face in a hand towel than if you stuck your face in the toilet." That's just disgusting! Well no wonder, since hands are responsible for the spread of 80% of bacteria, it's easy to see how the towel that gets touched every day could be so germy. It's a good idea to wash them regularly and avoid sharing towels with family members. Other offenders are the bath tub that harbors bacteria and dead skin cells, counter tops, door knobs and light switches.

 

3. The Living Room

 

GettyImages-541596362.jpgSo you're watching TV with your kids, eating popcorn and flipping channels. What could be wrong with that scenario? For starters, your hands are transferring bacteria from your saliva onto the remote control, the food and the couch and cushions. Then when your kids grab the remote, they are being exposed too. It's true that you're a family, and you happily share everything anyway but come flu season, or if anyone is unlucky enough to contract norovirus, you will soon be sorry. So, what are the items of concern in the room that families spend a lot of time together? Remote controls for starters are the worst offender, partly because they are never cleaned and mostly because of the scenario stated above. Use an alcohol wipe to clean it daily.

While the remote control was thought to be the germiest item, it was recently found that in fact, couch cushions are far worse. So don't forget to wash them as regularly as your bedroom pillows.
Finally, families with small children know that their living room doubles as a playroom for their kids. The frequent touching and sharing of toys make them germ hotspot - even more so if outdoor toys come indoors. Just think of the last time you disinfected or cleaned a toy. Probably never.

 

4. The Office

 

Ever wonder why colds spread so quickly at work? Part of the problem is commonly touched surfaces like keyboards and phones. We would never think to wash our hands before we start working at our computer, or after. Could you imagine your boss telling you to, "wash your hands before you work"? Well, maybe they'd be on to something. At home, it's not much different, actually it's worse. Gerba says home offices are worse than workplaces because children often use them, and they are rarely cleaned. He has even found MRSA in home offices from his studies. MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics. Areas of concern are desktops, with 21,000 germs per square inch and phones with more than 25,000 germs per square inch. Desks, phones, computer keyboards and your mouse are key germ transfer points because people touch them so often, Gerba said, adding that coughing and sneezing can leave behind “a minefield of viruses” that can live on a surface for up to three days. 

 

And the Winner Is...

 

So what household item wins the award for the germiest? Drum roll, please....


It's the family-shared tablet, personal music player or cell-phone. Basically, any touchscreen device is a recipe for germ disaster! It's been called "the mosquito of the digital age", that's how dangerous it can be. Why? Each square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs and a study by "Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials showed that out of 200 phones tested 94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics. They also showed how easily germs were transferred from phone to hands. Gerba says, that's because we never sanitize our phones, so the bacteria just keeps building up.  A simple way to clean your phone is daily with hand sanitizer. So, remember this the next time you're about to share your mobile phone with a friend or family member.

 

For all the items listed, remember that keep your house germ free may be next to impossible, but remembering to wash your hands and teaching your family to do the same is an easy step towards keeping your family healthy.

 

References:

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/fyi-your-kitchen-is-probably-dirtier-than-a-toilet-seat

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/dr-germs-gross-out-tour-of-a-typical-home

http://www.webmd.com/women/home-health-and-safety-9/places-germs-hide?page=4

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/germs-in-bathroom

http://info.debgroup.com/blog/touchscreens-the-mosquito-of-the-digital-age

http://ann-clinmicrob.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-0711-8-7

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