When you consider the dirtiest place in your home, do you immediately assume it’s the bathroom? If you do, you are in the majority, but you’re also incorrect! Surprisingly (and not the good kind of surprise), the dirtiest places in most people’s homes are found in the kitchen.
Yup, that’s right, the place where you prepare and consumer food every day is actually the hangout for a shocking number of germs in your home, far more even than your toilet bowl.
It may seem hard to believe, but it actually makes a lot of sense. We assume the bathroom is dirty, so we clean it the most often, whereas we don’t think of kitchens being as dirty, so they don’t get the attention they need and deserve. Sure, most people do a daily wipe down of their surfaces, but the areas in the kitchen that we’re talking about are a little less obvious.
In this week’s post, we’re going to scout out the dirtiest places in your home for you and share tips on how to keep them clean and germ free.
Oh, and if you haven’t already, make sure you check out our Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning for lots of tips and information on ditching the chemical filled cleansers for safe, all natural alternatives.
The kitchen sink
Yup, that’s right. The kitchen sink in most homes is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. In fact, according to microbiologist Charles Gerba, a professor of public health, environmental science, and immunology, at the University of Arizona, your kitchen sink can actually contain more fecal matter than your toilet bowl.
Gerba (known as “Dr. Germ” for his extensive research into germs on just about any surface you can think of) says that the kitchen sink (and cutting boards) contain a surprising amount of E. coli and salmonella because food is prepared on these surfaces and then not cleaned properly afterwards, unlike a toilet which gets regular thorough cleanings.
"Recent surveys of homes found more fecal bacteria on a cutting board in the average home than a toilet seat," said Gerba, in an interview with CNN. "It's actually safer to make your sandwich on a toilet seat than a cutting board."
The solution? Clean your sink and cutting boards regularly with some kind of disinfectant, especially after they come into contact with any raw meat or fish.
The kitchen sponge
It’s not just the sink that’s full of germs but the thing you use to clean it as well! Kitchen sponges can hang onto a whole host of germs: “almost all have E. coli growing in them, and in our studies, 15% had Salmonella,” Dr. Gerba tells Freshome. “That sponge stays wet and moist with plenty of food for bacteria to eat.”
Dr. Gerba consulted on a study conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), which found that 86% of sponges had mold and yeast, 77% contained coliform bacteria, and 18% contained staph bacteria.
The solution? Microwaving and boiling sponges can help to cut down on some of the bacteria, but the best solution is to replace your sponges regularly. You can also minimize the spread of germs by not cross contaminating your areas- having separate sponges for your dishes, your sink, and your countertops, for example, can help to contain the spread of germs.
The coffee maker
Yes, it’s sad but true- everyone’s favorite kitchen appliance can be one of the germiest places in the home, and it makes sense when you think about it. The appliance is a dark enclosed space that holds onto water, so it’s not surprising that the germs can build up. In fact, the NSF study found that half of the coffee makers tested contained mold and yeast.
The solution? Keep your morning cup of coffee germ free by regularly cleaning your coffee reservoir. You can do this by cleaning it with hot soapy water, and then flushing it with vinegar. Run hot water through it until the vinegar smell is gone, and you’ll be good to go.
Refrigerator door handles
Here’s another spot we don’t often think to clean but that can be a breeding ground for germs. We’re constantly opening and closing the fridge door while we’re preparing meals, and if you’re dealing with contaminated food, like raw meats, you’re likely to get some residue on the fridge door handle.
Not only that, but it’s one of those sneaky spots we don’t often think to clean. Wiping down the countertops? Sure. Wiping down the fridge door handle? Doesn’t usually even cross our minds.
The solution? Wipe it down regularly, especially after making a meal, with some kind of disinfectant. That can be a disinfectant wipe, or a natural cleaner, such as a vodka spray (more details in our natural cleaning guide!).
As we’ve mentioned, the kitchen countertops do generally get more cleaning attention than other areas in the room, but they can still be home to their fair share of germs. We place shopping bags, gym bags, smart phones, raw food, and keys, just to name a few, all on the same surface, so it’s bound to be full of germs and contaminates.
The solution? Don’t just wipe countertops down with a damp cloth (or worse, a kitchen sponge!) but actually disinfect them on a regular basis. You can also control the spread of germs by leaving anything non-food related (your purse, loose change, etc.) off of the counter.
Bathroom hand towels
Washing your hands after going to the bathroom may not be as effective as you think. Bacteria can spread at least 6 feet when the toilet is flushed with the lid up, and for most bathrooms, that puts the hand towels in direct proximity.
"E. coli grows quite well on towels. Within about three or four days, you'll get fecal bacteria in the towel easily because it's wet, it's moist," Gerba explained. "And it's hard to get rid of the bacteria when you do your laundry with a cold-water wash. Towels are so thick it's hard to get them really clean."
The solution? Always close the toilet lid before flushing, replace hand towels every three to four days, and wash all towels in hot water.
If you leave your toothbrush out on the bathroom counter, it can suffer the same fate as your hand towels. Make sure to keep your toothbrush, and any other dental care, safely stowed in a drawer and replace them regularly.
The solution? Disinfect your phone regularly using wipes (some are specially made for smartphones, but you can also make your own) and keeping it away from contaminated areas (say no to bathroom texting!).
It’s not just what’s in our homes, but also what we bring into our homes that can be full of germs. And yes, our beloved smartphones are a huge culprit. Studies vary on the actual severity of contamination but seeing as we bring them pretty much every with us, it’s not surprising that they hold onto their fair share of germs. In fact, 75% of Americans admit to using their phones in the bathroom, so that alone tells you something.