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Let's Talk Dirty: Hidden Germs in your House




Next time you chop vegetables for dinner, make sure you do it on a clean surface… like your toilet seat. That’s right, there are as much as 200 times more fecal bacteria on the average cutting board than on your porcelain throne. The lesson here is that the places we tend to think are the dirtiest in the house, are often not the biggest offenders.

Find out where bacteria is lurking and how to kiss it goodbye:

1. Sheets Even after just one night’s rest, sheets can contain 0.1 gram of feces, salmonella and E. coli. Basically you’re lying in filth, and the longer you go without cleaning your sheets, the more microbes collect.

Clean It: Once a week, toss your sheets in the washing machine with very hot water. Germs can live through a cold or even a warm wash, and only 5 percent of Americans use a germ-killing temperature when they wash their sheets. Don’t rely on your dryer for back up - it only kills E. coli, not salmonella and Mycobacterium. Read Five Tips For A Good Night's Sleep & Faux Headboards for more bed-cleaning information.

2. Carpet Whether you step on shag carpet or an oriental rug, your carpet contains about 200,000 bacteria per square inch, making it 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. That’s because your fashionable rug also doubles as a germ buffet. Food particles, pollen, skin cells and pet dander all serve as food for germs like E. coli and salmonella. Since the average human sheds 1.5 million skin cells every hour, those germs certainly aren’t starving.

Clean It: Because a vacuum doesn’t always reach the bottom of the carpet, it’s difficult to rid yourself of E. coli, salmonella and other bacteria. To learn how to clean your carpet, read The Rug Whisperer: Cleaning Tips & Color Trends.

3. Remote Control Half of remote controls have rhinovirus amid the rubber buttons. If you’ve ever eaten in front of the TV, you’re remote also contains germs and bacteria.

Clean It: Unfortunately, sanitizer wipes don’t work well because you can’t get the cleaner into the cracks. Once a month, take your remote control apart and clean the individual parts.

4. Towels It probably comes as no surprise, but whenever you use a washcloth, hand towel, or bath towel, skin cells slough off your body and stick to the fabric. These cells serve as food for bacteria, which thrive in damp environments, making your recently used towel a bacteria paradise. When you reuse your towel, the bacteria can be transferred back to your body.

Clean It: Wash your towels in scalding hot water at least once a week to keep them bacteria-free. If they get soaked, wash them after every use.

5. Kitchen Sponges A study of 30 different surfaces in 22 homes found that the kitchen sponge has more germs than your toilet seat or bathroom faucet. In fact, more than 75 percent of sponges tested positive for coliform bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, and 18 percent of sponges had staph germs.

Clean It: To learn how to clean your kitchen sponge, read Kitchen Sponge Vs. Toilet Seat: Which Has More Germs? and Keep Sponges Clean.

Photo: What Katie Ate

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