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Are you guilty of not cleaning something in your kitchen, bathroom, or living room because it looks clean? Well, think again. Certain things in your house should be cleaned a lot more often than you probably think.
In the past, we’ve talked about things you need to replace more than you may know, like sponges and water filters. Now, here are four primary things you can—and should—do regularly to keep germs at bay and out of your house (or at least have fewer of them).
1. Take Off Your Shoes In The House
Yes, some people have shoe rules, and some don’t… but once you start reading about reasons to remove your shoes when you get inside the house, you’ll be convinced. Aside from tracking in dirt, you could bring in pesticides from lawns and all kinds of germs, too.
In fact, a study by the University of Arizona found a ton of bacteria on participants’ shoes. They were given a pair of new shoes, then wore them for two weeks. Afterwards, the shoes were analyzed for bacteria—and, sit down for this (but are your shoes off?!)—an average of 421,000 units of bacteria were found on the outside of each shoe (!), and 2,887 inside. Um… Plus, the E Coli bacteria was present on 96 percent of the shoes. Are you now convinced to remove your shoes when you get into the house?
2. Wipe Down Your Doorknobs, Refrigerator Door Handles, Faucets, Phones… And More
In cleaning your house, how often do you wipe off and disinfect your doorknobs, fridge door handles, and faucets? Let’s take doorknobs as an example. Think about it. You go outside to throw out the trash. You touch the garbage can out there—which anyone may have touched, including the weekly garbage truck—then come back inside, touching your doorknob in the process, perhaps get a phone call, perhaps start tearing lettuce for dinner and you were in such a rush, you forgot to wash your hands.
You touch your mouth (your hair was falling in your face), you kiss your husband hello, and on and on. So, now, it’s not just the doorknob with the germs. You then go open other doors in the house, hands still unwashed. And maybe you then wash your hands and touch the faucet, but now those germs are on the faucet handle.
According to WebMD, all of the above should be disinfected several times a day, including cupboard and stove handles, light switches, as well as other doors and handles that are frequently touched. Plus, it’s easy—just Lysol Wipe or use something similar that says it disinfects at least 99 percent of germs.
“These sprays or wipes kill germs on contact,” said Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai in New York City, and the author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu, told WebMD.
Another tip? “Don’t forget to wipe down the telephone,” said Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of microbiology at University of Arizona in Tucson. “A lot of times, someone is cooking and has a question for the original chef, so he or she calls their parents to find out how to make it and the bacteria gets slopped on the phone and it grows.”
Are you guilty of the above?
3. Don’t Forget To Clean The Counters
Do you wipe off your countertops every day? And how so? With a sponge? Dry towel? Lysol Wipe? Experts advise doing so every day, and I know people who do multiple times a day.
You should also use a few wipes, not just one, for the whole counter. A good rule of thumb is: Different parts of the kitchen, different wipes (so that you get the bacteria up and don’t spread it around). “It’s not good practice to use one wipe across multiple surfaces, because this will likely cause cross-contamination,” said Michaelle Exhume, a product analyst in the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. We’re with her.
4. Clean Dish (And Hand) Towels Regularly
How often do you use your dish towel to wipe your hands after washing them, then wipe the counter, then wipe your hands on the towel again (this time, without washing them first), and so on…? Well, with each different towel activity, different germs collect on it. For instance, your son may wipe his mouth on it. (You had no idea.)
Before you know it, you’re using it to wipe up something else, or maybe your daughter (who happens to have the flu) wipes her face on it, then your husband comes home and washes his hands, drying his hands with it, then touches his eye and gets the flu.
Prevention even called dish towels “germ bombs” after a study by Kansas State University found that people used towels for many different tasks, leading to cross-contamination. “Towels were the most contaminated of all the contact surfaces we tested,” said lead study author Jeannie Sneed, PhD, Kansas State University food safety specialist.
Some tips? Sneed suggests: Keeping your hands clean—aka washing them for at least 15-20 seconds—helps prevent the towels from getting too “germy”, avoiding using your phone in the kitchen (i.e., added germs to spread), as well as having different dish towels for different things: wiping counters versus wiping up from raw meat.
Others recommend dish towels, but washing them often, like Mama’s Laundry Talk does. She also suggests washing them with fellow dish towels, putting them in the laundry with every different thing they’re used for (i.e., after wiping the counter once raw meat was on it), and washing them on the hot wash and heavy duty cycles.
What about the relative of the dish towel, the hand towel? I know some people say to eliminate dish towels altogether and have everyone use paper towels, so no germs are spread. Dr. Schachter recommends paper towels versus hand towels, according to this WebMD article, since hand towels collect lots of germs like their dish towel cousins.
Photo by Midtown Crossing at Turner Park