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The Dirtiest Place in Your House Isn’t Your Bathroom, It’s These 6 Germ Hotbeds

Turns out grime can lurk in surprising places.


Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes spring cleaning. If you’re planning to give your home a deep clean, you might think your bathroom is the place to start — the place where the toilet is must be the most unclean, right? Shockingly, your bathroom actually isn’t the dirtiest spot in your house. As it turns out, dirt, germs, and grime can lurk in unexpected places. Some of the areas we tend to overlook actually end up being the most in need of a deep cleaning. Read on to learn about the six dirtiest spots in your home — along with with helpful tips for how to clean them effectively — so you can bask in the glory of a spiffy living space.

1. Vacuum Cleaners

Carpets and rugs trap more dirt and grime than wood, tile, and other flooring types, so it’s no wonder vacuum cleaner attachments frequently accumulate bacteria, mold, and other sickness-inducing germs. Here’s a trick that University of North Carolina researchers recommend to kill these germs before they spread: Lightly spritz the beater brush and underside of your vacuum’s power head with a disinfectant spray (think Lysol or Clorox) after each use or after vacuuming grimy spots like the entryway.

2. Spice and Seasoning Jars

Spices and seasoning jars kept within arm’s reach of the stove are exposed to splatters and cross-contamination as we chop, measure, and cook. But researchers at New Jersey’s Rutgers University recently found that many of the jars used while cooking — even those tucked in a cupboard — were contaminated with illness-causing bacteria. The simple fix? Once a week, give your most-used jars a wipe-down with the same disinfectant you use to scrub your kitchen sink and countertops.

3. Fido’s Food Bowls

Pets will stick their snouts into pretty much anything, so it’s no surprise their food and water dishes consistently rank as some of the most contaminated objects in any home, carrying millions of illness-causing germs, including fecal coliform bacteria and drug-resistant staphylococcus. According to a study in the journal PLOS One, the majority of dog owners are not aware of FDA pet food handling guidelines, and are not cleaning their pets’ bowls as frequently or thoroughly as they should be. To keep your furry friends (and you!) healthy, toss their food and water dishes into the dishwasher daily or scrub with hot, soapy water.

4. Desk Chairs

You might think a computer mouse would be the grimiest thing at your workstation, but your desktop and office chair arms can also get surprisingly dirty, and shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re cleaning your office space. Instead of giving up your snacks and sips, start each day by using a fresh disinfecting wipe to quickly clean these spots. Infectious disease researchers say this simple morning routine can help to reduce this contamination.

5. Shower Curtain Liners

Moisture-loving microbes breed like wildfire on damp shower curtains and liners. But researchers in Applied and Environmental Microbiology say regularly washing off the soap scum those germs feast on helps to halt their growth. Each time you clean the bathroom, toss your fabric or vinyl curtain liner into the wash (use the gentle cycle and warm, soapy water, then hang to dry). It also helps to keep your shower curtain closed between uses so there are fewer damp nooks and crannies in which germs can thrive.

6. Reusable Grocery Bags

Eco-friendly totes are also germ-friendly: many of them carry illness-causing bacteria and viruses, say scientists at California’s Loma Linda University. Blame leaky chicken and meat packaging, germs from grocery carts, checkout conveyors, and more. The good news? Experts say opting for cotton or canvas bags, then washing them in hot water and drying well after each use, may eliminate pathogens.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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