Worried about the amount of germs lurking about your toilet? You might want to take a closer look at these things you’ve already touched today that are way dirtier.
There’s this common misconception running around that the toilet is the dirtiest object in the home. But while it may sound plausible, this premise has been denied by microbiologists time and time again. In fact, the amount of bacteria present in and around the toilet is nothing compared to how filthy other everyday objects get.
From your smartphone to the seemingly innocuous cutting board.
According to an extensive study conducted by Dr. Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, the toilet is reasonable safe (1). At least compared to your average cutting board, which boasts about 200 times more faecal bacteria than a toilet seat due to its frequent contact with raw meat products.
A kitchen sponge or dishcloth will also be significantly dirtier than your toilet, even if it comes across as visibly clean. As Gerba points out, sponges are the most dangerous, as they are 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Meanwhile, a dishcloth is 20,000 times dirtier.
Other common bacteria-hoarding culprits include your smartphone, keyboard, toothbrush, or remote control, to only name a few.
David Coil, a microbiologist at the University of California Davis, also says that toilet seats are quite clean relative to most things (2). But this doesn’t mean that you need to buy an industrial amount of bleach and go crazy disinfecting every square inch of your home.
Actually, most bacteria are harmless, even beneficial every now and then.
However, if you’d like to significantly reduce the amount of grime you come in contact with on a daily basis and prevent bacteria from spreading, you might want to start by bringing your cleaning game to the next level. Let’s take a quick look at all the household objects harboring an invisible world of filth you knew nothing about.
And figure out how to clean them more efficiently.
The cutting board
Here’s the thing – those tiny grooves your knife leaves in the cutting board make for prime spaces for bacteria to flourish.
Rinsing it thoroughly isn’t enough.
Make it a point to wash the boards with liquid dish detergent after every use. For a deeper clean, leave plastic cutting boards soaking for a couple of hours in a solution of two teaspoons of bleach for a gallon of water. For wooden cutting boards, make that two tablespoons of bleach.
Or, go the natural way.
Use citrus, a powerful natural cleanser in the kitchen. Simply sprinkle a bit of salt on the surface of the board and rub it in with the cut side of a lemon or grapefruit, then rinse with warm water. For best results, do this once a week for both sides of the board.
Considering how often we use these devices, there’s no wonder they’re a prime spot for bacteria to grow. According to a recent study, mobile phones are seven times dirtier than toilet seats (3). Turns out, an average toilet seat shows up 220 bright spots where bacteria lurk while the average mobile phone has 1,479.
We constantly let smartphones touch our face, so these stats are really worrisome!
The first thing you can do is to keep your phone out of the bathroom. While reading the shampoo bottle on the toilet can seem very ‘90s, it will keep your smartphone from ending up with invisible traces of feces and urine on it. Additionally, clean it on a daily basis by using a special screen wipe or a damp microfiber cloth.
Liquid disinfectants can damage the gadget, so it’s best to keep them at bay.
If you’re keen to take things even further, try PhoneSoap – a device that sanitizes your smartphone while it charges via a UV-C light. It’s not particularly cheap, but it kills 99.9% of common household germs, so it can be worth the investment.
Keyboards can have high levels of bacteria, while the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat (4).
The numbers get ever more dire if we’re talking about shared keyboards and computers.
To keep your devices cleaner, start by turning off and unplugging your laptop or PC before you do any cleaning. You won’t actually pour any substances on it, but safe is better than sorry.
Next, spray between the keys on the keyboard with compressed air to remove dust, then wipe down the keys with a damp microfiber cloth. You can also wipe down the keys with a disinfecting wipe to kill more germs. Compressed air cleaners for keyboards are available at most office supply stores.
For your monitor, there are plenty of LCD monitor cleaning kits on the market which make the job a breeze. Finally, gently wipe down the laptop or computer’s case on a regular basis with a washcloth damped with cleaning liquid.
Kitchen sponges and cloths
As mentioned, sponges and cloths that rest in the kitchen are excellent homes for bacteria. Not to be dramatic, but studies show them to be dirtier than any other item in your house (5).
Replacing sponges weekly is job one, while dishcloths should be tossed in the washing machine once per week as well. If you would like to clean your sponge more often, place it in your dishwasher every now and then.
Additional tip: don’t use the same sponge you use on your dishes to clean the sink. It’s convenient, but it also contributes to transferring germs from your sink to your dishes and then your food.
Instead, use two separate sponges for each job.
You may not use remotes as often as you use your smartphone, but they can still harbor bacteria.
Especially if channel surfing is one of your favorite hobbies.
To keep remotes clean, wipe them down once/twice per week using an antiseptic wipe. Don’t be afraid to really attack the nooks and crannies between the buttons, where bacteria like to hide.
According to a 2013 study, kitchen appliances often harbor pathogens that can cause foodborne illness (6).
Pay particular attention to the fridge’s meat and vegetable compartments!
Since most of us store veggies in the fridge’s drawers, these need to undergo deep cleaning at least once every couple of weeks. Simply pull them out of your fridge and give them a good scrub with soap and water before placing them back.
Furthermore, wipe accidental spills right away with a cloth moistened with food-safe antibacterial spray and purge any old food from the fridge one a week. At the start of each season, soak the drawers in a sink full of warm foamy water while you give the entire fridge a solid wipe down from the inside out.
Toothbrush and the rest of the bathroom
When cleaning your bathroom, we’re betting that you spend extra time scrubbing the toilet and the floor.
But what about your toothbrush and bathtub?
Turns out, germs are loitering.
Your toothbrush can contain at least 200,000 more bacteria per square inch than your toilet seat, while the bathtub drain itself is a perfect spot for for grime (7).
The first thing you need to do to keep germs to a minimum is to always flush with the toilet seat down. That way, you prevent bacteria from becoming airborne and settling on other surfaces in your bathroom. Next, make sure you change your toothbrush every three months, just like dentists recommend, and keep it protected with a toothbrush shield or head cover. It can be a hassle to take it off every time you brush your teeth, but it’s worth it in the long run.
On the same note, rinse your toothbrush holder regularly and clean your entire bathroom thoroughly once per week. This includes throwing the bathroom rug in the washing machine.
The toilet and sink need more attention, especially if you live in a larger household. Give them a good wipe down every day with an antibacterial cleaning wipe or an all-purpose cleaner. As for the shower curtain, you can get away with washing it once per month.
Your carpet can be 4,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat (8).
Vacuuming on a regular basis is a great start. Unfortunately, though, even the most powerful vacuum can’t reach to the bottom of the carpet, so it’s recommended you give it a deep clean at least once per year. Ideally, this involves hiring a professional service – they will be more thorough and efficient.
Handbags and backpacks are often contaminated with more bacteria than the average toilet. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, considering that it’s not uncommon for these everyday accessories to end up resting on the floor, table, or kitchen counter.
Plus, the handles harbor the bacteria from everything your hands touch.
If the materials permit, give them a wash on a regular basis. If not, at least wipe them down with a disinfectant wipe and keep them away from food preparation areas.
The same goes for reusable grocery bags. They’re great for the environment, but they can also pose a threat as they store bacteria from unwashed produce or leaking meat packaging. Ideally, you should wash bags that carry veggies and meat after every use.
Bacteria is everywhere around but it’s not a big deal as long as you take the precautions required to keep it to a minimum. Simply incorporate the tips above into your daily/weekly cleaning routine. You’ll be off to a great start in your battle against germs, grime, and illness-causing microorganisms.