From pillows to purses, here are the dirtiest items you’re probably not cleaning
You’re uptight about your kitchen countertops (salmonella!) and kind of a head case when it comes to toilet seats (butt germs!). But your cleaning priorities are misplaced. Well, not misplaced. You should be cleaning your toilet and countertops a lot. But there are plenty of things you probably never wash that are absolutely filth-ridden, research shows. Here are seven of them, and tips for cleaning each properly.
Ever wake up with a stuffy nose or slight headache? A U.K. study of both new and old pillows found at least one or two types of asthma or sickness-causing bacteria in each sample tested—and some contained a dozen different microscopic creepy crawlies. Dead skin cells, mites, mold, and fungus are also common pillow stuffers, the research shows. Somewhat surprising: Synthetic pillows actually harbor a lot more gross stuff than older down pillows because synthetic fibers aren’t woven as tightly, the study authors say.
How to clean them: That will depend on the type of pillow. If it’s down filled, you need to take it to the dry cleaners, says Elaine Larson, Ph.D., an infectious disease expert at Columbia University. “That will remove any allergens you’d worry about,” she says. Synthetic pillows can typically be washed in a machine. Just check the tag for instructions.
A report from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found 27 percent of toothbrush holders are contaminated with sickness-causing bacteria like Staph. The report also turned up a previously unknown kind of bacterium related to E. coli. In fact, after lots of testing, the NSF scientists concluded the place you stick your toothbrush is probably the dirtiest spot in your bathroom. (Here are 3 Secret Spots Mold Hides.)
How to clean it: The NSF recommends washing your holder with hot soapy water or running it through your dishwasher twice a week.
You clean the carafe and the filter holder. But when was the last time you actually followed the maker’s instructions and disinfected the water reservoir? Yeah, it’s been a while. That’s a problem, because another NSF study found mold or yeast present in 50 percent of the reservoirs they tested. (And don't forget to check out these 11 Coffee Stats You Didn't Know.)
How to clean it: Check your coffee maker’s instructions, but most recommend filling the reservoir with white vinegar, brewing until half of the vinegar has drained into the carafe, and then letting the maker sit for an hour before completing the brew cycle and re-running with clean water a few times to flush out the vinegar.
From your keyboard to the house keys in your pocket, both types are absolutely coated with germs. And if you’re like most people, you never clean them. One U.K. report found the average keyboard contains five times more sickness-causing bacteria than the average public toilet seat.
How to clean them: When it comes to your keys or keyboard, a few swipes with wet wipes now and then will clear away germs, Larson says.
It goes everywhere with you, sits around on public tabletops and counters, and its often warm—creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Your phone is gross, and its smooth glass surfaces are also great transporters of microbes, shows a Stanford University study.
How to clean it: Again, disinfectant wipes are your best option, Larson says. Just turn your phone off first and leave it off until the anti-germ moisture has dried. Check out this video for a step-by-step cell phone cleaning tutorial.
They sit close to the ground where dirt and street muck splash all over them as you walk. And according to a University of Arizona study, shoes and laces typically harbor millions of microorganisms (compared to roughly 1,000 on the average toilet seat).
How to clean them: Soak your laces in hot soapy water or toss them in the machine with your clothes, Larson advises. Just be warned: Laces can wrap around your machine’s agitator, so you may want to put them inside a pillowcase or some other type of sack to keep them from tangling.
You take it everywhere and plop it down on at least a few public surfaces a day (countertops, bus seats, bathroom floors, etc.). According to a report from a British bathroom services company called Initial, the average purse is dirtier than the average office bathroom. The germiest hotspots: Your purse’s handles and bottom, the report indicates.
How to clean it: That depends a lot on your type of purse. But most can be cleaned off with wet wipes or soapy water, Larson says. If you have some type of cloth purse, a dry cleaner is your best option, she adds. Worried about what else might be harboring bacteria? Check out these 10 surprising germ hotbeds to avoid.