Now that you're spending more time indoors, microbes can build up in some surprising places. Here's how to make your living space clean and safe.

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The Germiest Spots In Your House, According to Expert
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When you're doing everything in your house (thanks to COVID-19) — sweating, working, and playing — germs can start to flourish in areas you wouldn't expect. As they stealthily continue to grow, the chances become greater that they can make you sick. "You need to be aware of where they are, so you can clean these places on a regular basis," says Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist with NSF International, which tests and certifies products for consumer safety.

Read on to discover overlooked germ-prone zones and the best ways to deal with microbes effectively. (Related: Making These Tweaks to Your Home Could Help Strengthen Your Immune System)

Home Office

Your Computer Keyboard

Do you eat at your desk as you work? Not a good idea, says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a public health and environmental science professor at the University of Arizona. When food particles populate deep in between keys, germs can take root — and then regrow even after disinfecting, she says. When you touch your keyboard and then grab food to eat, you're essentially consuming those germs, she says. And that can make you ill.

To zap them, use a dry aerosol spray (Buy It, $12, amazon.com), an electronic cleansing wipe (Buy It, $5, amazon.com), or a UV light wand to sanitize (Buy It, $70, amazon.com) before you start work every morning. Even better, stop eating at your desk. Instead, sit at the kitchen table for snacks and meals, which is healthier all around. You can concentrate on your food and eat slowly and mindfully — and prevent germs in your workspace.

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Your Light Switches and Door Pulls and Knobs

You touch these items in your home office all the time, and so do other people in your household. COVID-19 isn't readily transmitted via hard surfaces, but other infections, like the flu, can be, says Marilyn Roberts, Ph.D., a professor in environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington. During flu season, it's important to wipe these surfaces with an alcohol- or bleach-based cleaner, especially if a family member is sick. Do it regularly if someone is ill, and otherwise incorporate it as part of your usual weekly cleaning routine.

Living Room

Your Couch

Recent research from Reynolds and her co-workers showed that a nasty surprise can arise when you sit on the couch: A microscopic dust plume is launched mid-air. "These dust particles are laden with mold and germs, which can re-aerosolize into the air, where you then inhale them," says Reynolds. To control the dust plume, run the vacuum head over your sofa weekly. (These vacuums designed for pet hair are sure to get all the fur and dust out of your couch.)

Your Remote

It's a high-touch zone, so it's probably one of the germiest spots in your living room, says Yakas. Wipe it down at least weekly with an alcohol- or bleach-based wipe. Let the wet cleaner dry completely before using the remote again — this "dwell" time is needed to maximize germ-killing potential, says Yakas. (Related: These Brands Want to Make Your Cleaning Routine More Eco-Friendly)

Home Gym

Your Exercise Equipment

Even if you're the only one using those dumbbells, "you can infect yourself with your own germs," says Reynolds. About 30 percent of people carry a germ called Staphylococcus aureus in their nasal passages, which can cause infections when spread through sweat to an open wound or an abrasion from shaving. The microbe is hardy and survives on surfaces, which means it can linger. Reynolds recommends wiping down the surfaces of your equipment with a disinfecting wipe before using it. (Related: How to Keep a Yoga Mat Clean Once You're Done Using It)

Your Water Bottle

Refilling it without washing it daily creates the perfect environment for growing microbes. In a study of used and unused refillable shaker bottles from gym goers, 90 percent of the used bottles were contaminated by illness-causing bacteria like Staphylococcus and E. coli. Wash your bottle with soap and water, or put it in the dishwasher, at night.

Shape Magazine, November 2021 issue