You've probably already touched at least one of these surfaces today, and they are more contaminated than the typical toilet seat. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, germs are on everyone's mind these days. How do bacteria enter our homes? How long can they survive on the surface? And, most importantly, how are we going to get rid of them?
1. CUTTING BOARD
According to Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona and author of one of the first studies to evaluate bacterial contamination of common household objects, the average cutting board has 200 times more faecal bacteria than a toilet seat. Since many faecal bacteria originate in an animal's interior organs, uncooked meat is a major offender. So, when did you last dice a chicken cutlet? Germs love to settle down in the little groves that your knife left in the cutting board.
You can clean cutting boards by running them through the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher or washing them in water and liquid dish detergent before soaking them in a solution made of two teaspoons of bleach and a gallon of water. Plastic cutting boards are easier to sterilise than wooden ones.
2. PET'S FOOD BOWL
According to a study done by NSF worldwide, a non-profit organisation that examines products and establishes worldwide health standards, your pet's dependable kibble dish may be one of the dirtiest areas of your house. Your dog is taking up about 295 bacteria per square inch when he licks the toilet seat. However, if he licks the inner rim of his dirty dish, 2,110 bacteria were consumed per square inch, and what dog licks just one inch?
To keep pets healthy, wash all food bowls with hot water and soap after each meal, advises Gagliardi. If you don't, bacteria will grow on the food scraps and slobber leftovers from your pet, similar to what would happen if you used the same fork every day without washing it.
3. CLEAN LAUNDRY
According to a study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, a load of pants will carry at least 100 million E. coli bacteria—the cause of diarrhoea—to the washing machine, creating a breeding environment that can contaminate other garments. It gets worse with a front-loading washer because water collects at the bottom and fosters the kind of damp environment that bacteria thrive. On the other side, your toilet seat is too dry to maintain a significant bacterial population.
The CDC advises cleaning your washer with bleach at least once a month in order to disinfect your machine, adding that you should also make sure to disinfect garment hampers. Wash undergarments separately in hot water with a color-safe bleach alternative to prevent the spread of bacteria.
4. SMARTPHONE OR TABLET
According to Gerba, your phone is ten times dirty than a toilet seat. He claims that individuals frequently converse on their phones while using the loo. The problem? Because people often link bathrooms with germs, toilets are routinely cleaned, but phones and other items that are handled frequently, such as remote controls and phones, are frequently overlooked, according to him.
He advises keeping electronic devices out of the bathroom altogether and cleaning their screens with screen wipes or a damp, soft cloth to lessen your exposure to germs.
Fun fact: Dead skin cells are a favourite food of bacteria. Your rugs become a fine dining experience when you add food particles, pet dander, pollen, and other pieces, given that the average individual sheds roughly 1.5 million every hour. According to Philip M. Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist and immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Centre and the author of The Secret Life of Germs, there are about 200,000 bacteria (nearly 700 times more than on your toilet seat) living in each square inch of carpet, including E. coli, staphylococcus, and salmonella.
Tierno advises hiring a company to perform a deep steam cleaning at least once a year because your hoover can't reach the bottom of the carpet. Wherever feasible, choose machine-washable area rugs and wash them on the sanitize cycle.
6. FAUCET HANDLES
There may be 21 times more bacteria on your bathroom faucet handle than on your toilet seat. Even worse, according to a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, your kitchen sink and faucet handles may have 44 times the bacteria that your toilet seat does. Drug-resistant germs like E. coli can move from the pipes to your washbasin and hands since cleaning chemicals frequently don't penetrate pipes. The NSF also discovered that the tap handles in the kitchen and bathroom had coliform bacteria in addition to yeast and/or mold.
The NSF advises using disinfectant cleanser, bleach solution, or disinfecting wipes to clean it every day.
7. KITCHEN CLOTH OR SPONGE
The dirtiest object in your home is a sponge, which is also dirtier than your toilet seat. According to the findings published in Nature, researchers looked through 14 old kitchen sponges and discovered an astounding 45 billion bacteria per square centimetre. The majority of E. coli and other faecal germs are found in dishcloths and sponges in the typical home, largely because they aren't changed as frequently as they should be.
According to the NSF, to clean it, microwave wet sponges for two minutes once day, and change them frequently. Dishcloths, towels, and rags may be sanitised by washing in your washer's sanitising cycle or with bleach, so you might want to swap out your sponges for those instead.
8. ELEVATOR BUTTONS
Germs may be travelling on your hands when you are being transported to the floor of your choice. According to a study published in Open Medicine, lift buttons in public places like office buildings and hospitals may be more contaminated than toilet seats. And at hospitals, which are probably cleaned more frequently than the ones in your neighbourhood buildings, this was also true.
It's understandable if you don't want to stand outside your office building wiping off the lift buttons. But once you get to your floor, Gagliardi advises washing or at the very least sanitising your hands. (These typical cleaning errors may actually result in a dirtier household.)
9. FRIDGE DRAWERS
The NSF discovered that the refrigerator's vegetable and meat compartments had the highest concentrations of disease-causing bacteria in the kitchen. It makes sense because any unopened vegetables or spilled meat juices could harbour harmful bacteria.
Remove the drawers from your refrigerator and empty them before cleaning. Before putting them (and your food) back in their slots, give them a good scrub with warm, soapy water, advises Gagliardi.
10. GAS PUMPS
Petrol pumps are something you frequently touch without giving it much thought, therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are germ factories given how many people regularly touch them (hundreds) and how rarely they are cleaned (possibly never). According to Gerba's investigation, some kind of bacterium was present in 71% of petrol pumps.
Keep hand sanitizer in your car to kill any germs you may have picked up while filling up, he advises, even if you don't want to wash out the pump before using it.