10 surprising hiding spots for germs around your home

Top tips for a clean house

Three ways to keep your home sparkling. Video by Alistair Walsh and Adrian Lowe.

When we clean our homes, we typically focus on the same major areas – the toilet seat, kitchen counter and bin under the sink, natch – but completely overlook others. These neglected nooks are hot spots for sickness-causing bacteria – and yet you may not even realise it. Prepare to be grossed out – #sorrynotsorry – before making good with these quick clean tips.

1. Pillows and quilts

You clean your bed covers and cases, but how about the pillows and quilts? They're breeding grounds for bacteria, fungal spores, bed bugs and dust mites, which produce droppings that can cause itchy eyes and asthma. Aim to clean them every two to three months at a temperature setting of at least 60 degrees. Then leave them to dry in sunlight to kill microorganisms.  

2. Toothbrushes

Every time you flush the toilet, an aerial spray of tiny water droplets tainted with icky faecal bacteria is released. These toilet germs can travel up to six feet, surviving for two hours, settling on bathroom surfaces such as the moist bristles of your toothbush – that same toothbrush you put in your mouth twice a day. A study by the University of Manchester found that the average toothbrush contains up to 10 million bacteria or more – including E. coli! Occasionally soak your toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide or antibacterial mouthwashes, replace every three months and always close the lid before you flush!

3. Light switches

When it comes to grime, light switches are right up there with toilet seats and bathroom sinks. And it's no wonder given the fact we touch them around 20 times a day. Clean the switch plate with a disinfectant wipe or microfibre cloth spayed with solution, before using a cotton bud on the actual switch, at least once a week.

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4. Reusable shopping bags

You may consider yourself a planet-saving do-gooder for making the switch to reusable shopping bags, but ask yourself this: How frequently do you wash them? Never? We'll go on. Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University tested 84 reusable bags for bacteria. All but one contained whopping amounts, and coliform bacteria, suggesting cross contamination from raw meat and uncooked food, were present in over half. The dreaded E. coli existed in 12 per cent of them. Adequately grossed out yet? The good news is that machine or hand washing reduces bacteria levels to almost nothing.

5. Cutting boards

Cutting boards are some of the worst germ mongers, containing up to 200 times more faecal bacteria than your average toilet seat. Eww, right? Always separate cutting boards – using one for raw meat only – to limit the risk of cross-contamination. Sanitise regularly by wiping down with undiluted vinegar and baking soda, before wiping with hydrogen peroxide to eliminate any bacteria.

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6. Kitchen sink

Your kitchen sink may be making you sick! Food particles washed away from plates and pans tend to collect around the hole, causing a spike in bacteria, which can then get onto your hands and into your food. After clearing away any dishes, put down the plug and bomb it with one or two cups of bleach and boiling water. Drain and rinse once more to get rid of any bleach residue, then scrub down and let it dry completely, rubbing with a drop of lemon or olive oil to stop any water from collecting. 


7. House plants

They clean the air, yes, but houseplants also attract and carry dust, germs and bugs. Wipe individual leaves with a damp cloth, taking care not to damage the plant, before allowing to dry in the sun.

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8. Bath mat

Think about it. They sit there, soaking up shower water, damp and mould, pressed against the floor whilst being trodden upon by multiple sets of feet. Gross. Launder your bath mat at least once a week using bleach and the highest heat setting, keeping it separate from your towels, bedding and clothes.

9. Salt and pepper shakers

According to researchers at the University of Virginia, salt and pepper shakers are hot spots for cold-causing bacteria. When you clear the table, make sure you give your shakers a wipe down, too, before letting them dry completely.

10. Remote controls

In both hotels and hospitals, TV remote controls are one of the leading carriers of bacteria, producing around 68 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch. Want to protect yours at home without wrapping it in Glad Wrap? Wipe it down regularly with an antibacterial wipe or go to town with a disinfecting alcohol in a spray bottle. 

Photo: Stocksy