· 7 min read
After a long winter, and a year locked down by the pandemic, dust, dirt and germy things are piling up in our homes like the record-breaking snow that blanketed many of the cities where we live. Spring cleaning is a must!
But before you grab your mop, vacuum and bucket of cleaning supplies, we want to make sure you’re ready to tackle all the secret grimy spots and dust-collecting nooks and crannies and add them to your plan-of-attack checklist.
Some of the nastiest germ collectors around the house that you might not think about include shower drains, coffee machines, doorknobs, toothbrush holders and the base of your juicer. An NSF study uncovered some of the germiest hotspots in the kitchen and, no surprise, many common appliances play host to nasty things when they are not cleaned properly. Another study, the Germiest Places in the Home, pinpointed secret spots throughout the house where germs and bacterial love to lurk.
Here Lisa Yakas, a consumer product safety expert and a trained microbiologist at NSF, reveals some surprising places where germs are hiding in your home:
“With more people home during the pandemic, you need to focus your cleaning on high-touch points,” Lisa says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we clean and disinfect these surfaces often:
How to clean: Begin cleaning by dusting. Wipe with soapy water or a multipurpose cleaning spray. Use a fresh hand towel for each surface cleaned. Next, apply a surface-appropriate disinfectant.
Vegetable and fruit compartments in the refrigerator can be a breeding ground for yeast, mold and bacteria. For most of us, the threat of stomach infections from bacteria like Salmonella is enough to inspire a good deep cleaning, says Lisa. The same goes for refrigerator meat compartments, she says.
How to clean: For a good clean, remove the drawer from the refrigerator and use a clean sponge to wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water to get rid of food bacteria and spillage. Rinse with tap water and dry with a clean towel. To help control odors, use warm water with one to two teaspoons of vinegar per quart of water.
One of the germiest hideouts in your home is the kitchen sink. “It’s always important to keep everything in the kitchen as clean as possible,” Lisa says. “The kitchen is one of the top germy spots and food safety should be your top priority.”
How to clean: Wash and disinfect the sides of the sink once or twice a week with a disinfecting cleaner. Consult the EPA’s COVID disinfectants tool or wash the sink in a bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water. Wash your sink strainer in the dishwasher.
Get rid of the stinky smell and wash your dishwasher, which is probably your kitchen’s hardest working appliance. Cleaning your dishwasher not only helps remove odors, lime scale and mineral deposits and buildup, but it is also a way to get more years of use.
How to clean: Start by reading your dishwasher’s manual to see which parts need to be cleaned and how often. Remove these parts and clean with vinegar. Pour vinegar into the compartment where you normally drop the cleaning pack or detergent and run your dishwasher on empty.
The blender you have been making smoothies in throughout quarantine? It’s the third germiest kitchen item, according to the NSF kitchen survey. Bacteria, yeast and mold can be found on the blender gaskets. Your can opener? That too. And the trifecta? Your rubber spatula is one of the top 10 places for germs to hide.
How to clean: For your blender, unplug and remove the blender jar from the base. Completely disassemble the jar, removing the blade and gasket at the bottom. If it is dishwasher safe, put all the pieces in the dishwasher. If washing by hand, scrub the gasket, blade assembly, jar and lid thoroughly with hot soapy water. Rinse and dry before re-assembling. Wash your manual can opener in the dishwasher after every use. For electric can openers, wipe down the surface of the blade carefully after each use. For your spatula, remove the handle from the rubber portion and clean both sections either in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.
If getting your daily caffeine boost is a vital pick-me-up, it’s important to note that your coffee machine reservoir (the mesh-like cup where you pour in the coffee grounds), is a prime location for bacteria, mold and mildew to grow.
How to clean: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The recommendation is to add up to four cups of undiluted vinegar to the reservoir, letting it stand for 30 minutes and then running the vinegar through your coffee machine. Then run two cycles of fresh water until the vinegar smell is gone.
It is probably no surprise that your bathroom is a breeding ground for yeast, mold and bacteria. Your doorknobs, toilet, sink and shower handles are some of the top culprits, along with the toilet seat.
How to clean: Wipe down your doorknobs, toilet, sink and shower handles and the exterior and interior sides of the toilet seat with an antibacterial spray and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, grab a clean cloth and wipe away any condensation that remains.
The third germiest place in your home is your toothbrush holder. The ugly truth: yeast and mold were found on 64% of toothbrush holders, E. coli on 27% and Staph on 14%, according to the NSF study.
How to clean: If your toothbrush holder is dishwasher safe, place it on the top rack of your dishwasher once or twice a week. If not, hand wash with a hot soapy water, rinse and then wipe with disinfecting wipes once or twice a week.
After a year of binge watching, video chats and electronic games, it is a good idea to do a deep clean (regularly) on your remote control, cell phone and gaming controls.
How to clean: Make sure your electronic devices are powered off and do not directly squirt a cleaning solution on the screens, keys or buttons, as they are sensitive to moisture. Gently wipe with a pre-moistened disinfecting cloth or spray a disinfecting cleaner on a soft cloth. Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to get in between keys and buttons.
If there is one important rule about deep spring cleaning, it is finding and removing the dust and dirt that like to hide and build up in the nooks and crannies of your homes, Lisa says. Before you start cleaning, it is important to brush off the dirt and dust that can be found on refrigerator coils, in air return ducts, heat register covers, ceiling fans and under couches and other furniture. “My deep cleaning rule is to do top to bottom cleaning, because the dust works with gravity,” Lisa says. “This year, when we are all taking walks to escape the lockdown, we’re bringing in more dirt and dust from outdoors. In my house we have a rule that our shoes stay in the mud room. I think that is a good practice to never wear outdoor shoes in the house.”
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