Where are germs lurking in your home? Here, some top germ hot spots — and tips for banishing harmful bacteria and viruses.

We can’t avoid having some germs in our homes — and in fact, some are actually good for us. But smart cleaning strategies and a regular routine can help to keep the bad bugs at bay and reduce our risk for illness.

So where are the germs lurking? Here, six of the top hot spots — and tips for banishing harmful bacteria and viruses.


1. Light switches and door and fridge handles.

It’s no surprise that high traffic areas or commonly touched items tend to be a hotspot for germs. Be sure to sanitize these surfaces daily – and prevent the spreading and picking up of harmful bugs by frequent hand washing. Note: To disinfect most surfaces, you can use a simple solution of bleach or vinegar water. (For bleach, use 10 parts water to one part bleach; and for vinegar, use ½ vinegar and ½ water.)


2. Salt and pepper shakers.

The meal is over and you’ve wiped down the table, but what about the salt and pepper shakers? Research has shown that they consistently test positive for cold viruses. So make it part of your daily routine to wipe down the salt, pepper and other seasonings when you clean the table.


3. Kitchen sink, faucet taps and other culprits.

Did you know that your kitchen sink can contain more harmful bacteria than your toilet? Food from dishes left to soak (or rinsed before loading into the dishwasher) can become a breeding ground for illness-causing bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

Unfortunately, rinsing your sink with water is not enough to kill bacteria. After cleaning your dishes, wash the sink, faucet tap and drain plugs thoroughly, preferably with an all-purpose cleaner with bleach or a solution of bleach (or vinegar) and water, allowing it to run down the drain. Follow by rinsing the sink well with hot water.

Another little known hiding place for germs is the faucet spigot. When you clean food like spinach or mushrooms, the dirt can splash back onto the spigot of your sink. To clean, you’ll need to unscrew the spigot to remove the screen filter and run hot water through it. Afterward, wash the screen with hot soapy water, rinse and then reassemble.

Other kitchen culprits include surfaces, cutting boards, fridge handles, microwave control buttons and rubbish bins. Be sure to sanitize these surfaces before and after preparing food. Kitchen towels, cleaning clothes and sponges should be laundered or replaced at least once per week.


4. Tech toys.

They seem to be our constant companions: we work and relax with them, and sometimes even eat and sleep with them. They’re sneezed at, coughed on, and often shared among family members. Use mild pre-moistened antibacterial wipes to clean your tech toys frequently, including your computer keyboard and mouse, telephone hand pieces, iPods, MP3 players, cell phones, video game controllers and television remote controls.


5. Bathrooms.

Clean and disinfect your bathroom frequently, including the toilet seat and flush handle, sink, bath and shower. (

Experts recommend cleaning and disinfecting all bathroom surfaces with a bleach solution or bathroom cleaner and then dry with a clean towel.


6. Your toothbrush.

Alas, your toothbrush is another popular breeding place for germs. Bacteria love moist areas, so it’s important to place your toothbrush where it can air out and dry between uses — and also at some distance from the toilet.

Yes, germs that contaminate your toothbrush not only come from your own mouth, but from the toilet. Research has shown that flushing the toilet sends a spray of bacteria- and virus-contaminated water droplets into air. And the germs can float around the bathroom for two hours after each flush before landing on surfaces. The best bet: Close the toilet lid before flushing.

Banish Bugs the Old Fashioned Way 

We’ve heard it many times before, but when it comes to protecting against illness-causing germs, the best advice is also the simplest — wash your hands, and do it often.

Effective hand washing, however, goes well beyond a quick rinse. To ward off germs, experts say you need to wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice).

Other handwashing tips from the Mayo Clinic:

– Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.

– Rinse well, and dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

What about antibacterial soaps? They’ve become popular in recent years, but experts say these soaps are no more effective at killing germs than regular soap and water. And using them could lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the products’ antimicrobial agents — making it even harder to kill these germs in the future.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gels or wipes can also be used to kill germs, but they should not completely replace washing with soap and water. If your hands are visibly dirty, soap and water is best. And sanitizer can build up on the hands, so you should wash with soap and water after every fourth use.

Germs: Quick Facts 


— Some germs cause disease, but not all microbes are harmful. They are, in fact, the foundation of the earth’s food chain — and we would not survive without them.

— Germs enter the home mainly by people, food, pets and pests. Cross-contamination happens when germs are transferred from person to person or through direct or indirect contact with a surface — and back again.

— Bad bugs commonly found in the home include MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli, Norovirus and Clostridium difficile.

Sources: WebMD; Mayo Clinic; Good Housekeeping; Hygiene Council; Prevention; NHS; CDC

A version of this story was published on Jan. 22, 2018


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