Where Do the Serious Germs Lurk in Your Home?

Posted 12/02/2015 | By HealthCorps

Anyone who goes out into public spaces knows where the germs lurk. From traffic light and elevator buttons, to handrails and public tables, it’s likely that someone who hasn’t washed their hands has touched these surfaces.

You may not know that some of the germiest spots are actually in your own home.

Cold and flu viruses and pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella, which cause many of the gastro-intestinal tract infections, may be lurking in your home, mostly because of poor hygiene when you handle food. The CDC reports that about 20% of food poisoning outbreaks originate from food handling in the home.

Bars of soap

It’s great if frequent hand washing is happening at home, with soap bars available in the kitchen and every bathroom, but bars of soap, even anti-bacterial soap, can harbor germs. Use soap dispensers instead and clean the pump with alcohol at least once a day. You can also wash your hands with soap first, dry them well and then use a bit of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a back-up measure.

Devices like phones, remote controls, computer keyboards

You are constantly touching these surfaces with dirty, germy hands. And many hands may be touching these items, compounding the levels of germs on their surfaces. Phone handsets and TV remote controls in the kitchen are especially likely to be contaminated, since we often touch these items while cooking and handling raw meats. Wipe down landline handsets, smartphones, your computer keyboards and television remote controls at least once every few days with an alcohol-based cleaner. Make sure that the cleanser is approved to wipe down the surface of delicate tech devices. During the influenza season, it’s probably a good idea to wipe down these germy surfaces once a day.


You clean multiple surfaces with sponges and because of their crevices they can be the germiest items in the home. It’s typical to wipe down counters with them in the kitchen, especially when handling raw foods and then rinse them in some running water, re-using them to clean the same surfaces or other items or areas. You may even take the same sponge you use in the kitchen and then use it in the bathroom. Sponges notoriously harbor Salmonella and E. coli. The best way to clean sponges is to nuke them in the microwave for about 30 seconds, when they are moist. You can also run them through a hot dishwasher cycle, or soak them in a bowl with water mixed with bleach.

Handbag and tote bag handles and bottoms

You take your handbag and tote bags everywhere, setting them on table surfaces, the ground and the floor of your car. Handbags and totes are germ magnets. Wipe the handles and surfaces with a disinfectant that is safe to use on leather or other expensive materials.

Cutting boards

The cutting boards you use in the kitchen can be made from a variety of materials. They notoriously harbor germs and have been implicated as having 200 times more fecal matter than toilet surfaces. The golden rule for avoiding contamination is to use different cutting boards for raw and cooked meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. Always scrub them in hot soapy water and then, if they are dishwasher safe, run through a dishwasher cycle. If your wood boards are cracked, or if plastic boards have cuts in them, discard since routing washing may not be sufficient enough to really clean them.

Towels in the kitchen, bathroom and gym

It’s pretty common to wipe contaminated hands on towels in the kitchen repeatedly. You then wash your hands with soap, and wipe them with the very same contaminated towel. In the bathroom it’s likely that you didn’t wash your hands properly, and then you reuse that towel again and again. Consider using paper towels when working in the kitchen, saving the kitchen towel for drying hands that have been thoroughly washed with soap and water. In the bathroom, replace towels every two or three days, always put the toilet lid down before flushing, since contaminated droplets can disseminate into the air and contaminate towels that are hanging close by. Also clean bathroom door handles on a regular basis.

Check out Keep Food Safety at the Top of Your Holiday List

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