Nobody wants to get sick. But taking extra measures when you’re out in public in order to avoid becoming ill is only half the battle. There are a lot of things inside your own home that could be exposing you to potential illnesses, too. Here are 15 things in your home that could make you sick.
Your laundry isn’t as clean as you think. | Andrew Olney/iStock/Getty Images
1. Washing machine
Washing machines were invented to make clothes cleaner, but that might not actually be the case. Washing machines are constantly being loaded with clothing, such as dirty underwear, that may be harboring dangerous bacteria. Staphylococcus and fecal matter have been found in washing machines. Laundry detergent doesn’t kill everything, which means those bacteria then make it on to the next set of clothes. Clean your washer by running a cycle with bleach (and no clothes).
2. Remote control
How often do you sanitize your television remote? | Gpetric/iStock/Getty Images
Think about how many hands touch the remote control on a regular basis. When someone is sick, they likely stay home and watch television most of the day. That remote control is filled with all kinds of germs, and you probably don’t wash it frequently. Take an anti-bacterial wipe to the remote once per week to kill off any germs. And when it comes to hotel room remotes, you may want to wipe those down before you use them, too.
3. Your bed sheets
Those sheets may not be clean. | Povozniuk/iStock/Getty Images
If you’re not one to wash your sheets often, you should think again. Bed sheets are crawling with microorganisms that could make you sick. If you’re on your phone in bed, all of the bacteria from that cell phone is moving onto your hands, then onto your bed sheets. If you eat in bed, you’re creating a greater chance for bacteria growth, too. Sweat, dead skin cells, etc. from the body also pool in the bed and stay there. You should wash your sheets every other week.
4. Your toothbrush
Replace your toothbrush every few months. | Nik_Merkulov/iStock/Getty Images
If you’re the only one using your tooth brush, then it should be fine, right? Not exactly — a wet toothbrush in a dark medicine cabinet is the perfect recipe for bacteria growth. And if you leave the toothbrush on the counter, it could be coming in contact with spores from inside the toilet. Yes, there may be fecal matter on your toothbrush. Change your brush every few months, and flush with the toilet lid closed to prevent bacteria from spraying to other parts of your bathroom.
5. Heat or air conditioning
Air ducts should be cleaned every few years. | BackyardProduction/iStock/Getty Images
Heating and air ducts can be the reason for breathing problems, allergies, and more. When these ducts aren’t cleaned, they tend to grow mold that can then circulates through the air. Allergens travel through ducts and end up in the rooms of your home. This can lead to sore throats and coughs, and a general feeling of being under the weather. Your air ducts don’t need to be cleaned too often — every three to five years is fine.
6. Vacuum cleaner
Your vacuum could make you ill. | didesign021/iStock/Getty Images
Vacuum cleaners are supposed to make the home look cleaner, but they could be making the air dirtier. When vacuum cleaners take up bacteria, the filters may let it back out into the air. These microscopic spores and bacteria are then inhaled, which could leave you with a nasty infection or potentially bad allergies. Newer vacuums tend to be better at keeping bacteria in, so if you’ve been considering in upgrading yours, it may be a good choice.
Next: These will never be perfectly clean.
7. Your floors
Your floors aren’t clean. | tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images
Even if you cleaned your floors daily, they’d never be completely free from bacteria. This is normal, so it’s more about being careful of what touches those floors. The bottoms of your shoes bring loads of bacteria into your home, so you should never eat something off the floor. It should also be noted that the “five-second rule” is not accurate; you risk getting sick if you ingest the bacteria from your home’s floors.
8. Your computer
Clean your laptop when you bring it home. | Ipopba/iStock/Getty Images
If you own a laptop, you’ve probably brought it outside your home many times. But every surface you put it on means its picking up more bacteria. If you bring it home and set it on your kitchen table or countertop, you’re transferring that bacteria to a new surface. If you visit a coffee shop to do some work, it’s extremely important to wipe down your laptop and sanitize it upon returning home — especially during cold and flu season.
9. Leaky pipes
Leaky pipes could be dangerous to your health. | AndreyPopov/Getty Images
One major problem with leaky pipes is the creation of mold. When pipes leak, that moisture enables mold to form, and those spores can then be inhaled by people in the home, leading to illness. Also, if sewage pipes are leaking, it could end up contaminating your home’s water supply with dangerous bacteria. If you notice a foul smell coming from your drinking water, contact a professional to take a look at the problem.
10. Air fresheners
Air fresheners contain potentially dangerous chemicals. | Tolola/Getty Images
Air fresheners may improve the smell of your home, but they don’t improve its air quality. These fresheners contain volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs, that are made with dangerous chemicals. Inhalation of these chemicals over time can lead to lung damage. Studies have shown that children exposed to VOCs have a greater chance of developing asthma at a young age.
11. Your shower
Your shower might not be very clean. | Anna Omelchenko/iStock/Getty Images
Every part of the house should be cleaned regularly, but the kitchen and bathroom are most important. Specifically, don’t skip giving your shower a scrub. Showers are a great place for mold to grow, since there is almost always moisture. Germs take up residence on shower walls, and fungi can build up in your shower head. Clean your shower at least once per week to avoid getting sick.
You use those scissors for a lot of things. | Kreinick/iStock/Getty Images
Scissors are a household item that’s used on pretty much anything yet almost never washed. You might use it to open a box from the mail, then cut open a package of raw meat, then toss it back into the drawer. The amount of times you use this small convenience are endless, but the germs growing on your pair at home might also be endless. Always sanitize your scissors if they touch raw food, and clean them regularly to avoid spreading germs.
13. Kitchen sponge
Kitchen sponges are not always clean. | svengine/iStock/Getty Images
Kitchen sponges are harboring millions of bacteria. They’re constantly moist and are used to clean the dirtiest of dishes. But you might also see the sponge as the tool for cleaning other surfaces such as counters and appliances as well. Using the same sponge for so many different jobs will only spread bacteria. Wash your sponge for a full 20 seconds after using it to make sure all bacteria is scrubbed away, and never leave it hanging out in your kitchen sink.
14. Makeup brushes
Wash your makeup brushes frequently. | lokisurina/iStock/Getty Images
Not everyone uses makeup brushes, but those who do may be unaware of how much bacteria they’re holding. If they’re used on your face daily, oils, skin cells, and germs are constantly building up on them. This may lead to breakouts and skin problems if the brushes are never washed. Brushes should be cleaned every few weeks to keep them as sanitary as possible.
15. Garden hose
Don’t drink from your garden hose. | milicad/Getty Images
The garden hose is not something you ever want to drink from. While it may be tempting on a hot day to take a bit of water from the hose, your hose is a dark place with a lot of moisture, meaning bacteria have a field day in there. Plus, studies of hose water have found that they often have higher-than-safe lead levels. You’re much better off heading back into the house to rehydrate.
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