The Most Common Bacteria In Your Home
They're invisible to the eye and they lurk in all kinds of unexpected places around the house, and they can certainly make you or a family member sick. Learn more about the most common types of home bacteria and what you can do to keep them at bay.
Understanding Home Bacteria
A wide variety of bacterial organisms make themselves very much at home in your house. Here are some of the most common:
- Escherichia Coli: Also known as E. coli, this bacterium occurs naturally in the lower digestive tracts of all people and animals. It isn't dangerous when it remains in the intestines. The problem begins when people come in contact with fecal waste and don't wash properly before eating, preparing food or touching their mouths. Contaminated water or foods, such as raw vegetables or undercooked beef, also lead to infection. While most strains of E. coli are harmless or only lead to a brief bout of diarrhea, ingesting certain strains can lead to more serious digestive upset or even life threatening kidney failure.
- C. Botulinium: This bacteria causes botulism, a rare but potentially fatal food-borne illness. It is found in the soil and on fresh food surfaces. Luckily, C. Botulinium spores only grow where no air is present, so what you find on fresh food is generally harmless. Botulism most often occurs due to improperly handled/cooked meats and canned foods, although other types of food have also caused this illness.
- Clostridium Perfringens: Like E. coli, Clostridium occurs naturally in the lower digestive tract and may also be tracked in from soil outdoors. If ingested, it causes diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Staphylococcus: You can find Staphylococcus, also known as Staph just about anywhere including skin, hair, nasal passages, throats, fabrics and home surfaces. Most strains of staph are harmless to most people; however, some cause a variety of illnesses. A few strains (such as MRSA) are resistant to antibiotics, making them particularly dangerous and even life threatening.
- Salmonella: Salmonella rides into your home on red meat, eggs and sometimes even milk. Proper cooking should kill this bacteria, however, improper hand washing and food handling techniques allow it to spread to other surfaces. Ingesting salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and bloody stool.
- Micrococcus: At home on your skin, meat products, soil and water, this bacteria causes an unpleasant odor in human sweat. It can also cause illness in people with compromised immune systems.
Places Bacteria Like to Lurk in Your Home
Whether they get into your house on your food, your feet or your hands, bacteria seem to have certain favorite spots in homes to settle down and multiply. According to a study conducted by the Hygiene Council and funded by Reckitt Benckiser, here are the 15 top spots for home bacteria:
- Toilet bowl
- Kitchen sink, near drain
- Kitchen sponge or counter cleaning cloth
- Bathtub area near drain
- Kitchen faucet handle
- Bathroom faucet handle
- Bathroom sink, near drain
- Pet food dish, inner rim
- Kitchen floor, in front of sink
- Bathroom floor, in front of toilet
- Kitchen countertop
- Bathroom countertop
- Garbage pail
Some other noteworthy areas found to be high in bacteria in this study include:
- Children's toys, high chair and training potty
- Microwave buttons
- Kitchen cutting board
- Kitchen telephone
- Television remote
- Computer keyboard and mouse
Tips for Keeping Bacteria Away
Rather than stress about home bacteria, try these simple measures to keep the bacteria in your home at a minimum:
- Wash your hands: To prevent the spread of bacteria, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Sanitize hard surfaces: To kill bacteria on kitchen countertops and other hard surfaces, the US Food and Drug Administration suggests cleaning with a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per each quart of water.
- Wipe down surfaces: In addition to using sanitizing solution, wipe down phones, cabinet and draw pulls, door handles, computer keyboards/mice, remote controls, doorknobs, faucet handles and other places people touch frequently with antibacterial wipes.
- Don't wait: Clean up any messy spills that could be a breeding ground for bacteria right away.
- Use clean cleaning tools: Sanitize sponges and cleaning cloths frequently, either in hot water, the dishwasher or the microwave. Allow them to dry out completely after washing.
- Handle food carefully: Thoroughly wash produce and be sure to cook meat, fish and eggs completely. If you do home canning, always use proper canning techniques. Always wash your hands well after before and after food preparation.
- Keep up with laundry: Wash linens, towels and throws at least once a week, and try to run other laundry regularly. Machine wash children's cloth toys.
- Be sure kitchen tools are sanitary: Traditional wooden cutting boards harbor lots of bacteria in the knife cuts. Stick to bacteria resistant cutting boards and sanitize them after each use. Clean all cooking utensils and cooking surfaces frequently as well.
- Pass it on: All your efforts are lost if your kids don't practice good hygiene. Teach them to wash their hands properly and to wipe up (or alert you to) any messy spills right away.
No home can or should be germ-free, however with a little effort, you can gain some peace of mind knowing that you've reduced the bacteria in your home to a safe, healthy level. Also see, The Most Disgusting & Dangerous Bacteria In The Home.