Gross & Dangerous Bacteria In Your Home

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Around 100 years ago, infectious disease was one of the leading causes of death. By the late 1990’s, deaths from infectious diseases had dropped dramatically, thanks to increased awareness of and access to hygienic practices and cleaning products. While you might think your bathroom is the place in your home with the most germs, it’s not: your kitchen actually holds the greatest number. According to University of Arizona scientist Dr. Charles Gerba, aka Dr. Germ, your kitchen sink is dirtier than your toilet seat, meaning that sandwich you just made in the kitchen is potentially dirtier than had you made it in your bathroom.

Review this list of the most disgusting and dangerous bacteria in your home to learn more about where you should kill and prevent bacteria.

Bacteria Breeding Grounds In Your Home

Below is a ranking of the most bacteria infected surfaces in your home.

  1. Sponges
  2. Kitchen sinks
  3. Bathroom sinks
  4. Kitchen cutting boards
  5. Kitchen floors
  6. Bathroom floor
  7. Bathroom counter
  8. And the least bacteria filled surface on this list, according to Dr. Gerba, is the toilet. Yes, it’s cleaner to wash your hands in your toilet than in the kitchen sink. Yikes.

Bacteria On Sponges

You, like most people, think you are doing a great job when you use a sponge to clean up your kitchen sink, counters, floors, handles, dishes and silverware. The same can also be said for your bathroom cleanup routine. Dr. Gerba found the worst offender for bacteria is your sponge or dishcloth. Because these porous items sit in dirt, raw food, and even fecal matter in the bathroom, they absorb and redistribute the germs wherever the sponge is used next. The very item used to clean your home actually becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, spreading it from room to room. It’s best to dispose of sponges frequently to save yourself from the dangerous bacteria lurking on them – and from spreading it all around the room as you clean. To disinfect a sponge, place it in the microwave for two minutes on high power. Always keep an eye on the sponge while it is in the microwave.

dangerous bacteria in the home dangerous bacteria in the home

Bacteria In Washing Machines

Doing laundry may seem like one of the cleanest tasks you do each day, but your washing machine is likely much dirtier than you realize. Every item you wash after your initial load is being exposed to the dirt and germs released by the first wash cycle. To keep your clothing clean and bacteria free, save the dirtiest items and undergarments for last. Further, run your empty washing machine once a month with 2 cups of bleach.

The Remote & Phone

According to Dr. Gerba, the remote control in a hotel has the most bacteria in the room. Some viruses can survive up to 72 hours so you might want to disinfect it the next time you travel. In the office, the telephone features the most germs. What place in the office has the least germs? The toilet.


Using designated disinfectants is the best way to get rid of bacteria and has worked for hundred years. Disinfectants kill both viruses and bacteria, so you are truly removing harmful germs. Disinfectants include:

  • chlorine bleach
  • alcohol
  • hydrogen peroxide

The Myth of Antibacterial Soaps

According to Dr. Gerba, the problem is they don’t really work. Antibacterial soaps are designed to kill bacteria, rather than simply wash them away like traditional soap. While some antibacterial products may be able to kills germs, they typically must be left on for at least two minutes to be effective. Some scientists suggest that bacteria can actually become immune to antibacterial products, though more studies must be conducted. Traditional soap works just as well at removing dirt and bacteria, so choose antibacterial soap if you personally prefer it, not because it is necessarily more effective.

Regularly Clean Your Home

Washing your kitchen and bathroom sinks, floors and counters just once isn’t enough. You’ll need to adopt a regular cleaning schedule to maintain the sanitary state of your home. For regular cleaning checklists see:

The Effect

Dr. Gerba notes that some viruses affect the brain and could possibly be a contributing factor to mental illness, obesity and common illnesses. A clean home provides a safe environment for you, your family, food and clothing. Keeping the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and all areas of your house clean and sanitized can help prevent a multitude of diseases, including pesky colds and flus.

Who has a Cleaner Home: Single Men or Women?

The answer may surprise you: single men. Since men don’t (on the whole) clean as much as women, their homes often contain less bacteria since they aren’t using germ soaked sponges. The same goes for men’s restrooms that actually have less bacteria than women’s. The doctor notes that women’s restrooms often have more children in them and include changing stations, a strong contributing factor to the higher amount of germs.

It may be shocking to learn that your kitchen and bathroom counters are more infected than your toilet, but there are plenty of ways to fix that. Using disinfectants and replacing sponges and dishrags often are the best way to keep all the surfaces in your home clean and safe. By making a few small changes you can decrease the amount of germs in your home and increase the health of those that are in it. (For natural cleaning products and solutions, see The Best Green Cleaning Products For Your Home).

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Leah Gillis Leah Gillis has worked for several major news outlets, as well as a television series on home buying and decor. Having grown up in New England, she has lived in New York City, Los Angeles and Milan. When not trying to get a great deal, she is often found reading something, writing something or talking to someone.

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