We all know that bathrooms, and toilets in particular, are serious germ zones, but there are many other places that are equally packed with bacteria and other harmful microbes. Before I share the worst germ hot spots in your home, I must add that this information is not for the faint of heart, and certainly won’t help germophobes. I consider myself a fairly clean sort of person but let me tell you that after researching and writing this article, I hit these germ hot spots in my home with a heavy handed cleaning. Seriously.
1. Kitchen Sink—According to some estimates, there are over 500,000 bacteria in a typical kitchen sink—1000 times more than the bacteria in an average toilet.
2. Kitchen Faucet—The damp aeration end of the faucet is particularly prone to bacterial buildup, which over time can form a wall of pathogens known as a biofilm that sticks to the screen and can become big enough to eventually break off into your food or dishes. A small study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that Staphylococcus aureus were found on hard surfaces like the kitchen faucet, counters, bathrooms, and living area in 97% of homes tested and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were found in 26%.
3. Dish Cloths and Dish Towels—The same study also found that dish cloths, towels, and sponges were frequently contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which can cause life-threatening infections.
4. Soap Dispensers—Sounds ironic but it’s true. The Journal of Food Protection found norovirus on surprising surfaces including many soap dispensers.
5. Refrigerator Seals—According to research conducted by NSF International refrigerator seals (the one around the door) contain molds and yeasts that can spread into the air every time the fridge door opens.
6. Vacuum Cleaners—Brace yourself: even vacuum cleaners are microbial hot zones. According to a study published in the The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health in England found that vacuum cleaners can collect, harbor, and spread bacteria every time you vacuum. As a result they can be a source of gastrointestinal infection.
7. Garbage Disposals—Food routinely comes in contact with garbage disposals when we throw it out, making garbage disposals serious bacterial mosh pits. That means you’ll want to wash your hands, dishes, and utensils that may come in contact with your garbage disposal.
8. Welcome Mats—That mat at your front door may be welcoming more than a few unwanted visitors of microbial variety. According to a study by Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona and The Rockport Company, 96% of two-week-old shoes had E. coli on the exterior of the shoes. E.coli is a causes of intestinal and urinary tract infections, among others. Additionally, Dr. Gerba found high levels of Klebsiella pneumonia, a cause of wound blood infections as well as pneumonia and Serratia ficaria, a cause of respiratory infections and wounds. All of these microbes find their way onto welcome mats and then into your home.
9. Reusable Shopping Bags—According to research by the UA Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona reusable grocery bags are frequently contaminated by E.coli and other bacteria. Researchers recommend cleaning reusable bags weekly and separating raw foods from other food products.
10. Refrigerator Meat Drawers—NSF International also found that refrigerator meat drawers typically contain Salmonella, E.coli, yeasts and molds.
11. Refrigerator Vegetable Drawers—So you might expect the meat drawer to be a bacterial, yeast, and mold hot zone but vegetable drawers are also vulnerable. In its research NSF International also found Salmonella, Listeria, yeasts, and molds in the vegetable compartments of many refrigerators.