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Germs! 12 Unexpected Ways You’re Turning Your Home into a Petri Dish (Guide)

Germs. We can’t see them, but we know they’re everywhere. They’re on our hands, our phones, and our homes. It’s easy to forget that our daily routines can unintentionally spread these microscopic troublemakers around our living spaces.

In this article, I’ll shed some light on the accidental ways we spread germs in our homes. I’ll also discuss how to keep these germs at bay. So, let’s dive in and learn how to turn our homes into fortresses against these unseen invaders.

Accidental Ways of Spreading Germs in Your House

Did you know? Germs have an easy game at home when we unintentionally help them spread. That can happen in many ways. Let’s go through them, shall we?

Not Washing Hands Properly

You might not believe it, but one of the most common slip-ups for spreading germs in your home starts with a simple oversight – not washing your hands properly.

This unhygienic habit is way more damaging than it seems, and guess whom it can affect the most? Everyone you share your home with.

Ignoring Handwashing Before Meals

A woman washing her hands in the kitchen sink

The first part of this trap is neglecting handwashing before meals. Sure, I get it; when you’re starving and that pizza smells divine, hygiene precautions might be the last thing on your mind.

However, germs are easily transmitted from unwashed hands to food, especially by whoever prepares the meal. You don’t want your dinner to be a side dish to a helping of hepatitis A, salmonella, or a bad cold, do you?

20 seconds. That’s all it takes. Washing all your fingers, palms, backs of your hands, wrists, and yes, under those fingernails for 20 seconds – equivalent to humming the ABCs – can save you and your loved ones from much trouble. Make this a habit, especially before and after meals.

Not Washing Hands After Using the Bathroom

A man washing his hands with soap and running water at the kitchen faucet

The second most common habit that leads to germ spreading? Not washing hands after using the bathroom. It’s all too easy to forget, especially in a rush.

But not washing your hands post-bathroom use can transfer germs to anything or anyone you touch afterward, especially when preparing food.

The habitat of a particular bug, the norovirus, thrives in bathrooms. This bug loves hitching a ride on people’s hands to spread its joy elsewhere, and it’s renowned for causing quite a stir in people’s stomachs.

And if you haven’t heard of staphylococcus or streptococcus, they’re not the kind of guests you’d invite for lunch.

Sharing Personal Items

I’ve often mentioned how our homes can become an unintentional playground for germs, and one easy way to meet and greet is by sharing personal items, especially the ones we use every day! I’m talking about towels, toothbrushes, and our trusted school supplies!

Sharing Towels

A towel hang at the outdoor wall

We’re all familiar with this scenario: having a shower, reaching for a towel, and then realizing it’s the same one used by every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the house. That is not such a nice thought.

Each use of a towel can transfer germs; when shared, those germs hop from one person to the next. So, having your personal towel is worth no more guesswork and less germ traffic. Also, remember to wash your towels regularly, preferably after every couple of uses.

Sharing Toothbrushes

A man holding a toothbrush with toothpaste in it

Moving on to a creepier scenario, sharing toothbrushes. We don’t usually do it intentionally, but in a rush to start your day, you might grab the first thing in the holder. And, oh! It could be your spouse’s brush.

Don’t worry; it sounds worse than it is. However, it’s surely something you’d want to avoid doing. If you think about it, the humble toothbrush encounters millions of bacteria daily. Sharing it is straight-up passing those critters around.

Also, when it comes to toothbrush holders, remember they’re close to toilets – queue the eww face. When you flush, it sends a fine mist onto them. So, don’t ignore this little fellow next time you clean your bathroom. It needs a good rinse every now and then.

By Not Changing Your Clothes

A washed clothe hanging at the string outside of each homes

The clothes you’re wearing could be acting like a magnet for germs. This may sound gross, but it’s an essential point to remember. Even the act of washing clothes can pose a risk.

In the washing machine, different fabrics can potentially cross-contaminate. Therefore, separating clothes, towels, and other fabrics during laundry is smart.

To eliminate germs, the heat is your friend. Remember, the higher the temperature, the less the germs. That’s why you should wash at a temperature over 60°C. Don’t feel pressured to stop there! Additional measures like ironing or sun drying can also reduce the germ count.

When it comes to clothes, color-coding is a brilliant idea! Picture it – pink for the sink, blue for the loo. It’s a simple and memorable system. And remember, always have spare sets to maintain your system even when they’re in the wash.

Even period products have evolved to cut down germ transmission. Today, we’ve got options for period underwear, reusable cloth pads, and menstrual cups. These items reduce the likelihood of germ spreading by carrying personal items that can’t be shared.

Your child’s backpack, lunchbox, and jacket are equally guilty and need your attention at the end of the school day. Schools try to maintain cleanliness, yet the risk is ever-present, with numerous kids sharing the same space.

Not Covering Mouth and Nose When Sneezing or Coughing

A woman working on her laptop at a coffee shop

Ever wonder how germs travel around your house? Hold your breath because it’s about to get interesting. When you sneeze or cough, you can launch little germ rockets into your surroundings.

On top of that, these microscopic invaders can linger in the air on the tiniest of droplets, waiting just for someone to breathe them in. They’re equally content settling on surfaces, waiting for unsuspecting hosts.

Neglecting to Clean High-Touch Surfaces

Ah, the high-touch surfaces of our homes. We come in contact with them multiple times a day, not even realizing the potential germ transfer that’s happening. Let’s delve into specifics, shall we?

Doorknobs and Light Switches

A light switch at a doorknob

I’ll bet that doorknobs and light switches aren’t on your usual cleaning list. But these overlooked items can harbor more germs than you’d think.

Remember, when you touch something with germs on it and then rub your eyes, nose, or mouth, you’re giving those germs a free ride into your body.

Remote Controls and Electronics

A remote control at a wooden table

Let’s talk about electronics that double as germ magnets—items like your TV remote, computer keyboard, or gaming controls. They’re high-touch items, too, yet they’re often neglected when cleaning comes around.

Disinfecting these areas in your home might not be the most glamorous part of your cleaning routine, but it’s one of the most important ways to prevent germ spread.

By Not Cleaning Your Phone

A close up shot of a woman answering a phone

As we’ve learned, germs are spread countless ways around our homes. But this one might come as a surprise: your phone. The device practically glued to your hand is a hotspot for germs.

You might not even realize it, but you are unintentionally spreading germs by skipping the important step of cleaning your electronics.

Your computer screens, keyboards, mouse, and even remote controls can all be hotbeds of germ activity. Hand sanitizer works just as well to wipe these clean.

Using Dirty Cleaning Tools

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never thought about the tools you use to clean your house. After all, they’re meant to keep things tidy, not contribute to the problem, right? Well, it turns out that’s not entirely true. Dirty cleaning tools, particularly sponges, dishrags, and vacuum cleaners, can be hotbeds of germs and inadvertently spread them around your home!

Dirty Sponges and Dishcloths

A person wearing a yellow glove scrubbing the toilet's sink area

Let’s first deal with sponges and dishcloths, which can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Particularly, kitchen sponges, which get into contact with food residues, are a common germ hotspot.

It’s advisable not to use a sponge in the kitchen. Instead, use a clean dishcloth daily, rinse it thoroughly, and let it air dry. If you’ve used the dishcloth for wiping the floor, cleaning up after pets, or any heavy-duty cleaning, put it in the laundry and grab a clean one.

Unclean Vacuum Cleaners

A person vacuuming the floor

Moving onto another problem area, your vacuum cleaner. It may seem like a neat freak’s dream tool, but it can quickly become a germ-spreader if it’s not kept clean. Dirty vacuum cleaners can disperse rather than remove dirt and germs.

You might think, “But I empty the bag or canister every time I vacuum!” While that’s a great habit, it’s not the only step to ensure your vacuum is clean.

Remember, the battle against germs is an ongoing one. Stay vigilant, clean smart, and make sure your cleaning tools aren’t part of the problem.

Neglecting Children’s Toys

Children’s play areas are hubs of creativity and fun, but they can also become breeding grounds for germs if toys are not properly maintained. With little ones exploring the world with their hands and mouths, keeping their playthings clean and sanitized is imperative.

Just picture the scene: a living room or playroom, toys scattered across the floor, each piece a potential carrier of germs. It’s not just clutter; it’s a health hazard waiting to happen.

Toys Scattered on the Floor

A mother and child playing a board game on the floor

When left scattered on the floor, toys not only pose a tripping hazard but also collect dust, dirt, and germs from the surroundings. Instilling a routine of regular clean-ups is essential, ensuring that toys are stored properly when not in use.

Encourage your children to participate, turning the clean-up time into a fun and educational activity. Teach them the importance of putting their toys away, explaining how it helps keep their play area clean and safe.

Sharing Toys Without Cleaning

A girl and a boy kid playing at a classroom

Sharing is a valuable lesson for children, but teaching them about hygiene and the spread of germs is equally important.

When kids share toys without cleaning them in between, they unknowingly pass germs from one to another. This is especially crucial in settings like daycare centers or playgroups, where several children interact with the same set of toys.

Not Properly Disposing of Garbage

When it comes to keeping your home spick and span, the way you dispose of your garbage plays a pivotal role that cannot be understated. It’s not just about getting rid of the waste; it’s about doing it smartly and efficiently to ensure that your living space remains a sanctuary of cleanliness.

Imagine, for a moment, the cascading effects of neglecting this crucial aspect of home maintenance. From overflowing bins to the improper separation of recyclables, the repercussions are far-reaching, affecting not just the cleanliness but also the health of your household.

Overflowing Trash Bins

A garbage at the doorway

In bustling daily life, it’s easy to overlook the simple task of taking out the trash, leading to overflowing bins that can turn your living space into a hotspot for germs.

Now, imagine the impact on your home’s hygiene. Regularly taking out the trash, even when the bin isn’t completely full, and ensuring that all waste is properly bagged becomes crucial to maintaining a clean and healthy living environment.

Not Separating Recyclables

A recycled wooden bin that has a label "CARDBOARD ONLY"

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about recyclables. It’s more than just an environmental responsibility; it’s a step towards maintaining a germ-free home.

When recyclables are mixed with regular trash, it leads to contamination, making the recycling process less efficient and your home more susceptible to germs.

Visualize a recycling bin with a mix of paper, plastics, and food remnants. Not only does this create a mess, but it also attracts pests and contributes to spreading bacteria.

By taking these measures, you are not just contributing to a larger environmental cause; you are actively creating a healthier, cleaner home.

By Not Wiping Pet Paws

A dirty dog paws

Trust me, folks, I’m a pet lover, too, and our pets are walking germ distributors. Their paws touch every nook and cranny – from dirty streets to that park bench you never sit on because it’s always wet.

Yeah, you got it! This cute ball of fluff can unexpectedly spread germs in your home. Normal outdoor romping will coat its paws with all sorts of microscopic nasties.

Of course, you can’t wrap your pet in bubble wrap, so what’s the solution? Simple! Wipe your pet’s paws before letting them loose in the house. This might not eliminate all germs, but hey, every little helps. Plus, it gives you some more bonding time with your furry friend.

Forgetfulness in Washing Beddings and Linens

A hotel bed with three rolled towel in it

We’ve already talked about avoiding antibacterial or white liquid dish soaps and separating laundry, but what about those items we often overlook? Put bedding and linens.

Hand-washing bedding becomes even more crucial, especially when someone in your home is sick. Germs love to camp out on your cozy blankets and soft pillows. So, let’s keep them fresh and germ-free with frequent washings.

By Not Removing Your Shoes

A person fixing the shoe lace

Let’s talk about something we all might be guilty of – not removing our shoes inside the house. Keeping those snug boots on is tempting, especially when it’s chilly outside. But you might be unknowingly tracking germs right into your living room.

Don’t panic – the odds of spreading COVID-19 from your shoes are generally low. But why take the chance, right? Plus, if you’ve got crawlers and tiny tots who enjoy playing on the floor, leaving your shoes at the entrance is extra important. You’ll cut contact with all sorts of dirt that could hitch a ride on your shoe soles.

Inadequate Ventilation

Maintaining a germ-free environment in your home goes beyond just cleaning surfaces; it extends to the air we breathe. Inadequate ventilation can lead to a buildup of moisture, dust, and airborne pathogens, creating a thriving environment for germs and bacteria.

Not Airing Out Rooms

An open glass window panel

When it comes to maintaining a germ-free environment, the air quality in your home plays a crucial role. Regularly airing out rooms is key to reducing moisture levels, which is essential in preventing mold and bacteria growth.

An effective way to do this is by opening windows to allow fresh air to circulate, replacing the stale indoor air. This practice not only helps reduce humidity but also aids in eliminating odors, providing a fresher and cleaner living space. It’s particularly important in areas like bathrooms and kitchens, where moisture levels tend to increase. Ensuring proper airflow in these spaces can contribute to a healthier home environment.

Ignoring Air Filters

A cozy living room with wood and steel bar divider

Moving on to another vital aspect of home ventilation – air filters in your heating and air conditioning units. These filters trap dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, ensuring that the air inside your home is clean.

However, these filters can become clogged over time, reducing their efficiency. It’s crucial to clean or replace them regularly, per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Not only does this practice ensure that your HVAC system is working efficiently, but it also contributes to the overall air quality in your home, making it a safer place for you and your family. Proper maintenance of air filters is a small yet significant step towards maintaining a germ-free home year-round.


Comprehensive Cleaning Schedule for a Germ-Free Home

Embarking on a journey to a germ-free abode requires a solid game plan and a bit of elbow grease. Here, we’ve laid out a straightforward cleaning schedule, breaking down daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal tasks.

Time FrameTaskArea/ItemNotes
DailyWipe down surfacesKitchen counters, tablesUse a disinfectant wipe or a clean cloth with a disinfecting solution.
Sanitize high-touch areasDoorknobs, light switchesFocus on areas that are frequently touched throughout the day.
Sweep or vacuumFloorsPay extra attention to high-traffic areas.
DishwashingKitchen utensils and dishesEnsure all dishes are washed and properly dried.
WeeklyDeep clean bathroomsToilets, sinks, showersUse a bathroom cleaner and scrub thoroughly.
Mop floorsAll hard flooringUse a disinfecting floor cleaner suitable for your type of flooring.
Launder beddingBedsheets, pillowcasesWash in hot water and dry completely.
Sanitize cleaning toolsSponges, clothsReplace or disinfect to prevent spreading germs while cleaning.
MonthlyClean under furnitureUnder beds, sofasMove furniture and clean the hidden areas.
Deep clean kitchenAppliances, cabinetsFocus on areas that might be overlooked during daily cleaning.
Sanitize garbage binsKitchen, bathroom binsClean and disinfect the inside and outside of the bins.
SeasonallyDeep clean the entire homeAll areasFocus on decluttering, organizing, and cleaning areas not covered weekly.
Check for mold/mildew.Bathrooms, basementsClean and address any areas showing signs of mold or mildew growth.
Clean vents and ductsHVAC systemEnsure proper airflow and reduce dust in your home.

Tips to Keep Your House Germ-Free

Let’s discuss how to maintain a germ-free home. Like the famous Professor of Medical Microbiology Valerie Edwards-Jones once said, “Keep surfaces regularly cleaned.”

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

  • First, target those areas that get a lot of action throughout the day. We’re talking about door handles, light switches, remote controls – you name it.
  • Grab a reliable disinfectant, and read the instructions so you’re using it effectively. Aim to give these spots a good clean daily and even more frequently if someone’s under the weather.

Develop a Solid Cleaning Routine

  • Consistency is key when it comes to cleanliness. Set up a schedule that covers all the bases, assigning specific tasks to different days of the week.
  • This ensures that every nook and cranny gets the attention it deserves. And hey, don’t forget about your cleaning tools. They regularly need a good scrub or replacement to avoid becoming a germ hotspot.

Bathroom and Kitchen: Extra Attention Required

  • Bathrooms and kitchens are like germ playgrounds, so let’s shut that down. Regularly tackle the bathroom toilet, sink, shower, or tub, and give smaller items like toothbrush holders a good scrub.
  • Keep an eye on cutting boards, countertops, and appliances in the kitchen. Ensure those sponges and dishcloths are sanitized or replaced often to keep them fresh and clean.

Keep That Air Fresh

  • A well-ventilated space is a happy space. Ensure your home gets plenty of fresh air, and consider using air purifiers to snag any airborne nasties.
  • Regularly replace filters in your heating and cooling systems, and think about a dehumidifier if you’ve got damp areas in the house.

Encourage Hygienic Habits

  • Make sure everyone in the house is on board with good hygiene practices. That means regular hand washing, using tissues or elbows when sneezing or coughing, and keeping personal items personal.
  • Have some hand sanitizer around, especially near those high-touch areas we discussed earlier.

Don’t Forget About the Furry Friends

  • If you’ve got pets, keep their areas clean too. Wash their bedding and toys regularly, and clean their food and water bowls daily.
  • And remember to wipe down those paws when they come back inside.


References

Organizations:

  • The American Cleaning Institute and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission for toy safety and EPA for indoor air quality guidelines.

Books:

Website Resources:

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About Robert Gibson

Robert GibsonRobert Gibson is a skilled handyman and a trusted consultant in the home improvement realm, currently spearheading content creation for ToolsWeek. With a rich background in practical hands-on projects, spanning over two decades, Robert has mastered the art of troubleshooting and solving household challenges.

Known for his knack for breaking down intricate home improvement tasks into easy-to-follow steps, Robert is a vital asset to the ToolsWeek community. His well-researched guides and insightful articles have become a go-to resource for both seasoned professionals and eager DIYers looking to enhance their skills and tackle their projects with confidence.

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