The home should be a place of respite and peace — not a revolting place full of bacteria, fungus and illness-causing germs. While it’s true that not all types of bacteria constitute as “pathogens,” wouldn’t you rather live in a sanitary environment if you could? There are a few guidelines for the industrious homemaker to keep in mind to ensure that contact with dangerous germs is kept to a minimum, with the goal that the family remains as healthy as possible.
1. Kitchen: Think twice about wooden spoons.
When I worked for Cutco knife company, we always warned prospective customers about how unsanitary wooden handled knives were. Far from a marketing gimmick, there was tangible science behind our advice. Wood is a porous material, which makes it susceptible to carrying germs and bacteria, says John Oxford, Professor of Virology at the London Hospital. E. coli from raw meat can get into the wood and cause severe food poisoning. To avoid this fate, look for metal or polyurethane handles on your silverware and cutlery. Do not put wooden spoons or cutting boards in the dishwasher, as this may cause cracking — which gives bacteria a place to hide. To wash, soak in disinfectant for 30 minutes and wash with boiling soapy water. Replace any wood utensils after five years.
2. Bathroom: Move your toothbrush.
No sane person would purposefully lick a toilet, but “leaving a damp, exposed toothbrush within three feet of the loo isn’t much better,” cautions CNN. They say studies indicate toilet bacteria disperses into the air with each flush, landing on everything from towels to toothbrushes. A University of Manchester study found that the average toothbrush contained 10 million germs from E. coli to staph. So be sure you put the lid down before flushing, wash your hands before leaving the room, and move your toothbrush to a secure location.
3. Laundry Room: Avoid moldy, germ-laden washers.
We tend to think of the washing machine as a place that gets cleaned with each use, but that’s simply not so. According to ABC News, washing machines are teeming with bacteria. “If you wash a load of just underwear, there will be about 100 million E. coli in the wash water, and they can be transmitted to the next load of laundry,” said Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. He’s found everything from hepatitis A and norovirus to salmonella and E. coli in washing machines. To effectively kill germs, the water temperature needs to be between 140 and 150 degrees, say experts cited in the article. Individuals should always wash their hands after touching wet clothes. Chlorine bleach or Clorox 2 peroxide bleach should be used at least once a week. When possible, allow clothes to dry in the sun (as UV radiation kills germs naturally) — or at least put your dryer on the hottest setting your fabrics can withstand.
4. Bedroom: Wash linens on schedule.
The bed seems like a place of relaxation. Yet, it can also be pretty darn gross! The Sleep Council of the UK says we excrete half a pint of sweat every night and shed 1 pound of skin scales each year! It’s no wonder the average bed contains 10,000 dust mites who love to feed on this stuff — and excrete some two million droppings. Furthermore, consider this: a brand new pillow doubles its weight in three years — due to dust mite build-up! So if you’ve been waking up with a lot of stuffy noses, wash your pillow and consider buying hypoallergenic pillows made from foam. A University of Worcester study looked at 10 duvets and found up to 20,000 live dust bites, bacteria and fungal spores — so wash these bacterial wonderlands every six months! Replace your pillows every two years and your duvets every five years. Vacuum your mattress once a week and replace it every ten years. Each week, you should wash all bed linens in hot water. Keep food and snacks out of bed, since crumbs provide organic material for mold and bacteria to feast upon.
5. Mudroom: Treat or replace old shoes.
The Daily Mail cited a study that found 100 times more mold in old shoes than in a toilet. The warm, dark, damp environment of athletic shoes makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. To reduce contamination in your home, leave your shoes at the door. Also, old footwear should be replaced every year or every thousand miles, says Mike O’Neill, a podiatrist at the Princess Grace Hospital of London. In the meantime, you can sanitize your shoes with the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer, which kills 99.9% of harmful microbes — including e. Coli, staph and fungal spores — within 45 minutes using UV-C light.