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4 of the Dirtiest Places in your House

Updated on June 19, 2013

What if I told you some of the filthiest places in your own home included your washing machine and toothbrush?

If you're already a germaphobe, look away now, because the following four products you use everyday can contain more than 200,000 times the bacteria found on the average toilet seat:

How clean is your toothbrush?
How clean is your toothbrush? | Source

1. Your Toothbrush

Recent studies have, time and again, found that nearly half of all toothbrushes are the lucrative breeding grounds for trillions of dangerous bacteria such as E. coli.

There are a few ways bacteria latch onto toothbrushes:

  1. Use from an infected user
  2. Being left in a warm, damp, (bathroom-like) environment
  3. Bacteria zooming around your environment

Think you're safe because you bought your toothbrush yesterday? Think again, that 50% includes brand-new toothbrushes!

It gets worse however. Not only do you stick said toothbrush in a mouth containing on average, more than 500 types of bacteria, but around 30% of us leave the toothbrush out to collect (and cultivate) bacteria overnight.

If germs from your mouth aren't enough, don't make me tell you what happens to your toothbrush if you flush a toilet nearby. Sometimes, it all comes down to common sense. Would you leave your eating utensils in your bathroom, use them once or twice a day, and just rinse them under the tap? I'd hope not.

Source

2. Washing Machine

How do you clean a washing machine?

Your average washing machine isn't exactly the pristine destroyer-of-bacteria it claims to be. In fact, some experts believe your laundry may actually be dirtier after you wash it. Why?

Certain experts believe that if you wash just one load of undergarments, you transfer around 500 million E. coli bacteria to the water in your machine, which can settle and multiply at the bottom. This is particularly true if you own a front-loader, because gravity assists in the process.

The germs that remain in your washing machine in turn contaminate other laundry, which often has its own bacteria to contribute. Overall, you're left with a cornucopia of germs spread evenly throughout your 'clean' clothes.

There are ways to mitigate the chances of germs spreading through your washing machine. However, you first need to consider these top 3 mistakes that you're probably making when you launder your clothes:

  • Most people wash their clothes in water temperatures ranging from 30° - 40° Celsius (86° - 104° Fahrenheit). While this may save energy costs, it doesn't even kill 10% of the lowly dust mite.
  • If you don't clean your washing machine with bleach, you can't kill the bacteria that call it home. This is because some detergents, particularly liquid detergents, don't kill bacteria. Ever since the rise of liquid detergent in the early 90's, the amount of bacteria in the average washing machine has noticeably increased.
  • If you wash underwear in the same load as other clothes, approximately 100 million E. coli germs will remain in the wash water and spread to other clothes. Faecal matter can carry a number of viruses such as hepatitis A, salmonella, and E. coli in particular.

Keep reading or skip to the 'Solutions' section to find out how to lessen your chances of contamination.

3. The Dishwasher

Your average dishwasher is a soldier. It periodically receives nothing but dirty dishes and utensils, then returns them sparkling clean, just for you. Unfortunately, this degree of dedication must come with sacrifice.

In the curious case of the dishwasher, this sacrifice is the cleanliness of its outer seal. In an ideal world, when you consistently add that bacterial breakfast to your machine, it will be cleaned and the bacteria washed away forever. The reality is that it will stay.

Because the outer rim of the dishwasher rarely reaches a temperature high enough to kill them, the door seal of your average machine may be contaminated with nasty little things like fungus and black yeast.

Believe it or not, the water that makes it to the outer edges, actually contributes to the growth of the bacteria. There's ample food in recycled dish-water.

Source

4. The Innocent Sponge

Ah ... the kitchen sponge. I saved the best for last, you see.

If you happen to have one nearby, look at it from a respectable distance. Notice the nooks, the crannies, and the crevices. The very features of a sponge that make it excellent for cleaning, also make it an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.

When you wipe down the kitchen bench or sink, you only transfer germs from one area to another. You'd literally be better to wash your bench with toilet water. Studies by Simmons College have shown that sponges and dishcloths have twice the rate of contamination of the toilet bowls they tested.

According to WebMD, "Kitchen sponges are the No. 1 source of germs in the whole house."

Which Is the Dirtiest?

Which of the Above Tools you use to Keep Clean, is the Dirtiest?

See results

The Solution

Fortunately, there is hope in this war against germs.

Toothbrush:

To avoid unnecessary levels of bacteria from your toothbrush, follow these simple rules:

  • Store your toothbrush in a dry area such as a closet. This will protect them from humidity and the spray from your toilet.
  • A toothbrush should be replaced every three months, if cared for properly. Don't be frugal when it comes to your oral hygiene, (toothbrushes are still cheap).
  • It sounds self-explanatory, but don't share your toothbrush. I won't judge you, but that's yuck.

Washing Machine:

You should periodically run an empty load in your washing machine that contains a mix of bleach and hot water, (Around 82° Celsius or 180° Fahrenheit). Around one cup of plain bleach per wash is optimal.

Furthermore, the order in which clothes are washed is important:

  • Whites should be washed first, using chlorine bleach.
  • Then comes underwear, which should be washed at around 66° Celsius (151° Fahrenheit) using a colour-safe bleach substitute.

Editor's Note:

I melted my sponge when I put it in the microwave. That's why I say "...For between one to two minutes".

Two minutes was too long for my microwave, so heat your sponge accordingly.


Dishwasher:

If you don't wash your dishes and cutlery regularly, you should rinse them with a very mild bleach solution, consisting of around 50 millilitres of bleach to 500ml of plain water.

For the reasons given above, you probably shouldn't use a sponge to do this.

The Innocent Sponge:

Thankfully, the worst of all is also the easiest to repair. To destroy the bacteria in your sponge, pop it in the microwave and zap it on high for between one to two minutes. That's it!

Feedback

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Please feel free to comment below, your feedback is welcome and certainly appreciated. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article, check out my others at My Homepage.

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    • bydojo profile image

      Ramona Jar 4 years ago from Romania

      It's really disturbing to read this and unfortunately so true :)

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Definitely a bit scary to think about :)

    • HendrikDB profile image

      HendrikDB 4 years ago

      Food for thought - up to now I took these 4 things for granted!

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for commenting HendrikDB, everything we use can be contaminated like the things above. Whether there's actual health risks associated with them is arguable, but the more people know about everyday household appliances, the better they'll be able to care for themselves and others.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This is a really useful and eye opener hub. Unfortunately we hardly give a second thought to this. I'd like to first start keeping my toothbrush out of the bathroom and then take care of the rest.

      voted up and useful. Shared as well.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Rajan, it's great that I can offer some perspective and teach people along the way.

      I'm glad you found it useful.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Excellent hub! I've thought of writing about this very thing myself but I think you've done a better job than I would have. People really need to know these things.

      Can't even imagine sharing a toothbrush with anyone, but I know there are people who do. Unfortunately I have to utilize the laundromat because I have no washer/dryer. Expect that's a germ mall. I use bleach in several of my laundry loads and vinegar in others and that's supposed to kill germs too.

      I don't use a sponge either. Disposable paper towels for cleaning with soap and water.

      Voted up and useful and will share with my followers! I'm feeling generous this Monday morning. :)

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thankyou Au Fait, I appreciate your generosity :)

      It's definitely a good idea to use disposable paper towel for washing when you can. As to the laundromat, while it is out of your control, sometimes there's just not much we can do :)

      I appreciate your input, and thanks again for sharing.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for your support Rachna Rai! Most of the time, I write just to help people learn, and if I have encouraged people to think about an aspect of their life, then I feel I have done my job.

      Thanks for commenting also :)

    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 3 years ago from Oregon

      Certainly places that need to be focused on when cleaning, replacing regularly used household products. I am big on replacing sponges in the kitchen as they end up touching everything.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      Very true CZCZCZ, replacing sponges can be helpful if you want to avoid them becoming germy, (or you don't want to risk melting them in the microwave!) Thanks for reading my article

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      When I started reading this, I thought you were going to leave us all grossed out, without any solutions! I'm glad I was wrong.

      Thanks for sharing this useful nugget with us.

    • profile image

      puella 3 years ago

      My two 'scents' ;) ;) toothbrush, once a week let it stand on a mix of water and my adored cheapest disinfectant, namely, white vinegar; just mix one spoon in as little as one third of a cup of water and voila!.. 15 minutes will take care of miss bacteria(s).; for the washing machine, it's true, not even warm water with just detergent will take care of bacteria, so we need to add something else...environment safe...I use either vinegar too (a big cup of pure vinegar together with the detergent and if you wish, add some more for the rinse cycle (vinegar is perfect for colored clothes as it protects the color...also, you could use a product that in southamerica is called 'nevex' which is just similar to oxiclean (a lot of oxygen in it; or you could use baking soda too, just a bit in the first part of the cycle; for the sponges...guess what...yes you got it! vinegar, my boyfriend! just a mix of a cup of water and a spoon of vinegar will take care of...bacteria, it will never be smelly; the only thing about vinegar and sponges is that not all sponges will stand it for too long (as a synthetic, it will get 'dissolved' slowly by the vinegar...the only type that is ok to use the vinegar water mix is the kind of sponge that is really smooth (like those soft pads of polyester used in the shoulder caps in clothing...you know what I mean?

      Vinegar is a powerful and green cleaner and bad smells eliminator and prevents diabetis ;) and ...it's...cheap!!!... If you are leaving your home for a few days, you can pour abit in every toilet and be gone worryless...mildew will never grow...you have seen the advertising for rinsing showers after each use: it's just water and vinegar!!

      cheers

    • nadelma profile image

      nadelma 3 years ago from Bushkill, Pa

      I moved my tooth brush to a closet many years ago after reading something like this. It drives me crazy when I see my husband keeps his on the sink in his bathroom.

      We don't use the sponge to wipe down the counters either as I think it was on the same page where I read about the tooth brush. We use the wipes that come in a container with cleaning liquid in it. I also run my sponge in the dishwasher every so often but I know not often enough. I am going to try the microwave instead. That seems much more logical.

      Thanks for a great hub.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      @Kathryn , thank you for taking the time to read my article, I'm glad you found some use from the solutions I've provided! (I'll admit I was tempted to make a chemistry joke of some sort here... something about solutions?) Hopefully, we can all learn about how germs are spread within the household, and live healthier lives.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      @Puella, you seem to have my sense of humor :p thank you for posting other solutions, particularly with the easy-to-access household vinegar. With your permission, I might use that in my next household Hub?

      I'm not sure I do know which type of sponge you mean in particular, sorry! Haha

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      @Nadelma, it's true that it might not be productive to wash your sponge in the dishwasher, but it certainly couldn't hurt, anything is better than nothing. In terms of the toothbrush though, it never really becomes a problem unless your toilet is in the same room as your toothbrush, or if your bathroom is often humid.

      Other than that, you should be okay, but the closet would be a nice precaution.

      And thank you for commenting and reading my Hub too, I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      puella 3 years ago

      I also want to share a bit more...All of these worries about cleanness around the house is important, but it is also important to consider how to go about it without adding more strain to the already superstrained planet survival...and for that, when considering how to 'solve' a particular need for cleaning or obtain real clean stuff, to think of the future too: it's our responsability and there is enough info about what not to do and not enough on what to do...all of them not so clear-cut, as every important issue in human life; please excuse me this long introito, it's only to think twice about using, for example, pre-wet wipes in a 'solution' and as a 'solution'...The wipe itself is it biodegradable? and what to think of the 'solution' with which we are disinfecting? Remember, just a single brown paper bag, supposedly biodegradable, still, it will take some 12 years to get degraded! Samething with the chemicals we use around the house or to prevent bugs or take care of the yards...they will all end down to our water sources...It's now being said that the "antibacterial" soaps are not so... and they have the added 'solution' that may not be completely safe for our health..Household cleaners contribute to increase the need for for widespread water treatment to recycle...and so forth and so on.

      On the other hand, just about clothes, the worry should be only for those garments that are not to be put in the drier...If one can have them in the drier,just a medium temp will sterilze the clothes (such all cottons, towels, kitchen rags, etc)...or, if one is not too shy to use the beautiful sunshine, we can hang them to line dry under some sunshine...It's said that only 10 minutes under the sunshine and garments are disinfected...so there...an even cheaper solution ;) and can't bemore greener.. But if apartment trapped ;);) then, just proceed with caution with disinfectants as they may harm in more than one way our current and future span...we can absorb chemicals thru our skin...so think twice of antibacterial stuff or chlorines or other bleaches...Like in the medicine field where the least invasive approach should have the first option, the same goes for household...the simpler the better...Vinegar can go a long way in many uses around and this wisdom has been around for hundreds of years...since wine was 'invented' :);) cheers!

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 3 years ago from United States

      I found this Hub very enlightening. I will definitely pay more attention to where my toothbrush is located. I do purchase covers for my toothbrush that have bacteria safe pockets in them. I will definitely tell my husband about the toothbrush versus toilet flush as he leaves his out always. I thought your Hub was well written and informative and the responses to your Hub were also educational. I use alcohol to clean most all in my house diluted with water and I also use vinegar. I quit using chemicals a long time go as they have an adverse effect on my lungs. Saves me lots of money too using these safe cleaners. Thanks for makings us more aware of how to keep clean, enjoyed the read.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      @Naomi's Banner, I'm happy to hear that my writing can make a difference to someone's health. I don't really enjoy using industrial chemicals, and so to use safer alternatives is a good idea. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my Hub!

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 3 years ago from The City of Generals

      Very informative hub, helpful and every inch true. Of all the 4, I voted for the sponge. Hard to imagine but it really is. I've read somwhere that using dishcloths is a better idea, but they don't offer the scrubbing power that sponges have. Thanks for your tips on toothbrush.

      Thank you Jared Miles -- I'll be sharing this hub :=) Going! -Tonette

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Great hub. I hate to say this but the sponge is indeed the dirtiest . I use it everyday washing dirty pots and pans. Still dirty even air-dry it. Toothbrush- I always keep it covered with the toothbrush cap. Couldn't imagine the roaches and lizards licking it! Voted up

    • connieow profile image

      Connie S Owens 3 years ago from El Cajon, CA

      No bleach. White Vinegar.

      And thank you for reminding me to clean my mattress and washer. Ick.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks again for commenting peachpurple, I think even the roaches would have more common sense than to lick a sponge! I don't use sponges if I can avoid it, and if I do now, I microwave it afterwards :)

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