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The Germiest Places in Your Home

When it comes to cleaning your house, you don't have to go overboard. Just concentrate on the common spots where germs lurk and follow these housecleaning tips for a healthier home.

Yes, your house might look a whole lot cleaner if you shooed all the dust bunnies out the door (and barred them from ever entering again!). But to keep your home healthy and reduce your family’s chances of getting sick, you’re better off jettisoning germs than banishing bunnies. Here’s a list of the "germiest" places in the house — and the best ways to keep these extra-dirty spots clean.

Germiest places in the kitchen

The kitchen — the room where you prepare and eat your food — is one of the most important places to keep well scrubbed. Bacteria, viruses and parasites are responsible for an estimated 48 million cases of food-borne illnesses a year — and these types of infections can be more serious for your little ones because their immune systems aren’t as strong as yours. So concentrate on food-prep surfaces, but don’t forget that pretty much anywhere hands go, germs go too. The bacteria that could be in the raw chicken you’re cutting up for tonight’s stir-fry can spread easily once you wipe your hands on the dish towel and then use that same towel to wipe up the counter and kitchen table. Here’s how to stay vigilant:

  • Wash your hands often. It’s your best line of defense against food-borne bacteria. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before, during and after food prep.

  • Keep counters clear of often-handled objects like keys and you-don’t-know-where-that’s-been items, like grocery bags (unload groceries from the floor instead of the counter).

  • Wipe down surfaces regularly with hot soapy water or disinfectant wipes. On your wipe-down to-do list: countertops, faucets, refrigerator and oven handles, cabinet knobs, light switches and the telephone. Be extra-super-scrupulous when you're handling raw meat, fish, eggs and poultry — all of which can harbor dangerous bacteria like salmonella.

  • Stop sponges from spreading germs that you just cleaned up. Replace them regularly (at least once a month), and wash them thoroughly with soap after using. You can also toss them in the dishwasher or zap them in the microwave (make sure they’re damp first) for 30 seconds. Launder kitchen rags and towels in the washing machine with hot water and a bit of bleach.

Germiest places in the bathroom

While the kitchen takes first place as the germiest place in the house, the bathroom also gets its share of bacteria — especially if anyone in the household is sick. Plus, the warmth and dampness of this room make it a prime breeding ground for not just bacteria, but mold and mildew (which can exacerbate allergies and make you sick) as well. So keep the bathroom shipshape by taking the following steps:

  • Keep surfaces clean and disinfected to reduce the spread of germs. As in the kitchen, think about the places hands (little ones and big ones) tend to touch — faucets, knobs, handles, switches — and concentrate your cleaning efforts on those areas. Pay special attention to the toilet handle since everyone touches that before they’ve washed their hands (yuck!).

  • Remove mold by cleaning tiles and shower curtains with a bleach solution (not when your children are around, of course).

Housecleaning tips for kids’ rooms and the playroom

All parents know that little ones don’t like to share much of anything — except, of course, their germs, which they’re more than happy to pass around. While you can’t follow your kids around with hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes (much as you’d like to), you can try these simple rules and routines for cleaning the germiest places in the most popular kids' rooms: their bedroom and the playroom.

  • Wipe down the changing table often with mild soap and water. For those times when soap and water isn’t up to the job — when your baby is sick or has just had a massive poop explosion — use a disinfectant solution or wipe to clean the surface, then dry it well with a paper towel. It’s also a good idea to use a pad with a removable cover that you can throw in the laundry regularly to wash the germs away.

  • Have kids wash their hands before and after they play with toys (plus when they use the bathroom, eat, blow their noses, come in from outside, play with a pet…the list goes on!).

  • Tackle playroom surfaces regularly with a disinfecting wipe or cleanser — even when the kids are healthy (toy boxes, drawer handles, and the like are all potential homes to cold- and flu-causing viruses).

  • Give toys a bath, too. Hard plastic toys can go in the dishwasher (put little ones in a mesh bag). Stuffed animals can take a spin through the washing machine or you can put them in plastic bags and keep them in the freezer overnight (to get rid of dust mites that can exacerbate — or cause — allergies).

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