Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

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Old 12-30-2008, 12:28 AM   #1
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Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Top 10 Places Germs Lurk in Your Home

More Health Headlines
By Kathleen Doheny
Reviewed by: Brunilda Nazario

Got misophobia? You're not alone. Fear of germs is common and can increase as busy schedules make cleaning time scarce, putting the most fastidious housekeeper on edge.

To quell that fear of germs, it helps to know where the germs in your home hide -- and the most important places to clean. While researchers who track germs don't agree 100%, here are 10 top spots where germs may lurk -- some probably surprising even to Martha Stewart -- and how to send the bugs packing.

Germs in Your Home: Kitchen Sponges

A kitchen sponge can carry more than 134,000 bacteria per square inch, according to a 2007 survey funded by Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol, and performed by the Hygiene Council. Researchers swabbed 35 U.S. homes for bacteria in 32 different sites.

What makes a sponge so buggy? Using sponges for more than one purpose is common, and people tend to keep their sponges too long, allowing bacteria to multiply, says Kelly Bright, PhD, assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona. "It's a moist environment, and a sponge is a nice breeding ground."

Cross-contamination of sponges is common, Bright tells WebMD. You cut raw meat, wipe it up, then prepare another dish and wipe with the same sponge. On a typical sponge you're likely to find Salmonella (which can cause food-borne illness) and Campylobacter, which can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain, Bright says.

Remedy: Replace your sponge once a week or so, Bright suggests. Or put it in the dishwasher regularly or soak it in bleach for about 15 minutes. "The dirtier the sponge, the longer you have to soak it to be effective."

Germs in Your Home: Kitchen Sink
Whether empty or full of dishes, the kitchen sink is a germ hot spot, says Bright. "People do a lot of food preparation there," and that food can lead to contamination, with kitchen drains having more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch, according to the Hygiene Council survey.

Remedy: If you think the last bit of soap suds from washing dishes will take care of things, think again, says Philip Tierno, Jr., PhD, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at Tisch Hospital, New York University Medical Center, and associate professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine.

"Soap doesn't kill bacteria," says Tierno, the U.S. representative for the Hygiene Council. His favorite cleaning solution: bleach and water. The FDA suggests kitchen sanitizers or a homemade solution of one teaspoon chlorine bleach in a quart of water, then letting it sit on the surface you're cleaning for 10 minutes.

Germs in Your Home: Faucet Handles
Both bathroom and kitchen faucet handles are germ-catchers. In the Hygiene Council survey, kitchen faucet handles carried more than 13,000 bacteria per square inch and bathroom faucet handles had more than 6,000 bugs per square inch.

Remedy: "Use a disinfectant cleaner spray every time you clean up," suggests Charles Gerba, PhD, professor of soil, water and environmental science at the University of Arizona, who has researched microbes extensively. In the kitchen, that should be once a day, he says. In the bathroom, at least once a week.

Germs in Your Home: Home Offices
Surprise: your home office is germier than the typical work office, says Gerba. In a recent study, he compared the average number of bacteria in work and home office to find the numbers of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause serious skin infections.

In his sampling of 60 home offices and 91 work offices, five sites were tested in each. MRSA was isolated in 15 home offices but no work offices. And overall, more bacteria were found in home offices than work offices. Germiest spots in the home office were the keyboard, mouse, phone, and desktop.

"Probably people eat more in the home office,'' Gerba says, partially explaining the larger bug population. "You turn your desk into a bacteria cafeteria."

Remedy: "Use disinfectant at least once a week" on home office surfaces, suggests Gerba.

Germs in Your Home: Toilet Bowl
Not surprisingly, the top germ winner in the Hygiene Council survey was the toilet bowl (but not the seat) with 3.2 million bacteria per square inch. Still, Gerba insists, kitchens are dirtier overall. "There are about 200 times more fecal bacteria on a cutting board," he says, "than on a toilet seat."

Remedy: Toilet bowl germs form a biofilm, that slimy layer that develops when bacteria attach to a support such as the bowl, says Tierno. Tackle that film with your chlorine bleach and water solution.

Germs in Your Home: Bathtub
Never mind that you think the bubble bath left you and your tub squeaky clean. Lurking near the drain of the bathtub is nearly 120,000 bacteria per square inch, according to calculations made in the Hygiene Council Survey.

Remedy: Give your bathtub a buff with bath cleaner or a chlorine-water cleaning solution mixed up at home.

Germs in Your Home: Shower Curtain
The crud or soap scum that collects on your shower curtain probably Sphingomonas and Methylobacterium bacteria,says Norman Pace, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, University of Colorado, who collected biofilm from four vinyl shower curtains that had been in place more than six months in Boulder-area homes.

They found an abundance of Sphingomonas and Methylobacterium bacteria, and both could pose a problem for people who are immune-compromised, such as those who are HIV positive, or who have other diseases that make them prone to infections.

Remedy: Regular cleaning or replacement of the curtains is advised.

Germs in Your Home: Wet Laundry
What are germs doing in your washing machine? Probably contaminating other clothes. A load of just-washed clothes may look sparkling clean, but guess again.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that intestinal viruses like hepatitis A are readily transferred from contaminated clothes to uncontaminated clothing during the washing.

Remedy: Bleach and drying time. The use of bleach reduced the number of infectious viruses on swatches after washing and drying by nearly 100%, the researchers found. Putting clothes through the drying cycle helped reduce viruses, too, according to Bright, and a hot water wash is good. "If you use the dryer, put it on hot,'' she says, to kill remaining germs. And "separate adult clothes from kids' clothes."

Germs in Your Home: Vacuum Cleaner
It's supposed to clean, but your vacuum cleaner is also a source of contamination, Gerba tells WebMD. "We looked at 30 vacuum brushes. ‚ Fifty percent contained coliform fecal bacteria and 13% E. coli," says Gerba. E. coli can cause diarrhea and other health problems. Coliform bacteria don't typically cause illness, but are often found in the presence of other disease-causing organisms.

"Vacuums become meals on wheels" for the bugs, Gerba says.

Remedy: "There's not much you can do about the brush," he says. "Vacuum the cleanest areas first and the dirtiest last," he suggests. That way, you'll be less likely to spread around as much bacteria. And if you use a bagless vacuum cleaner, wash your hands afterward, since bacteria can remain in the receptacle.

Germs in Your Home: Beds
Mattresses and pillows provide food for dust mites, Tierno tells WebMD, and bedding can also be a reservoir for molds and spores. "In the mattress core there are all sorts of human secretions and excretions," he says. "Fecal matter as well as sweat and semen."

What's the problem? "Bedroom debris is probably one of the biggest causes of allergic rhinitis," Tierno says. "Allergy from dust mites is also a problem."

Remedy: Place an "impervious" outer cover over the mattresses and pillows, Tierno says, to keep the debris contained. Then wash bedding regularly in water hot enough to kill the bugs.

Last edited by wallmaxx; 12-30-2008 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:40 AM   #2
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

[quote=wallmaxx;566995]Top 10 Places Germs Lurk in Your Home
Germs in Your Home: Beds
Mattresses and pillows provide food for dust mites, Tierno tells WebMD, and bedding can also be a reservoir for molds and spores. "In the mattress core there are all sorts of human secretions and excretions," he says. "Fecal matter as well as sweat and semen."

Excuse me, I have to go burn my bed...if not the whole damned house!

You know, there's got to be way to make money from this. Disinfecting service for the whole house or something like that. People must read this stuff and freak out.

Last edited by Bodger; 12-30-2008 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:41 AM   #3
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

And people wonder why I don't sleep at night
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:50 AM   #4
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Fast Food Ice Dirtier than Toilet Water

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Old 12-30-2008, 08:59 AM   #5
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

I didn't read the article, but why would anyone have Germans in their home, unless they are of German descent. And whats wrong with Germans anyway, you some kind of bigot?
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Old 12-30-2008, 09:00 AM   #6
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Oops, never mind!
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:47 AM   #7
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Originally Posted by silvertree View Post
Oops, never mind!
I'm German-Irish, does that mean if I only have to clean half my house?

As the movie producer said to Tom Hagen in The Godfather:
"Let me tell you something my Kraut-Mick friend..."
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:48 PM   #8
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Microwave your sponges after use & rinsing to kill germs, Nuke tha bustards!!!
Girls that clean for me use a solution of Pinesol & bleach, mmmm smells good, choke choke, but kills them lil germs I tell ya.. And the girls look kind ah hot too.
I'm a firm believer in keeping the spray bottle of the described solution of bleech & water as mentioned in the post. Saves on having 100 different bottles of cleaners typically seen in homes.
But if do have a septic tank, one does have to becareful in the amount of bleech that is flushed in there. Bateria is a good thing in the septic
tank .
Over prevention from germs will keep you sicker than any one germ can ever make you. Or at least most i Know that are like that are sick more often than I have been in my entire life. Soon as they go outside & breath they are bombarded with lil germs.
Keep your immune system in tip top shape and roll on.
Keep your blood / alcohol ratio equal for added protection.

Good post though.
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Old 12-30-2008, 05:57 PM   #9
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Re: Top 10 Places Germs Lurk In Your Home

Originally Posted by Burby View Post
Keep your blood / alcohol ratio equal for added protection.
As Bogart used to say about the immunization properties of alcohol: "Anything that bites me falls off and dies."

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