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The Six Common Household Items With the Most Germs

December 06, 2003 | 59,436 views
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By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Germs in the home can show up where you least expect them, even if you diligently try to keep your home clean. Despite good efforts by most to keep their homes germ free, over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of all cases of diarrhea and 50 percent to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses are caught in the home, and common household items are often to blame.

So what is the most germ-ridden room in your house? It's not the bathroom--it's the kitchen. In fact, there could be up to 200 times more fecal bacteria on your kitchen cutting board than on your toilet seat. This is likely because people regularly disinfect their bathroom while kitchen items may be overlooked.

Of course, my recommendation is to avoid illness by building up your immune system with a healthy diet, lifestyle and emotional balancing, but it certainly makes sense to decrease your exposure to potentially harmful bacteria when you can. The following household items are commonly overlooked sources of contaminants that can easily be kept clean with a little elbow grease.

Kitchen Sponges and Rags

  • The moist environment of sponges and rags is an ideal place for bacteria to flourish. Wiping your counters or dishes with a dirty sponge will only transfer the bacteria from one item to another.

  • Replace kitchen sponges and rags often. Ideally, this should be about once a week.

  • Allow them to dry out between uses. Most bacteria can only survive a few hours on dry surfaces.

  • Make sure that you remove all organic material from the sponge or rag before you leave it to dry.

  • Disinfect sponges regularly by putting them in the dishwasher. Rags should be washed in the washing machine and then dried on high heat. You can also sterilize sponges in the microwave. A dry sponge can be sterilized in the microwave in 30 seconds, a wet sponge in one minute. For those of you who have stopped using a microwave to cook your food, this is one way to put it to use.

Cutting Boards

  • The cracks and crevices in your cutting board provide plenty of space for bacteria to grow.

  • Be careful of cross contamination. If you use your cutting board for raw meat or fish, be sure to sanitize it thoroughly before chopping vegetables.

  • To clean the board, first hand-wash it using hot water and dish detergent to remove any food particles. You can then use a mixture of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in one quart of water to sanitize the board, leaving it to air dry.

  • Alternatively, you can put the board in the dishwasher to sanitize it.

  • You may want to keep two cutting boards in the kitchen, one for raw animal products and one for fruits and vegetables.

Kitchen Surfaces

  • Kitchen countertops can still harbor germs even if they look clean. This is especially true if you've "cleaned" them with a dirty sponge or rag.

  • The kitchen faucet and faucet handle is an often-overlooked source of potentially harmful bacteria.

  • Be sure to disinfect all surfaces regularly using hot water and soap or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

Sink Drains

  • The drains in both your kitchen sink and bathtub provide yet another moist environment that bacteria love.

  • Use baking soda and an old toothbrush to get rid of stains, grit and grime around drains.

  • Disinfect drains regularly as you would any other surface.

Doorknobs

  • Bacteria can easily accumulate on doorknobs and other handles such as the particularly problematic refrigerator handle. Anyone can transfer bacteria from their hand to a doorknob, and these bacteria can cause illness, especially if the person is sick, doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom, or has touched raw food. When you touch the doorknob you may also pick up the bacteria, which can then enter your body if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Wash your hands frequently, even if they don't look dirty, but be careful not to overdo it. If you wash your hands too frequently, the fatty acids in your skin will be depleted, which leaves you susceptible to open wounds and sores that actually increase the risk of infection.

  • Antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. It would be wise to identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to. Local health food stores typically carry a variety of natural soaps.

  • Clean doorknobs and the refrigerator handle regularly with a clean cloth soaked in a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

Toothbrushes

  • It's important to replace your toothbrush every three months not only because of bacterial accumulation but also due to bristle wear.

  • Replace your toothbrush after you've had an infectious illness to avoid coming in contact with any lingering bacteria.

I'd like to mention that I don't recommend going through your home on an antibacterial cleaning frenzy. Doing so will disrupt the balance of bacteria in your home, wiping out both good and bad varieties, which could pave the way for harmful bacteria. You are better off using antibacterial/disinfectant cleaners on an item-by-item basis rather than as an all-purpose cleaner. Also be aware of the ingredients in commercial cleaners as many contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Your local health food story likely carries a variety of safe cleaning alternatives.

I also urge you to consider getting rid of your existing towels, sponges, rags and other conventional tools you use to clean your home with. Not only are they some of the top sources for illness-causing germs in your home, but also they do a very poor job of cleaning the biological and toxic aspects of dirt in your home.

In their place, I highly recommend the PerfectClean line of cleaning tools, like the PerfectClean terry cloths and dusters. Due to their ultra-microfiber construction, you can use them with only water (so you eliminate the need for cleaning your home with chemicals) and they clean at a deeper level than any other product you could find out there.

And remember, some bacteria are necessary and actually provide health benefits to humans. A good example of this is the good bacteria in your gut.

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