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Have You Vacuumed Your Mattress Lately? How Often to Clean Common Household Items

Household Cleaning

Story at-a-glance -

  • Your coffee pot should be washed daily with soap and water, and run through regularly with vinegar to remove mold and mineral build-up
  • Your mattress should be vacuumed once every four months to remove crumbs, dirt, and dust
  • You should clean out the inside of your dishwasher using vinegar and baking soda once every six months

By Dr. Mercola

On an average day, 49 percent of US women and 20 percent of US men devote some time to housework, be it doing dishes, vacuuming or mopping floors, dusting, or simply tidying up.1

You probably wipe down your kitchen counters, clean your toilets, and sweep your floors on a regular basis… but there are many household items that are often overlooked.

Some of those may need cleaning most of all, yet tend to be neglected. Today shared several of these household items that need to be cleaned more often than you might think.2

5 Household Items You Probably Haven't Cleaned Recently… But Should

1. Your Coffee Pot

Oily buildup in your coffee pot can make your cup of joe taste bitter. Wash the carafe daily with soap and water. If it's stained, add ½ cup of water and ½ cup of vinegar, let it soak for 20 minutes, then wash it out.

As for the reservoir on your coffee machine, research shows about half of coffee makers have yeast and mold growing in them, while one in 10 hosted coliform bacteria.3
A simple way to disinfect it while also removing mineral buildup? Fill the water chamber with half vinegar/half water, then "brew" a pot halfway.

Turn the pot off and let it sit for 30 minutes before finishing the brew. Run a clear water mixture through next (do this step twice) and you'll have a clean coffee pot ready to brew delicious coffee.

2. Dishwasher

You probably wipe down the outside of your dishwasher, but when's the last time you've cleaned the inside? About once very six months, take out the bottom drawer and remove any debris that's collected.

Food, grease, and soap scum often collect in the bottom near the drain, which can make your dishwasher less efficient and contribute to odors.

After you've removed any debris, place a cup of vinegar in the dishwasher on the top rack, then run it through a hot water cycle. When that's done, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom, let it sit overnight, and then run it through a hot cycle again. A clean, odor-free dishwasher will result.

3. Refrigerator Coils

Dirt and dust can easily clog your refrigerator's coils, which makes your refrigerator work a lot harder than it should. It's estimated that spending 15 minutes to clean the coils once every six months could eliminate 70 percent of refrigerator malfunctions while extending your refrigerator's lifespan and efficiency.4

To clean the coils, first unplug your fridge. Next, use a vacuum with a small brush attachment to remove any dust and debris.

4. Mattress

You vacuum your floors and maybe even your upholstered furniture, but when's the last time you've vacuumed your mattress? Once every four months (or once a season), use your vacuum to remove crumbs, dead skin, and dust from your mattress.

You can also sprinkle it with baking soda, let it sit for an hour, then vacuum it up for extra deodorizing.

5. Windows

Once every six months, clean the inside and outside of your windows using warm soapy water. Your window blinds, however, should be cleaned once a week. A simple way to do this is to dip a sock in mixture of one part vinegar to one part water, then run it over your blinds.

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How Often Should You Clean These Other Household Items?

Other commonly used household items also deserve regular cleaning. For instance, as reported by Today:5

Kitchen Sink

Your kitchen sink consistently rates as one of the dirtiest places in your home – even worse than a toilet seat. It's the combination of moisture plus leftover food particles that make your sick basin an ideal place for illness-causing microbes to thrive. Disinfection is easy. Use an even mixture of rubbing alcohol and water to simply spritz down the sink and drain.

Trash Can

The inside of your trash can should be cleaned out at least once a month. Sprinkle the bottom of the bin with baking soda, let it sit for 10 minutes, then use a natural disinfectant spray to wipe down the rest of the can.

Rinse and let it dry before using it again. Be sure to also wipe down the inside of the can's lid – ideally do this every time you take out the trash.6

Bedroom Pillows

Dust mites, dead skin, sweat, and drool accumulate on your pillows while you sleep. About once every six months, toss your pillows in the wash and run them through a heavy cycle.

You can usually dry them on low in the dryer (be sure they're thoroughly dried when you remove them to avoid mold growth). Note that while natural pillows will be easily washable, many synthetic foam pillows are not.

Light Switches and Doorknobs

These get touched regularly and can be among the dirtiest places in your home. Use a cloth dipped in white vinegar to wipe them down on a regular basis. Vinegar is a wonderful natural disinfectant!

Your Computer Keyboard

A can of compressed air can be used to remove crumbs, hair, and other debris. Then use rubbing alcohol to wipe down the keys, removing dirt and built-up grime.

Your Remote Controls and Cell Phone

Items such as these are handled frequently but cleaned infrequently. Antiseptic alcohol wipes work well to wipe down and sanitize both remote controls and cell phones (and you might want to pack a few in your suitcase to wipe down hotel room remote controls when you're travelling).

For even more information about how often to clean common household items, check out the infographic, from WonderHowTo, below:7

Household Infographic Preview

Do You Know How to Clean and Organize Your Fridge?

In one survey conducted by Whirlpool Corp., for instance, 33 percent said they spend no time cleaning their refrigerator prior to a trip to the grocery store, while 27 percent said their strategy to fit in the newly purchased groceries is simply to "shove everything in and not worry about organization."8 This certainly isn't ideal

The best time to clean your fridge is when it's low on food, such as right before a trip to the grocery store or farmer's market. Dispose of food that's spoiled (use common sense on this one, but don't base the decision on a food's expiration date alone). Next, tackle one shelf or drawer at a time, removing all items, cleansing the surface using a soft cloth, natural soap, and hot water, and then drying it thoroughly.

While you might be tempted to use a strong disinfectant to kill germs in your fridge, such cleansers often contain toxic chemicals – and many of them can damage the surface of your shelves. Check the owner's manual to be sure the cleaning agent you use is safe for your particular model (but most should do fine with natural soap and water).

For extra cleaning power, try making this homemade antibacterial solution: mix two cups of water with three tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto the surface, then wipe off. After you've done your weekly cleaning, be sure to also "spot" clean as necessary, especially if you notice any spills or drips.

As you replace your food items, take care to organize them properly. The infographic below, from Nutrition Action,9 gives a quick explanation of how to best organize your fridge for food safety. What you'll notice is that raw meat, fish, poultry, and even leftovers – the foods that necessitate cold, stable temperatures – should be kept on the bottom shelf. This also ensures that any drippings will not contaminate other foods on their way down.

The crisper drawers, meanwhile, are intended for fruits and vegetables – but not all fruits and vegetables. Those meant for the crisper include leafy greens, melons, celery, broccoli, and apples, while others can be safely stored on the top shelf. (Apples should actually be stored away from other uncovered produce, as the ethylene gases they produce can cause other foods to spoil faster.)

As for the middle shelf, that works best for cheeses and cooked meats, while the door should be used to store condiments, including butter. You'll also want to make sure your fridge is kept cold enough – below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees Celsius. This will ensure food safety. Also leave enough space in your fridge for cold air to circulate. If your refrigerator is too tightly packed, your food will spoil faster.

Food Storage Guide Infographic

Natural Cleaners Provide a Clean Home Without Toxins

Most cleaning products on the market are toxic chemical cocktails, and when you spritz your bathtub or kitchen counter with that brightly colored liquid you're exposing yourself and your family to endocrine-disrupting phthalates, carcinogenic benzene, and organ-damaging phenols, just to name a few. Yet, having a clean home should not mean sacrificing your health due to chemical exposures, plain and simple. Fortunately, some of the best cleaners are items you probably already have around your home, such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Here's a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:

Baking soda White vinegar Lemon juice
Hydrogen peroxide Liquid castile soap Organic essential oils (optional)
Mixing bowls Spray bottles Microfiber cloths

For great tips on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please watch the video above. For example, lemon juice is a natural whitener, vinegar and water make an excellent window cleaner, and vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer.

Baking soda is also great to scrub your bath and kitchen. Put it in a glass grated cheese container with a stainless steel top that has holes in it, and just sprinkle the baking soda on the surfaces and scrub. You may add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this, such as lavender and tea tree oil, which have added antibacterial qualities. Here are several more simple tips to get you started:

  • Use baking soda as a safe, non-scratch scrub for metals and porcelain.
  • To clean your oven, sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
  • To unclog a drain, pour ½ to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour ½ to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it's working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
  • Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
  • To rid your garbage disposal of foul smells, add vinegar to water for ice cubes, then let a few of them get chopped by your disposal.
  • To clean your silver, boil 2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away the tarnish with a clean cotton cloth.