The minds at Popular Science have found that the lifespan of germs can vary greatly – it just depends on the type of bacteria and the type of service.
- E.coli can live up to 24 hours.
- The calicivirus, the mastermind behind the stomach flu, can live for weeks.
- The culprit behind bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections, Staphylococcus aureus, can survive almost a month on anything you haven’t washed yet.
- The anthrax bacteria can form spores and survive for hundreds of years.
All of this is pretty alarming (right?!). The good news is there are easy, simple ways to keep bacteria from living the high-life at your expense.
Here are the most common culprits and how often to clean them.
Even though most of us are pretty clean when we slide between the sheets, the dead skin cells that naturally leave our bodies as we sleep are food for a host of bacteria, fungi, and mites. These can all cause skin irritation and even lead to other health risks.
How: Machine-wash all bedding in hot water that comes in contact with the skin. (Comforters, duvets, and additional blankets that are clean can be tossed in a hot dryer once a month to kill any stragglers).
How often: Every 10 to 14 days.
Save a step: Taking showers before you go to bed can keep your sheets cleaner, longer.
No matter if they are in the kitchen, bath, or at the gym, towels are a magnet for microbes. Kitchen towels are exposed to raw meat, dirty hands, and food. Bathroom towels create the perfect, humid environment bacteria and fungus love. Gym towels … are gym towels.
How: All towels should be machine-washed in hot water. You can use vinegar or bleach on colorfast products.
How often: Kitchen towels that have traces of raw meat or other high-risk items should be washed immediately. Bath towels can be used two to three times before laundering; add your hand towels to the load at the same time. Gym towels should be burned. Just kidding. Toss those in with hot water too.
Save a step: Color code your kitchen towels to save you from washing every towel all of the time. Use one color for hands, one for clean dishes, and a dark-colored one for everything else.
Think your feet can’t track in germs? Not only can they bring them in from your daily travels, but they can also spread them around your house, into your beds, and, if you have crawlers, climbers, and cuddly creatures, there’s no telling where else. The more feet you have in your house, the more often you should consider cleaning them.
How: Carpets and rugs should be vacuumed slowly and steadily to capture everything. Hard surface floors should be swept and scrubbed as needed. Don’t forget crevices and corners!
How Often: The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends vacuuming all rooms at least once per week, hitting high traffic areas once a day to keep dust, allergens, and pet hair at bay. Hardwood, tile, and vinyl floors need a good wash every one to two weeks depending on the foot traffic and use; kitchens and baths may need more attention (and more disinfectant).
Save a Step: Check dirt, grime, and germs at the door by making everyone take their shoes off when they enter your house.
The constant moisture and food particles make your kitchen sink ground zero for pathogens, microbes, and bacteria – oh my!
How: A one-to-one mixture of rubbing alcohol and water sprayed into the sink daily will disinfect it, giving you a nice shine and peace of mind. And don’t wait for your sponge to remind you it needs a bath: Extend its lifespan by dropping it into boiling water for two minutes (or throw it in the microwave on high for three).
How often: Sinks, after each use. Sponges, as needed (at least every 5 to 7 days)
Save a step: Other than eating out all the time, this kitchen hygiene practice can’t be avoided. Get in the habit and stay healthy!
Door Knobs, Railing, and Light Switches
Since these items get touched almost anytime someone enters or leaves a room, they can easily become germ factories.
How: Wipe all surfaces with a soft cloth dampened with water and a mild soap. This is a perfect job for kids–just give them each a prepped cloth, assign them a task, and let them go!
How often: At least once a week or anytime your child says he’s bored.
Save a step: Clean hands make for light work. The more often you wash, the less dirt you’ll spread.
While not exactly a germ magnet, your refrigerator’s health depends on keeping its coils clean. Everyone forgets to do this five-minute task until they have to call for repairs–and then it’s just embarrassing (and expensive).
How: Pull out your fridge and vacuum your coils with a brush attachment. (Can’t find them? Some coils are under your appliance.)
How Often: Every three to four months
Save a Step: Add this task to your calendar, along with changing your air filter on your HVAC unit, checking batteries in your smoke detector and washing the filter on your stove vent.
Is it time for you to clean like your health depended on it? The answer is probably yes. And if you don’t have time, don’t worry. We know a great team who can help.