With how quickly the days fly by for most of us, maintaining a perfectly tidy home isn’t always a possibility. But clean, that’s a valiant goal to pursue, right? Have you ever finished cleaning up your place, only to later think of all the overlooked spots that require attention? Or how certain places have never been cleaned? Is it really that crazy to clean your washing machine? Or clean your cleaning supplies? You might be surprised to learn the level of bacteria and pathogens that live on household surfaces and commonly used items. Here are six commonly overlooked items and how to clean them up and keep you and your loved ones healthy.
Mops: Anywhere there is moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. Mops, doing the dirty job they do, are the perfect environment for slopping around pathogens and sludge that you most definitely didn’t mean to spread. The easiest way to combat this just a few easy steps:
- Thoroughly rinse the mop after use.
- Soak the mop in a 50/50 mixture of water and bleach for 15 minutes. After that, thoroughly rinse the mop and allow it to completely dry, storing it in a cool, dry environment.
- Wash the mop head regularly. Depending on what type of mop you use, it’s possible to toss the whole thing in the washer to eliminate the dirt and bacteria.
- Replace the mop head even though it may not look so dirty. Replacing the mop head every 2-3 months is best, regardless of how often you clean it. After all, your floor won’t be clean if the mop isn’t clean.
Refrigerator: The occasional wipe- down inside the refrigerator is one way to maintain a sanitary storage space in the fridge. But, a few other helpful tips will also help prevent any food borne illness or spread of bacteria that happens just by way of what is stored inside.
- Place meat on the lowest shelf: Although it is commonly known that raw meat should be handled with care, a sometimes overlooked storage detail is where it is placed in the refrigerator. If meat is placed on the top shelf, there is potential for juices, defrosting runoff, etc. to pour over onto lower shelves, contaminating anything in its path. Instead, place any meat on the lowest shelf, in a container that has edges so that if something leaks, it is contained. And, the lower shelves tend to be colder anyway, helping preserve the meat better.
- Separate your fruits and veggies: Fruit emits ethylene, a gas that hastens spoilage in vegetables. If vegetables spoil and it goes unnoticed, the moisture that is created from the rot can then increase how quickly everything else spoils. Consider creating sections within the crisper, or on shelves, that keeps everything separate and makes a rotten situation easy to clean up.
- Give it a thorough cleaning once a year: Pull out all shelves and drawers, and using warm soapy water or a mixture of vinegar and water, clean all surfaces to give the ice box a fresh start.
- Consider using smaller bins to hold items. That way if items spoil, it’s easier to clean the container than have to clean up any potential runoff (and accompanying bacteria) from a larger space. If you go this route, clean the containers routinely to help keep everything fresh.
- Make sure it’s the right temp, and help keep it that way: Even though your refrigerator might tell you the inside temp, it isn’t a bad idea to make sure with a thermometer. The temp should be between 32-40 degrees. And, avoid over stuffing the refrigerator. For it to work efficiently, there needs to be circulation. An overfilled refrigerator hinders that, increasing the opportunity for warmer spots that may not be cold enough for what’s in the area.
Dish Sponges: There’s a reason that the Food and Drug Administration prohibits restaurants using sponges as the last cleaning method for surfaces. They are full of bacteria, and it is not uncommon to find pathogens like E. coli, mold, and Staph lurking in all the nooks and crannies. In a survey of U.S. homes, 77% of the sponges and dish cloths contained coliform bacteria, 86% had yeast and mold, and 18% had Staph bacteria. Simply rinsing and placing them on the counter isn’t enough; putting sponges in the microwave (but make sure they don’t contain a metal layer and aren’t wet to avoid a fire hazard) for one minute, or putting them in the dishwasher helps kill most of the bacteria. Better yet, opt for dish cloths that can be washed and reused, helping keep everybody healthy and saving the environment from adding to the pile of sponges that cannot be recycled.
Air filters: Many people suffer from allergies, asthma, or a general sensitivity to what’s in the air. Regularly replacing or cleaning air filters is one easy and quick way to help maintain the air quality in your home. Replacing or cleaning the filters eliminates the dirt, pollen, hair, and other allergens, that are meant to get caught in the filter, from recirculating into your home and being breathed in by you and your family. Keeping filters gunk-free also helps the AC or Evaporation Cooler work more efficiently, keeping you more comfortable while indoors. Read here about the difference between air filters, as well as how these plants can help clean the air in your home (and help you de-stress!)
Makeup bags: Makeup applicators and brushes welcome bacteria as they collect facial oils, dust, etc. If they’re stored in a bag, that only creates an environment for bacteria to increase faster. Imagine swiping that makeup brush across your face and introducing the bacteria directly to the sensitive eye area and your skin- yikes!
The best bet? Wash brushes and applicators once a week with hot, soapy water (or with cleansers specially made for the delicate fibers often used in brushes). Store the brushes and sponges in a clean, dry space with plenty of circulation. It is also recommended by dermatologist to toss out all eye makeup if you experience an eye infection to avoid a recurrence. Some also suggest you only keep makeup around for 6 months, at most.
Washing machine: It would be great if all the washing that occurred in the washing machine was sufficient for keeping this tool clean. But, as luck would have it, it’s not. To avoid bacteria, mold, and other contaminants from being spread and making your clothing, sheets, and towels come out smelling not so fresh, use these steps twice a year to maintain a fresh machine:
- Check the tray: Detergent and softener build up can be a growing place for bacteria and other pathogens. Using too much can also cause gunk to develop. Remove the tray, wash it in warm, soapy water.
- Sterilize the drum: Many newer machines have a tub-clean cycle that takes care of this for you. It is essentially a long, extra-hot cycle that sterilizes the tub. You can also purchase washing machine cleaning tablets that boost the clean factor. If your machine is older and doesn’t have the convenient cycle, you can also use a cloth soaked in a solution of white vinegar to scrub the inside.
- Wipe down the gasket: The gasket is the rubber seal between the door and the drum. Bacteria and mold can easily develop within the folds, even after just one use of the machine. Experts recommend you wipe down the gasket at least once a week. And, if you have a front-loading machine, keep the door open to prevent moisture from building up and creating a larger mildew and mold problem.
Over the past two years, we have all grown accused to a new level of cleaning vigilance. Cleaning high-traffic areas like door knobs, steering wheels, and counter-tops, as well as maintaining hand hygiene are all effective methods of preventing germs and pathogens from circulating around you and your loved ones. Adding these few simple additions to your cleaning regimen is an additional layer to help keep everybody healthy.