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The 13 Dirtiest Places In Your House (Warning: You Might Immediately Start Cleaning)

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Everyone knows that their bathroom is a high-risk area for bacterial growth, but there are some areas that may actually be worse which are flying under your cleaning radar.

According to a home bacteria study done by NSF international, surfaces in the kitchen where food is prepared turned up with higher amounts of coliform bacteria such as E.Coli and Salmonella (I.e. bacterium associated with fecal contamination) than any other place in the house, bathroom included.

Gross - we know.

But, before you immediately hop off your computer, sprint to your kitchen, and wipe down every inch of it, read on to learn other grimy areas that may desperately need some extra cleaning attention.

1. Kitchen sponge

According to NSF International, the kitchen sponge got the gold for the #1 most bacteria-filled thing in homes with 75% of those checked testing positive for coliform bacteria.

And, with sponges being constantly damp, porous things that are used repeatedly to clean dirty areas - we can see why.

Switch out your sponges regularly or dampen them and zap them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to help reduce the bacterial load.

2. Toothbrush holder

Toothbrush holders came in as runner up in the NSF International study for microbial counts, and 27% of toothbrush holders tested were also positive for coliform bacteria.

This high rate of coliform bacteria could be due to the common proximity of toothbrush holders to toilets and bathrooms sinks, but honestly, that is grossing us out just to think about - so just wash them regularly and store them away inside of the bathroom cabinet if you can.

3. Pet bowls

It is common practice to just refill your pet’s water or food bowl over and over again for a while without washing it in-between every time.

But, that might just be why pet bowls came in at #3 germiest household item according to NSF International.

And while you won’t ever hear Rover complain about reusing his bowl a few times, take the extra time to wash pet bowls with soap and water daily, and run them through the dishwasher to thoroughly clean at least weekly.

4. Kitchen sink

The kitchen sink is a catch-all for a whole slew of grimy kitchen items (probably including #1 & #3 on this list), so this is a spot that needs daily attention.

NSF International ranked kitchen sinks as the #4 most bacteria-filled household item, and with the usually high amount of interaction with the kitchen sink while you are cooking - you need to take this one seriously.

After doing the dishes for the day, take the time to wipe the sink down with a good antibacterial and antiviral disinfectant.

If you aren’t sure which one to use, take a look over at our article on 3 easy ways to make your own surface disinfectant.

5. Coffee reservoir

As an avid coffee drinker, the coffee reservoir coming in at #5 most bacteria-filled household item hits hard.

But, with the dark, damp, easily overlooked environment which is the coffee water reservoir, it is easy to see why this is a bacterial breeding ground.

Clean and disinfect the detachable coffee water reservoir regularly with soap and water, and follow the instructions that came with your coffee maker on how to properly run a vinegar or baking soda solution through your machine to get all the inner-workings scrubbed out too. If you are one of the many that have a Keurig coffee maker, the company provides resources online on how to clean and descale your machines properly.

6. High touch areas: Switches, handles, and knobs

It’s not surprising to see these high touch areas on the list, but switches, handles, and knobs probably do not get enough cleaning attention as is necessary.

Include a quick wipe down of these high-touch areas with disinfectant in your daily chores to take out a large amount of household bacteria.

7. Kitchen: appliances, cutting boards, and surfaces

Since the kitchen might very well be the dirtiest room in your house, there are quite a few things to mention here aside from the obvious kitchen counter.

The inside of the fridge can be easily overlooked, even though it is likely storing raw, uncooked, or fluid-leaking food items on the regular.

And, the kitchen handle may be the one part of the house that you can be pretty confident every household member touches multiple times a day.

Another dirty bacteria brewing culprit is the cutting board. Choose a cutting board with a smooth surface, that ideally can be thrown into the dishwasher daily to keep its overall bacterial load as low as possible.

8. Bathroom: items, toilets, walls, and surfaces

We’ve already mentioned the filthy toothbrush holder, so now we can talk about the rest of the bathroom.

The shower, tub, and shower curtain can be extremely prone to mold and mildew, and should be cleaned often.

In addition, every flush of the toilet with the lid open can cause something called a “toilet plume”, which coincidentally also takes the cake for the most stomach-turning scientific term ever coined.

This means that items and surfaces in the proximity of this “plume”, such as the surrounding bathroom floors, walls, and counter surfaces, need to be disinfected asap.

Pro Tip: Start closing the toilet lid before flushing the toilet to try and reduce the overall bacterial load of your bathroom, and be a little less grossed out after reading this article.

9. Electronics: phones, computers, and remote controls

Many of us are on our phones non-stop, yet it is unlikely that we disinfect our phones regularly.

The same can also be said of other commonly used electronics such as laptops, keyboards, mice, game controllers, or the tv remote, making these high-risk areas for bacteria, yeast, and mold growth.

Take a disinfecting cleaning wipe to your electronic devices regularly, or pick up a special cleaning solution to use on electronics to ensure that you do not damage them when cleaning.

10. Daily essentials: Keys, wallet, money, and purses

The things that you grab as you are walking out the door daily are not only picking up bacteria from your home and hands while at home, but they will be collecting outside bacteria and microbes as you go about your day.

Start disinfecting your keys, wallet, credit cards, and other essential daily items regularly.

If you use a purse, start being cognizant about where that is being set down, since it is common for those purses which have been on many floors or questionable surfaces throughout the day to later end up on your tables and countertops as soon as you arrive home.

11. Pets and their toys

We all love our fur-babies, and to us, they seem clean enough to kiss, cuddle, and sleep next to - no problem.

But, studies show that pets can actually carry-in and cover their toys in a decent amount of bacteria and microbes.

Animal toys can harbor bacteria, yeast, and mold, and little paws can carry in dirt and bacteria from outside when they come back in. Wipe your pet’s paws after they go outside, clean hard toys with a non-toxic disinfectant, and run soft plush toys through the washing machine regularly to make sure your fuzzy friends aren’t contributing as much to the microbial load of your home.

12. Wet laundry

That funky smell that develops when you accidentally leave the clothes in the washer too long before drying isn’t your imagination -  it’s microbes.

Laundry left in the damp, dark, washing machine environment easily ramps up the bacterial, mold, and mildew growth in fabrics, so if you forget to switch your laundry to the dryer quick enough just run them again to play it safe.

13. Cosmetics and make-up brushes

Your face has bacteria and microbes all over it (some good, some bad), so when you apply your make-up you are mixing some of that bacteria into your cosmetics and brushes.

If you don’t stay on top of this bacteria in your cosmetics, you may be doing your complexion a disservice by increasing your risk of acne, rashes, and irritation.

Abide by the discard dates recommended on your make-up containers (time to toss that eyeshadow you bought for your high school prom), and wash your make-up brushes regularly to keep bacteria at bay.


Not all bacteria and microbes are bad - some can be helpful, beneficial, and necessary. But keeping high amounts of the bad microbes down with thoughtful and regular cleaning is a must.

It may not be possible or necessary to clean all of these areas on a daily basis, but do your best to at least give these sites some disinfecting attention as often as you can, or when they are looking dingy.

Use these tips to up your cleaning game for a clean, nice smelling home that you feel safe and comfortable in, or help prevent the spread of germs, bacteria, and viruses if someone at home isn’t feeling well.

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