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How would you respond if you got a call from the National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF), asking if you’d volunteer your home for germ inspection?

I think I’d be rather hesitant. With a name like that, I’m guessing they could find germs just about anywhere.

Thankfully, 22 families did volunteer for this inspection. I say “thankfully” because the results of these observations by germ experts revealed the 17 “germiest” places in a home.

So now we know where to focus our cleaning efforts. Most of them are not too surprising. A few I might not have thought of. Anyway, here they are. For dramatic effect, I’ll count them down from the 17th germiest to the absolute worst.

Remotes & fridge handles

Checking in at number 17 are your TV remotes. Fifty-five percent of controllers the NSF examined contained yeast and mold, while staph was found on 14 percent of them. Five percent had bacteria such as E. coli on them. 

Before you start spraying disinfectant on your remotes, don’t. That could negatively affect their functioning. Instead, use an antibacterial wipe. Or spray an antibacterial cleaner on a cotton pad to rub on the remotes. Same thing with your cellphone.

Number 16 is your refrigerator handle. Considering how many times it’s grabbed per day – perhaps by a variety of people – this is not startling. Observers found 23 percent of these handles had yeast and mold on them.

To clean, spray an antibacterial surface cleaner on the handle and wipe with a dry cloth.

Toilet & microwave handles

Here’s one you knew would be on the list. Number 15 are your toilet handles. People touch these frequently over the course of a day, after using the toilet. Fourteen percent had yeast and mold, and 9 percent tested positive for staph.

Rubbing these handles down with a disinfectant wipe should do the trick. Then just let them air dry.

Number 14 on the list is your microwave oven handle and the settings buttons. Five percent tested positive for yeast and mold, staph, and E. coli.

Fortunately, this is another area in your house that is easily cleaned. An antibacterial cleanser such as Clorox or Lysol will be sufficient.

Bathroom switches & doorknobs

Your bathroom light switches check in at number 13. Actually, all light switches are germ carriers. But not everyone washes their hands after using the bathroom, so, yeah, it’s a problem area. Twenty-three percent have yeast, mold or both.

Apply an antibacterial cleaner to a cloth or cotton swab and wipe the switches down. Be careful about using a spray because you don’t want fluid reaching wiring. 

Another bathroom item comes in at number 12. It’s your bathroom doorknobs. Ideally, hands are cleaned before grabbing the inside handle, but probably not always. Fourteen percent have yeast or mold on them.

An antibacterial spray is fine to use on these knobs. Regardless of what the knobs are made out of.

Toilet seats & cutting boards

Remaining in the bathroom a bit longer, you won’t be shocked to learn the toilet seat is number 11. Twenty-seven percent of them contain yeast or mold.

You want to spray toilet seats – both interior and exterior – with a disinfectant spray. Then wait 10 minutes before using a cloth to wipe away remaining condensation. 

Moving over to the kitchen, the number 10 item are your cutting boards. This is a serious issue because 18 percent of them contain E. coli. Fourteen percent have yeast and mold.

Plastic or glass cutting boards can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Wooden boards should be sanitized with white vinegar or a 3 percent hydrogen CFU peroxide.

Stove knobs & kitchen counters 

We’ll stay in the kitchen for these next two. Number 9 are stove knobs. It figures. They’re touched frequently, especially by people who’ve been handling raw meat. Twenty-seven percent have yeast and mold, and 14 percent have E. coli. 

Spray an antibacterial cleaner and let it sit for a while. Also, clean the undersides of these knobs because food can get trapped inside them.

Kitchen counters were number 8 overall. But when it came to coliform bacteria, they jumped to number 3, with 32 percent having traces of E. coli. 

For the stuff you can see, use dish soap and hot water to clean a counter. But the invisible bacteria need a stronger opponent. So, use what makes most sense for what your counter is made out of.

Pet toys & bathroom faucet handles

I was stunned by number 7. It’s pet toys. But after thinking about it, it makes sense. How often do we wash our pets’ toys? Listen to this – 57 percent of pet toys contain yeast and mold. Staph was found on 24 percent and E. coli on 14 percent. 

If we love our pets, we’ll wash their toys more often. Clean them separately in the washing machine or dishwasher. Don’t spray them with a disinfectant, which could make your pets sick.

Bouncing back to the bathroom, number 6 is your bathroom faucet handles. That makes sense too. They are handled after we’ve used the bathroom and before our hands are clean again. Twenty-seven percent have yeast and mold. 

Spray an antibacterial bathroom cleanser on these faucet handles and allow them to dry thoroughly.

Coffee pot reservoir & pet bowls 

Another item we often forget to clean is the coffee pot reservoir. Do we think it’s self-cleaning? It’s not. And that’s why it checks in at number 5 with 50 percent of them containing yeast and mold. Nine percent have E. coli bacteria. 

At least once a month, rinse vinegar through your coffee maker, followed by a hot water wash. For dishwasher-safe parts, run them through a high-heat wash cycle.

Returning to your pets, number 4 is their food and water bowls. Again, that’s mainly because we forget to clean them regularly. Forty-five percent contain yeast and mold, 18 percent E. coli and 14 percent staph.

You can easily clean the visible grime with a paper towel and water. But to get them really clean, run them through the dishwasher frequently.

Toothbrush holders & kitchen sink

Number 3 are your toothbrush holders. No surprise there either. After being in a germ-filled mouth, toothbrush bristles gradually drip water down into the holder. Yeast and mold were found in 64 percent of toothbrush holders. E. coli is present in 27 percent of them.

Clean your toothbrush holders often by hand and wash them weekly in the top rack of your dishwasher to really cleanse them well.

We run a lot of water in our kitchen sinks over the course of the day. But that doesn’t clean them. That’s why they clock in at number 2. E. coli was found in 45 percent of kitchen sinks.

Either wipe your sink regularly with a bleach solution or spray an antibacterial cleaner on it. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for how long a cleaner should remain on a particular sink surface before being wiped up.

Drum roll, please 

And now for the germiest item in your home. Are you ready? Number 1 is a dish sponge. Yeast and mold were found on 86 percent of them. Coliform bacteria was discovered on 75 percent of them.

Why? Because many of us keep using the same sponge far too long. Even after it looks gross. It’s ironic that something we’re using for the purpose of cleaning is the dirtiest item in the home. 

There are two ways you can deal with this. One is to clean your dish sponges regularly with bleach and hot water. The other is to throw them away sooner. That shouldn’t be a big deal. They’re not made out of gold.

If you’ve read all the way through this, you’re probably thinking it’s time to start cleaning. I apologize for giving you a chore to do. But it’s better than making ourselves sick, right?

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