Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Germs
Knowing where germs thrive and multiply can be a first step in keeping them at bay. Here, we've compiled a list of some of the places germs hide in most homes.
Around the Bathroom
The most germ-infested spot you (and your kids) touch every day is not at the playground or in your bathroom, but on the average kitchen table. “The kitchen is generally dirtier than the toilet,” explains Dr. Tierno. Strange as this seems, it makes sense when you realize that kitchens are full of surfaces that come in contact with pathogens (such as Salmonella or E. coli) found in raw meat, fish, poultry, even vegetables. This means every surface—from food prep areas like countertops, cutting boards and can openers, to serving areas like tabletops and placemats— should be cleaned frequently with soap and water or other household cleansers. Just be sure to look for cleanser packages that use words like “germicide,” “antibacterial” or “disinfectant.”
The same cleaning logic should be used with any household surface that that touches food. Case in point: highchairs. Especially if your child eats directly from the tray, special care should be taken to clean with soap and water, disinfectants or bleach-based cleansers (with bleach, you’ll want to let the tray dry and rinse again).
Rags and sponges also need frequent cleaning with a solution of soap or bleach and water When they’re wet, you can even microwave them on high for a couple of minutes to kill germs.
The toilet’s role in waste disposal makes it a potential harbinger of all kinds of germs found in fecal matter. Ironically, the constant flushing that cleans the bowl after each use has the potential to spread germs if the toilet lid is not closed during flushing. According to Dr. Tierno, “Flushing the toilet with the lid up can send drops of aerosolized [fecal] matter onto toothbrushes, combs and brushes, as well as faucets, sinks and counters.” You can keep germs at bay by sanitizing toilet lids, bowls and seats weekly with a germicidal cleanser (bathroom surface cleaners or a bleach and water solution work well).
In just one hour, our bodies shed about 1.5 million skin flakes. At that rate, it doesn’t take long for a loofah, sponge or even a bar of soap to become coated with normal skin germs like staphylococcus aureus, which can cause infection if it enters certain parts of the body. One way to counter such hazards, says Dr. Tierno, is to switch to liquid soap. A general rule—germs love moisture. So sponges, loofahs, toothbrushes and even razors that are cleaned and rinsed should be allowed to dry completely between uses to inhibit germ growth.
Finally, that bath towel right out of the wash may be serving up more than an april-fresh scent. Recent studies have shown that cold or warm water washing machine cycles used today are not enough to kill a variety of viral and bacterial germs—even the high heat of a dryer cycle may not kill germs on garments. Dr Tierno’s tips for getting laundry truly “clean?” Wash underwear separately in hot water, use detergents with germicides, and periodically run a wash cycle with no clothes and a bleach and water solution.
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