A comprehensive list of the places most likely to harbor germs in your home and how to clean them. [Spoiler:] It's not your toilet.
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There are places in even the cleanest homes that harbor germs. It’s easy to overlook
these hidden-away spots that are primed to grow mold and where grime can easily build up.
The good news is it doesn’t take long to clean most of them. If you make it part of your cleaning routine regularly, you don’t have to worry about germs affecting the health of your family. But knowing about them is the first step.
Here are the top 14 dirtiest areas in our homes:
1. Washer gasket and detergent compartments.
Most washer gaskets, especially on front-loading machines, fold over on themselves to help seal your door. That fold makes it a place where moisture and dirt get trapped and mildew and mold can grow. Wipe down the gasket with a dry cloth between washes, and clean it regularly with a household cleaner. If the gasket is worn or has mold that you can’t get rid of, you can call the manufacturer of your machine and request a new gasket.
Don’t neglect the detergent compartments as well. With constant moisture passing through them, they also can see a buildup of mildew. Mildew can get on your clothing and cause illness. Soap and washing detergent also build up and leave behind residue.
For a front loading machine, simply remove the compartment and soak it in warm water. You can use a soft brush or cloth to wipe it off with white vinegar. Rinse the tray and return it to the washer. You will have to clean the compartments of most top-loading machines in place. But a cloth with vinegar works just as well. After cleaning, run an empty cycle. Take preventative measures by running a sanitizing cycle monthly and placing an Affresh tablet inside the drum of the washing machine.
On an ongoing basis, keep the tray and the door slightly open to help them dry out between washes.
2. Dryer lint tray and vented compartment.
Not only can a dryer lint tray and vented compartment harbor germs, it can also be a fire hazard if not cleaned regularly. Dryer lint is flammable, and over time it easily gets caught in the vents, clogging them and affecting the function of your dryer.
Remove the lint tray and wipe away all the lint as you would typically after each load. Wipe down the edges or vacuum up extra dirt and lint.
To make sure the interior vent of the machine is free of lint, call dryer manufacturer to schedule maintenance. Many appliances include this in the warranty.
Whether you have wall-to-wall carpet in your home or area rugs, dirt and germs easily end up caught in carpet fibers as traffic passes over it. This is especially true if you have pets, which shed, track in dirt and leave behind dander.
For wall to wall carpet, work slowly and thoroughly with a powerful vacuum that contains a Hepa filter. We recommend the Miele Compact C2 vacuum. Periodically sprinkle baking soda on your carpet and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes. Vacuum the baking soda up.
To clean an area rug, vacuum both the top and the underside of the rug several times.
As an alternative to DIY, call or DM G’s Cleaning, which offers expert service without the work.
Our furniture is something we use daily, but seldom think to clean. Couches and chairs can collect dust, crumbs, skin cells and germs in their crevices and cushions. Over time, stains can ruin the investment made in our furniture.
To clean sofas and chairs, remove cushions and vacuum with a soft brush. If there are slip covers for the sofa and/or pillows, read the labels or tags carefully. Remove the inside casing and either dry clean or machine wash.
An alternative to DIY is to contact the expert carpet and upholstery cleaner, G's Cleaning. DM or email for an appointment.
You can spot clean your fabric furniture with a fabric cleaner or a home made mixture. Make sure to test all cleaners on an inconspicuous area of your furniture first.
Some curtains are washable on the gentle cycle in your washer. Others require more specialized care. We recommend Rosa’s Laundry Service for a deep clean that will result in curtains you don’t recognize. G’s Cleaning is also a great resource for all upholstery cleaning.
5. Garbage disposal
It should be no surprise that a garbage disposal is a magnet for germs. But it is out of sight, out of mind until the odor begins building. We should take some time to clean it regularly for the health of the disposal (and our own!).
To clean a garbage disposal, drop cut up lemons into your disposal and run it for one minute. Repeat this weekly. You may also use white vinegar as an alternative.
6. Air vents
Your heating and air conditioning system circulates the air you breathe. Yet it can be a magnet for dust, pollen, allergens, spider webs and other unsavory things. Keeping it clean can not only save your heating and air conditioning system, but also your health.
First, turn off the power to the system. Then remove the vents with a screwdriver. Using a long nose attachment, vacuum as much dust and grime from around the vent opening and on the cover itself. You can follow up with a wet rag and household cleaner as well. Some systems may benefit from professional cleaning.
7. House gutters
All year, your gutters fill with leaves, pine needles, debris, water and in some places snow and ice. Then the wet needles and leaves rot. This leads to mold growth, sagging gutters and can even affect the structural integrity of your roof and the walls of your home. To say your gutters take a beating is an understatement.
In order for your gutters to work well, it's important to clean them regularly, usually in the spring and fall. Depending on the tools you have available, the height of your roof and your own abilities, this also may be a job for a professional.
But if you have a ladder and don’t mind heights, you can get the job done in a couple hours. Make sure your ladder is in a secure spot with all four legs planted. Using a scoop or trowel, move along the gutters, pushing leaves and other debris into a 5-gallon bucket.
Fit your hose with a sprayer and start opposite the downspout. Spray along the gutter to clear remaining debris and mildew. Seal any cracks or worn joints.
8. Refrigerator vents
While we may often take the time to clean the inside of our refrigerator, the vents down below are easy to forget. Since they are at floor level, it’s easy for dust and dirt to build up around and inside of them.
First, vacuum the vent with a brush attachment. Remove the vent by pulling gently on both sides. Clean around the edges of the opening with a cleaner and cloth. Wash the vent with warm water and dish soap. Rinse and dry it well before replacing it. It's a quick chore that will help take strain off our refrigerator and make it more efficient.
9. Window frames
Considering that windows are openings to the outdoors, it is no surprise they tend to build up with dust, mold, dead bugs and dirt. Giving them a good cleaning can freshen up your home.
Start by vacuuming all the surfaces with a brush attachment. For vinyl or painted windows, you can use a household cleaner, or one part vinegar, one part water to clean the frames. Use an old toothbrush to get dirt out of the corners or crevices. For wooden frames, try Murphy’s Oil Soap, which safely cleans wood.
Make sure you open the windows and wipe around the runners and seals as well. Finish by wiping the frames dry.
If you prefer not to DIY, we recommend Jaws Glass Cleaner for sparkling windows.
10. Shower drains
Shower drains tend to collect soap scum, mold and hair, which can clog your drain and make the drain a trap for an unpleasant concoction. Prevention is the best route for shower drains. Keeping them clear and clean is much easier than calling a plumber after they are plugged.
For general maintenance, try using a strainer or a catch to stop hair from clogging the drain. There are a variety of stoppers and devices on the market that assist with this. Regularly flush your drain with a mix of baking soda and vinegar to remove odors and prevent blockages. Follow the mixture with boiling water. You can also purchase enzyme powders for cleaning your drain.
11. Air purifiers
Air purifiers are made to clean your air of allergens, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold and odors. But once removed from the air, those things must end up somewhere. Your air purifier can be full of bacteria and mold if not cleaned regularly. That can affect its ability to purify the air well. Follow the instructions that came with your device on how often to replace the filters and how to clean it.
We rely on our vacuums to do a lot of cleaning in our homes (see above list). It stands to reason that with all the dust and dirt that goes through them, they would need cleaning themselves.
Check the manual on your vacuum for instructions on how to clean it. Make sure you regularly change the filter, which is responsible for keeping dust in the vacuum instead of spewing back into the air. Keep roller bars free of hair and anything else that can get wrapped around it. Regularly wipe surfaces down with a damp cloth.
13. Shower curtains or the acrylic sweep on the bottom of a shower door
Shower curtains or the acrylic sweep on the bottom of the shower door is a common spot for build up of mold and bacteria due to the moisture that is often present. Soap scum can also collect in these areas over time.
We recommend replacing your shower curtain liner every couple months. Most shower curtains can be washed in your washing machine.
For the acrylic sweep, any scrub brush and household cleaner should be effective in bringing it back to new.
14. Light switches, light plates, remotes and phones
These devices are items we are constantly touching. They are often covered in germs, particularly if someone if your house is ill. Make sure to regularly wipe them down with a household cleaner.
Keep an eye on the above areas, making sure to periodically clean them. This will help keep mold and bacteria at bay in your home. Need some cleaning products to tackle the jobs? Check out our recommended list in our shop. We even have some eco-friendly options for those who prefer them.