The 7 Dirtiest Places in Your Home—and How to Disinfect Them

The 7 Dirtiest Places in Your Home—and How to Disinfect Them

What are the dirtiest places in your house? The toilet? The dirty clothes hamper? Your teenager’s increasingly profane mouth?

Nope! In fact, these places are just the start of your problems. Bacteria can divide every 20 minutes and has the ability to mutate in ways that our immune systems can’t recognize. In other words, it gets everywhere and we need to be mindful of it.

You might be unpleasantly surprised when we tell you about the dirtiest places in your house these grimy things hide. But don’t worry; we’re also going to show how you (or your teenager) can clean them up.

Dirtiest Places in Your House

7. Shower/Bathtub

Ironically (and logically), the place set aside for the sole purpose of cleaning is pretty darn dirty. It’s a moist environment—ideal for mold and bacteria. Researchers from NSF International (National Sanitation Foundation) found staphylococci—a bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections and skin lesions–climbing all over baths and showers in domestic homes.

What to Do:

• Clean your shower with a bleach solution at least once a week.
• Dry your shower or bath after each use.
• Leave a window open and/or turn on the bathroom fan while bathing and for up to an hour after.
• If you use a shower curtain, throw it in the washing machine on hot with laundry detergent and bleach once every week or two.

6. “Clean” Laundry

Do your clothes ever have a sour smell to them? Your washing machine is one of the dirtiest places in your house and it’s likely they hung out in it too long. If wet clothes sit longer than 30 minutes, they become a breeding ground for mold and germs, which can cause skin rashes, itchy eyes, coughing, and sneezing.

Long-term effects of mold can cause issues as well as permanent damage to your upper respiratory system.

What to Do:

• Remove clothes from the washer right after the cycle is done.
• Wash hands before and after transferring wet clothes into the dryer.
• Wash clothing in very hot water; this kills mold spores and germs.
• Dry clothes on hot or hang them from a clothesline in the sun.
• If clothes have been contaminated with mold, use a detergent with bleach like Clorox to clean them. Run through several cycles before transferring to the dryer.


5. Carpets and Rugs

It’s going to take a really good cleaning before you roll seductively around on your shag carpet after reading this one. Most vacuums aren’t strong enough to get deep into the carpet’s fibers and base. So no matter how many times you vacuum in a week there are still more than 200,000 bacteria crawling around—in every square inch—feeding on dead skin, food particles, pet dander, and pollen. Still feel like rolling around on your shag carpet?

What to Do:

• Remove shoes before entering your home.
• Vacuum twice a week. Move furniture around so you can get to every area in the house. Vacuum baseboards and hard to reach corners as well.
• Don’t eat food dropped on the floor. The five-second rule is a myth.
• Treat spills immediately with a damp cloth and carpet cleaning solution. Pat dry with a towel.
• Have your carpets steam cleaned professionally every year.


4. Knobs, Switches, Handles

Door knobs, light switches, and cabinet handles are some of the dirtiest places in your house. One of the most common ways to catch a cold is through contact with these oft-touched—and oft-infected—objects.

Even worse, if you handle raw meat or other food—which can contain E. coli and salmonella—and then open your fridge or turn on your oven, you could be spreading dangerous bacteria around your kitchen.

What to Do:

• Wash your hands with soap and warm water often, especially when handling food in the kitchen or after using the restroom.
• Clean knobs, switches, and handles weekly with disposable disinfectant wipes.
• Consider replacing them with copper ones. Research has found that copper suffocates germs and prevents them from spreading.


3. The Cup That Holds Your Toothbrush

In most modern bathrooms, the sink is near the toilet. Each time you flush your toilet (with the lid up) you splash fecal matter in a six-foot radius. You do the math on how that impacts your exposed toothbrush. Adding to this, the cup is a very moist environment, which is absolute heaven for bacteria averaging a whopping 2 million cells including: staph, yeast, coliform, and mold.

What to Do:

• Store your toothbrush in a dishwasher-safe plastic, glass, or stainless steel cup. Run the cup through a dishwasher cycle at least once a week.
• Always close the lid to the toilet when flushing. In fact, keeping it closed all the time is a pretty good idea. (Except when you’re using it.)
• Wash your hands before and after you brush your teeth.
• Dip your toothbrush in rubbing alcohol before each brushing.
• Store toothbrushes as far away from the toilet as possible. Linen closets are a good spot or even your bedroom.


2. Coffee Maker

Has your brew tasted a little off lately? You may be drinking a lot more than java. The damp, dark environment of your coffeepot—definitely one of the dirtiest places in the average household—is a breeding ground for mold, germs, and bacteria, according to Saint Louis University assistant professor Donna Duberg.

Seasoned coffee drinkers speak of coffee’s antibacterial effects, but these properties kill only 50 percent of the mold that gets trapped in your machine’s tubing. Another misconception is that the hot water that brews the coffee will kill the germs, but water must be boiling and in contact with mold for at least a minute to kill it.

What to Do:

• Clean your coffee maker every month with a solution that of one part vinegar, and two parts water. Place your filter in as if you’re making coffee. Pour the solution in where you would usually add water. Run a brewing cycle, remove the filter, and allow the solution to sit in the pot for 20 to 30 minutes. Run several more cycles with clean water until the smell of vinegar disappears.
• Soak coffee maker parts and pot in soapy hot water for 30 minutes each week—or run the parts through a dishwasher.


1. Your Kitchen Sponge

It turns out the kitchen is the dirtiest place in your house—and your sponge may be the dirtiest item in there. Research conducted by NSF International found salmonella, E. Coli, and fecal matter on dish sponges in more than 75 percent of homes tested. And remember—bacteria isn’t only in the sponge, but also on the stuff you wipe it with.

What to Do:

• Clean up kitchen messes with biodegradable disinfectant wipes.
• Replace your sponge at least every two weeks.
• Microwave your wet sponge for two minutes to kill all the germs.


There’s no need to get obsessive about germs. However, it’s important that you’re conscious of your environment and how it affects your health. Being aware of the dirtiest places in your home will decrease your chances of infection and/or illness.