September 21st, 2018

To Your Health: Germs are hiding in plain sight all around your home

By Gillian Slade on February 5, 2018.

Dish cloths can be a breeding ground for 4 billion germs.

It is very hard to keep up with cleaning our homes and none of us have time to take cleaning routines to what they were in our grandparents’ day. However, it is good to be reminded of standards to strive for and cleaning some things that we don’t often think about.

Those cushions on your couch should be washed every three months, according to some experts in a recent report. If you’re groaning at the thought and the fabric is not washable, put the cushion in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the dust mites.

Your phone and the remote control should be cleaned every day, according to a study at the University of Virginia. These items are ideal places to spread cold viruses and harbour bacteria. Use an antibacterial wipe on these items every day.

On to the kitchen and those dish cloths with 4 billion germs. They should apparently be switched for a clean one every day.

Rinse dish cloths every time you use them. Put the used ones in the dishwasher with a high temperature — it is a great way to kill germs. Alternatively put them in a plastic bag and once a week put them in a pot with water and boil for 10 minutes.

It is not a good idea to toss them in with the rest of your laundry that provides an environment for any bacteria to spread.

Keep the bathroom cleaning cloths strictly separate from those you use in the kitchen.

Your tea towels can easily become contaminated during food preparation and salmonella. Change them every day and wash in the washing machine on a hot cycle or else boil them like you do the dishcloths.

The kitchen sink should be cleaned with a bleach solution at least once a week. This will also help to stave off the bacteria in the drain.

You would think the washing machine, with all those loads of laundry, must be clean. Not so. If you always use it on a low temperature cycle it is likely carrying mould and bacteria. About once a month run it empty on the hottest setting with a detergent that includes bleach.

Experts advise we should be switching to fresh and clean bathtowels after using them three times.

Towels take some time to dry and a damp towel can help to spread bacteria, viruses such as herpes, and fungi that causes athletes foot. The key here is to avoid having a damp towel that hardly ever dries out. It really helps to have enough towel rails in your bathroom so that your bath towel dries out fairly quickly after use.

The hand towels by the basin should be changed every day and even more frequently if you have many people using them.

I know this will surprise you. The walls in your shower and the shower curtain should be cleaned every two days. It is not bacteria here but mould spores that can cause respiratory issues.

One more item you probably don’t think of cleaning very often — your child’s soft cuddly toy. Soft toys can hold dust mites — a source of allergies — and washing once a month will address this. Depending on the toy you could put it in the washing machine or dishwasher at 60 C or put it in the freezer overnight and then wash at a lower temperature.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at or 403-528-8635.

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