Battle of the Bacteria: The Dirtiest Places in Your Home

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Our homes are dirty, filthy places, fraught with germs and bacteria and we all know it. The best we can do against the onslaught of malevolent microorganisms on the warpath against us is to arm ourselves with disinfectant sprays and anti-bacterial wipes (and hope for the best). But our enemy is crafty. And they hide in plain sight, ready to ambush us at a moment’s notice from the places we least suspect. This is their battle plan, and these are some of the germiest places in your home.

1) Salt and Pepper Shakers are Secret Germ Dispensers

When’s the last time, if ever, you cleaned the salt and pepper shakers? Probably never. Because why would you, you ask blissfully unaware of the horror nestled in the next sentence. Researchers from the University of Virginia found that salt and pepper shakers had some of the highest concentrations of the flu virus in the homes of sick residents.

Those innocent looking black and white spice dispensers are frequently touched, and rarely cleaned. The perfect staging area for the inevitable germ surprise attack. In terms of likeliness of getting you sick, they rank slightly behind a toothbrush. Speaking of which …

2) Your Toothbrush Has Poop in it

It’s true. And it’s awful. But standing firm and facing the horror of our world with eyes wide open is sometimes the only way to survive. But it comes at a cost. The cost of your innocence? Maybe. But mostly just your toothbrush. Because, if you throw it away and buy a new one, everything will be fine.

Toothbrushes attract bacteria because they’re moist and filled with food particles. To make matters worse, a lot of people keep their toothbrushes near the toilet on a toothbrush rack which they never clean. At any given moment, your toothbrush is one flush away from becoming contaminated with airborne fecal particles. The flush launches the particles into the air like so many cold war era ICBMs that settle onto your toothbrush which—we can not stress enough—goes directly into your mouth. Prevent this apocalyptic scenario by closing the lid when you flush, buying a new toothbrush once a month, and keeping the one you have in a medicine cabinet (or in a mini fallout shelter vault).

3) Your Kitchen Sink Knobs Are Trolling You

Washing your hands is a big deal, and the germs hate you for doing it. It’s such a big deal that the Center for Disease Control says that handwashing is “one of the most important means of preventing germs from spreading.” This coming from the same people who fight horrible illnesses for a living, vanquished major diseases like polio, and came up with an honest to goodness official, government-sponsored zombie outbreak plan just in case. When the folks who are so good at going toe to toe with real illnesses that they started going after the fake ones tell you to scrub up, you know it’s probably the right thing to do.

But let’s say you’re preparing a mediocre chicken parm for your next hot Tinder date. Like a good soldier you washed your hands before you started cooking, and you went straight to the sink after manhandling a raw chicken breast to clean off all that dangerous salmonella. Congratulations, you did everything right! Unfortunately, you still exposed yourself, your date, and anyone else in the house to sickness, because the sink knobs are just lousy with germs—and the next time anyone washes their hands they’re going to get a dose. But how do you wash your hands before turning on the sink, you demand while rocking back and forth in the fetal position because everything is just so terrifying. Excellent question. You can’t. The best you can do is try to remember to carefully clean off the knobs regularly, and to also remember the universe is nothing if not cruel.

4) Your Coffee Maker is Brewing Your Demise

Without your morning cup of coffee, you’d be little more than an undead mess. Groaning and moaning your way across the house in the helpless throes of exhaustion and caffeine withdrawal. And that’s right where the germs want you. They play for keeps, and they’re coming after your precious bean supply. Even the laziest among us washes the coffee pot from time to time. But that’s not enough to stop the coffee machine itself from becoming overrun with bacteria.

Fortunately for you, you can deflect their dastardly assault. Open it up and clean out the filter. Scrub out the water reservoir while you’re at it. Then, to really declare victory, put it all back together and run through four cups of undiluted vinegar. After that, cycle through fresh water enough times for it stop smelling like you just did that. Do this every 40-80 brews and the battle will be won. Unfortunately, your war is far from over.

5) The Germ Generals Have Hijacked Your Smartphone to Use Your Communications Against You

It just got real. You probably needed to cut salt out of your diet anyway and you were fine giving up on brushing even. But your smartphone? According to a study covered in the Atlantic, 1 out of every 4 smartphone users would rather give up their shoes than their smartphone for a week. 28% of Apple users said they’d rather go without seeing their significant other than part with their phone for the same amount of time. On average, we spend 3 and a half hours per day holding and staring at our smartphones. And we never part company. Which is why they are absolutely one of the dirtiest, grimiest, most unreasonably germ ridden things we own. It’s like having the subway train in your pocket.

After every grody surface you touch and sick person you interact with, your hands go back to your phone. You can wash up all you want to, but it’s all for not if the very next thing you do is pull out your iPhone to check to see if you gained any new Twitter followers. The only way to get around it is to add it to the long list of things you have to disinfect and clean you didn’t know about. If you’re wondering how you can possibly remember to regularly clean all these things as you begin sealing yourself in a hazmat suit because nothing will ever be okay again, the answer is that you won’t. You’ll miss something. The germs always win. And at some point in the next year you’ll get the sniffles for 3-7 days or so. And it will be just the worst.