Think your washing machine is one of the cleanest places in your house? Think again. Dirty laundry can fill your washer -- and future loads of laundry -- with bacteria and viruses. To keep it fresh, run your washer empty with a cup of bleach once a week. To kill germs, wash and dry your laundry at the highest temperature the fabric can stand.
Really Clean Your Towels
If only one person is using a towel, wash it once a week. Wash after each use if someone is sick.
Wash gym towels after each workout.
Wash kitchen towels separately from underwear and bathroom towels.
Replace hand towels every few days, or every time you have guests.
Hang towels to air dry. Don't reuse any in a heap on the floor.
Banish Bedroom Germs
Wash all bed linens at least once a week in hot water -- more often if someone is sick.
Wash soiled items -- like clothes with grass stains -- separately from other laundry, especially sheets.
Keep food and snacks out of bedrooms. Crumbs attract mold and bacteria.
Sanitize Your Family Room
Germs hang out where you do -- especially spots everyone touches like telephones, coffee tables, TV remotes, and video controllers. Clean them often with disinfectant wipes. Use a damp microfiber cloth to gently wipe dust from your flat screen TV. Vacuum crumbs and clean spills right away, so bacteria doesn't grow in your carpets and furniture.
Clean Knobs and Railings
Germs spread quickly on doorknobs, cabinet handles, railings, faucets, light switches, and lamps. Sanitize these surfaces once a week with disinfecting wipes or a disinfecting cleaner. Do it more often if someone in your family is sick or if you have guests.
Wipe Down the Office
Computer keyboards, desktops, and telephones are breeding grounds for germs, especially if you share equipment or eat while you work. Shake out your keyboard often, or use a vacuum attachment to remove junk. Then use a wipe to disinfect it. Or, get a skin for your computer keyboard and don't forget to wash it. Wipe your computer screen with a damp microfiber cloth.
Disinfect Kids' Rooms
Kids get and spread germs easily. Once a week, wipe down all surfaces in your child's room with disinfecting wipes or spray. If you have a baby, be sure to really clean the diaper changing area, crib rails and slats, and plastic toys. Leave the disinfectant on for at least 30 seconds and then wipe well with moist paper towels or a clean, wet cloth.
Sanitize the Kitchen Sink
Forget the bathroom. The kitchen sink is the second germiest place in the house. The kitchen sponge is No. 1. Bacteria from raw meats and other foods flourish and grow in your sink. Scrub it with a disinfecting cleanser every day. And that sponge? Wet it and zap it in the microwave for two minutes each day to help kill any E. coli and salmonella lurking there.
Keep Countertops Clean
Clean your kitchen counters every day after you prepare food. First, wash them with hot soapy water to get rid of any gunk and grime you can see. Then use a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water (or whatever is recommended for your countertops) to sanitize them. Let them air dry. To help keep your counters germ-free, don't put your purse, laptop, phone, mail, or anything else on top of them.
Tackle the Fridge
Keep your fridge clean by washing the inside walls, doors, and shelves with hot soapy water every few months. To get rid of smells, use a mix of half water and half white vinegar. Or, wash with a mixture of baking soda and water, then let the fridge air out for a few hours. Always clean up refrigerator spills right away.
Scour the Bathroom
Make an all-purpose bathroom cleaner by mixing two tablespoons of dish liquid, two tablespoons ammonia, and one quart of warm water. Use this for the tub, sink, floors, and shower. Rinse with clean water. A baking soda paste can help get rid of marks in the sink or tub. Using a squeegee on shower walls after each shower helps stop mold and mildew from growing.
Put a Lid on Toilet Germs
Leaving the lid up when you flush can spread fecal matter and germs all over your bathroom, even to your toothbrush. To limit nasty germs, clean your toilet bowl weekly -- and keep the lid down. Use a wet cloth and an all-purpose cleaner to wash the lid, seat, and outside of the bowl. Then use a toilet brush and the cleaner to scrub inside the bowl.
Make Your Own "Greener" Cleaner
Diluted bleach is best for disinfecting against germs. But for everyday cleaning, you can't beat white distilled vinegar. Mix one part white vinegar and nine parts water in a spray bottle or bucket. It will safely clean most surfaces and remove grease. Plus, it's safe to use around kids and pets.
Don't Forget Hallways and Carpets
When you walk through your house wearing shoes, you're tracking in everything you've stepped on outside, including E. coli and other bacteria that can cause illness. For the cleanest floors and carpets, and the least mess, leave your shoes at the door. If you do wear shoes inside, vacuum carpets and wash floors once a week.
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AARP: "Are You Hosting Billions of Germs in Your House?"
CDC: "Environmental Cleaning and Disinfecting for MRSA."
ConsumerReports.org: "Don't Clean Your HDTV With Windex."
Donna M. Duberg, M.A., M.S., MT(ASCP)SM, vice-chair, assistant professor, clinical laboratory science department, Doisy College of Health Sciences, Saint Louis University.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: "Clean the Refrigerator for Mom This Mother's Day."
NSF: "Top Ten Germiest Places in the Home."
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: "Cleaning the Bathroom."
University of Arizona: "Learn About Germs: Germs in the Home Environment."
USDA: "Spring Clean Your Kitchen to 'Be Food Safe.'"
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.