Nothing is better than feeling a sense of accomplishment after scrubbing your home from top to bottom — the floors sparkle, the furniture is dust-free, and the water stains on your shower are gone. But there are spots in every home that are often neglected during a cleaning session and become intimidating collections of dust, dirt, and grime. Don’t worry — once you know about these 10 dirtiest spots in your home, you’ll find them easy to take care of.
Garbage Disposal Gasket
Garbage disposals clean up your kitchen messes, though they tend to harbor their own, hidden along the underside of the rubbery gasket between the sink and compactor chute. It’s important to prioritize this area since garbage disposals can shoot aerosolized water and bacterial particles back into your kitchen. To clean the compactor, unplug the appliance, flip up the rubber splash guard (also called a flange or baffle), and clean using a grease-dissolving dish soap. Cleaning this area each time you wipe down your sink can also help remove food debris, smells, and slime buildup.
If sink faucets provide clean water, surely they’re clean themselves? Not quite. Faucet aerators — the tiny mesh filter that helps provide a smooth stream — can develop water and mineral buildup, though it’s not hard to remove. Housekeeping experts recommend removing the faucet aerator (found at the tip of the faucet, where water comes out) every two to three months and soaking it in vinegar for at least 15 minutes. Give the piece a gentle brush using an old toothbrush to remove any stuck-on residue, and simply screw the aerator back in place for a smooth-running sink.
Kitchen Cabinet Tops
Very few people remember to clean this spot — kitchen cabinet tops are essentially out of sight and out of mind. However, doing so can remove any accumulating grease and dust buildup. A stepladder and vacuum hose attachment makes it easy to tackle dust, and a household degreaser can conquer any greasy spots from airborne cooking oils. Getting cabinet tops clean can feel like a chore, though it’s not one you’ll need to undertake regularly. Cleaning experts recommend tidying this spot once a month. You can even speed up dusting by laying newspaper or wax paper along your cabinet tops to catch any future grime.
The Wall Behind the Toilet
Toilets send up a small spray of water and fecal matter when flushed, which can travel nearly 5 feet in about eight seconds. Most aerosolized particles travel upwards and backward, landing on the wall behind the toilet. You can reduce bacteria buildup in this spot by wiping down the wall with an enzyme cleaner — simply spray the wall, wait a few minutes for it to activate, and wipe it away.
Behind the Stove
Moving this hefty appliance isn’t something most people frequently do, making it easy for spills and crumbs to linger longer than you’d like. Pull the stove away from the wall (a towel, bathmat, or furniture sliders can prevent floor scuffs and make this Herculean task easier), then gently scrape off any food buildup using a plastic dish scraper or putty knife. Follow up with an all-purpose cleaner to remove any residue on the stove, cabinet sides, and wall.
Floor Registers and Wall Vent Covers
If you heat and cool your home with an HVAC system, it’s likely already on your to-do list to change the air filters. What’s often overlooked are the wall vent covers and floor registers, which still often accumulate dust and dirt. You can touch up these spots monthly by vacuuming over the slotted vents. However, housekeeping professionals recommend doing a deeper cleanse twice a year by removing the covers and washing them in hot, soapy water.
Countertop baristas save money compared to rolling through the coffee shop drive-through, though they have a major downside. According to a study by the National Sanitation Foundation, half of tested household coffee makers were brewing up major bacterial growth. Coffee maker reservoirs — aka the built-in water tank — tend to collect contain yeast and mold, regardless of how simple or complex the machine is. However, combating these organisms is simple: mix equal parts of water and vinegar, pour into the tank, and set the machine to brew mode. You should do this about once a month.
Contrary to common belief, you do have to clean your dishwasher. While it may not seem like it — after all, the machine’s interior gets sudsy as it cleans your dishware — dishwashers are actually susceptible to bacteria buildup. Help your dishwasher do a better job with a deep clean — hand-washing the inside with hot water and dishwashing liquid can knock down soap scum and stuck-on food debris. But most importantly, remember to clean the dishwasher filter at least once per month. Also, keeping the dishwasher door slightly ajar while not in use helps dry out any fungi-friendly moisture.
Dish sponges are commonly considered germy hotspots, and for good reason. A 2017 study found 362 kinds of bacteria on kitchen sponges, with up to 45 billion microbes per square centimeter. Compared to other grimy household spots, sponges can contain just as high concentrations of bacteria as toilets — but that doesn’t mean you have to stop using them. Sponges can be boiled or microwaved to reduce their bacterial load, though that won’t help them last forever. Sponges should be replaced about every two weeks or more if they look worse for wear in a shorter period.
Replacing your toothbrush every three months isn’t the only way to stay on top of a clean bathroom routine. Surprisingly, your toothbrush holder also collects germy microbes. The National Sanitation Foundation ranks toothbrush holders as the third-dirtiest spot in your home because of where they live — germs from your toothbrush can cling to the holder, and bacteria from sinks and invisible toilet spray can land in this container. Wash your toothbrush holder once a week by tossing it in the dishwasher, washing it with hot, soapy water, or wiping it down with a sanitizing wipe.
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