It’s that time of the year again. The cold and flu season is upon us. Germs that cause illness hide in some hard to reach places.Want to avoid an infection? Worry less about the public restroom and more about what’s going on in your own home, particularly in the kitchen.
People have a tendency to over-protect themselves when they’re on the road or at the office, but researchers say it’s really their own homes that are harboring the most bacteria. A recent study shows it’s the kitchen, not the bathroom, that’s the dirtiest.
The areas where food is prepared contain more bacteria and fecal matter than other areas of the house, according to NSF International, an independent public health organization. Kitchen sponges were found to routinely test positive for illness-causing bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Staphylococcus, and influenza. Researchers also found that 75 percent tested positive for Coliform, a microorganism that causes illness and is in the same family as Salmonella and E. coli.
Moist places that aren’t frequently cleaned are havens for both mold and bacteria. Coffee maker water reservoirs and kitchen sinks other surprising hiding places for germs, the study by NSF International also showed.
The top five germ-laden areas in our homes are:
- Kitchen sponge
- Kitchen sink
- Toothbrush holder
- Pet bowl
- Coffee reservoir
Moist towels left hanging to dry are also incubators for bacterial growth. Other bacteria havens include cutting boards, stove knobs, countertops and pet toys. Commonly thought germ-ridden areas like the bathroom doorknob, toilet handle or light switch didn’t even make the top 10.
To rid your home of these hidden bacterial traps, experts recommend simply cleaning and drying moist areas more. Run kitchen tools — including the kitchen sponge — through the dishwasher, and wipe disinfectant cloths across surfaces. Most germs enter the home from the outside. Researchers also recommend keeping your hands very clean and washing them as soon as you return from the outside, either with soap and water or antibacterial gel.