When you're hanging out at home, exposure to illness is probably pretty far from your mind. It's not like you're on public transportation or in a grocery store bathroom. Your home is safe! But if you don't clean often or thoroughly enough, some surfaces in your home could harbor germs that could make you sick.
Some bacteria are more dangerous than others - salmonella and E. coli, for example, are common causes of food poisoning. Of course, it's not like you can see the bacteria in order to avoid them. So it's best to be informed about which surfaces are most prone to contamination in order to be proactive and keep them clean. Here are some of the hidden sources of bacteria in your home.
Bathtubs and showers
Showers and bathtubs can be breeding grounds for dangerous germs due to the damp environment and frequent use. It is advised to clean your shower at least every week or every other week to prevent the buildup of dirt and mildew. But the average person probably doesn't clean their shower or bathtub often enough. A study from Texas A&M University showed that whirlpool bathtubs had dangerous levels of bacteria, including bacteria from fecal matter and staphylococcus, which can cause staph infections.
Even if you clean the pot that holds your coffee, you could still be exposing yourself to dangerous bacteria. It's not just mold that can fester in the damp environment of the machine's water reservoir - a study by the sanitation organization NSF International found E. coli and other coliform bacteria in the coffee makers of college students.
You probably use your computer keyboard every day. But how often do you clean it? Computer keyboards are hotbeds for germs, according to an analysis done in 2016. In fact, computer keyboards and laptop keypads were 200,000 times dirtier than the average toilet seat.
The very surface on which you prepare your food could be teeming with bacteria. According to the NSF International study, nearly a third of countertops had coliform bacteria. Even aside from bacteria, these surfaces are pretty sketchy - the researchers found that 18 percent of countertops were hiding yeast or mold.
If you don't clean your cutting board correctly, it could actually make you sick. When you cut raw meat on a cutting board, you expose the surface to all kinds of dangerous bacteria, some of which could give you food poisoning. Don't make the cooking mistake of cutting your vegetables on the same board before cleaning the surface correctly.
Sinks might seem clean, but they could harbor high levels of bacteria. Even if you take care not to touch the faucet handles before washing your hands, you still want to clean them often. According a study by NSF International, the kitchen sink had the second highest concentration of microorganisms of all the spaces tested.
Your keys have seen a lot: the insides of locks, the crumb-ridden floor of your purse, your countertop, your unwashed hands... All that contact is going to leave some germs behind. Then you touch the same germ-ridden surface every time you open your car or front door. Make sure to wash your hands often to avoid letting these germs come into contact with your food or your face.
You probably think your clean clothes should be clean when they come out of the washer. But if you don't remove them right away, you could be putting your health in danger. Wet clothes can start growing germs after just 30 minutes left in a damp, enclosed space. If you leave them in there for at least that long, consider running a second cycle before drying.
You're supposed to either wash or replace your makeup brushes and applicators every week. But do you? If you don't clean these items enough, you may be exposing your skin to lots of bacteria. You also probably aren't storing these tools correctly. In order to minimize the amount of bacteria growth that occurs, you want to store brushes and applicators in open air - not on a countertop or in an enclosed bag. You may want to invest in a makeup brush holder to keep in your bedroom (instead of in your bathroom, where it would be in the splash zone of the toilet when it flushes).
You might not always remember to disinfect the shelves of the refrigerator, but you really should. Not only do you expose your food to these surfaces every day, but they also may have drippings and residue from raw meat and expired food items. Do a thorough clean-out of your fridge at least once every few weeks. Discard any foods that have gone bad (which could begin to grow foodborne bacteria and mold) and wipe down the shelves with disinfectant. Speaking of foods that have gone bad - do you know how long the foods in your fridge actually last?
The nooks and crannies of your TV remote are hiding more than just crumbs from your movie snack. According to the NSF International study, the remote controls tested had notable amounts of both the bacteria that cause MRSA and yeast or mold. Next time you decide to make a movie snack, wash both the remote and your hands before reaching into your bowl of microwave popcorn.
Salt and pepper shakers
According to a study by the University of Virginia, your salt and pepper shakers might be hiding more germs than you think. The researchers tested surfaces in the homes of people infected with cold viruses, and every shaker they checked tested positive. If viruses are thriving, your salt and pepper shakers are probably crawling with bacteria too.
Your sponge - which you use to clean - could actually be one of the dirtiest things in your kitchen. According to a study from the University of Arizona, sponges could have more E. coli bacteria than most toilet seats. You can kill off the germs by running the sponge through the dishwasher or, if you don't have a dishwasher, soaking it in bleach.
Of all the places tested by the NSF International study, stove knobs had some of the highest levels of bacteria. The knobs had coliform and staph bacteria, as well as other microorganisms like yeast and mold. The knobs actually had more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
One of the more alarming results from the NSF International study was just how much bacteria hide on toothbrush holders. The testing revealed that these items contain over 12,000 times the concentration of bacteria found on the surface of a toilet seat. Don't want to expose your family to harsh cleaning chemicals? These all-natural cleaning solutions might help.
More from The Active Times:
Places Dangerous Bacteria Is Growing in Your Home
How the Environment Impacts Your Health
25 Things Your Flight Attendant Won't Tell You
Ways Your Office Is Making You Sick
Is It a Cold or the Flu? How to Tell the Difference