7 germy spots around the home.

Plus: Where to get a flu shot near you.

Germs are natural survivors. So there are places they may hide out around the house. You don’t need to get rid of every germ to have a healthy home. But here are a few hot spots you won’t want to miss.  

Keeping these things clean may help reduce your exposure to germs, including those that may make you or your family sick.

1. Kitchen sponges and dishcloths. They pick up germs and spread them. Since they’re often damp, they’re also perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. 

Quick tips: Zap a wet sponge in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes each day to help kill germs — or run it through the dishwasher using a hot dry cycle. Replace sponges regularly. And wash dish towels and rags in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

2. Toothbrush holders. In your normal routine, you may forget to wash these. But remember this: They’re often placed near flushing toilets, which can send germs flying. Ew!

Quick tips: Scrub toothbrush holders with hot soapy water. If you use a cup or other freestanding holder, put it through the dishwasher once or twice a week on the hot cycle.

3. Pet bowls and toys. You don’t want to fetch bacteria, yeast and mold during playtime or mealtime.

Quick tips: Wash bowls and hard toys with hot soapy water. Toss soft toys in your washing machine on a hot cycle. And always wash your hands after playing with household pets — especially before eating.

4. Countertops and cutting boards. These frequently used surfaces need on-the-spot attention to stay clean.

Quick tips: Clean countertops with hot soapy water, especially before and after preparing food. Wash cutting boards after each use. And to avoid cross contamination, always use separate cutting boards for fresh produce and raw meat, poultry or fish.

5. Knobs and handles. Any items people touch this much tend to get germy.

Quick tips: Clean doorknobs, toilet handles and faucets often with hot soapy water or disinfecting wipes — especially if someone in the house is sick.

6. Coffee makers. Their water reservoirs make damp, cozy homes for bacteria to multiply in.

Quick tips: Follow the manufacturer’s directions for your coffee maker. Most advise cleaning every 40 to 80 brew cycles — or at least monthly.

7. Finally … the kitchen sink. It’s last, but certainly not least. The sink can harbor germs from all sorts of sources, from dirty sponges to grimy pans.

Quick tips: Wash the sides and bottom regularly with hot soapy water. And don’t overlook the strainer in the drain — it needs a good cleaning too.

You can also use a mild water-bleach solution* or other sanitizing solution to clean some items, such as sinks, countertops, cutting boards and pet items. Rinse in clean water — and dry.


What to do next

Get protection against the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s best to get your shot before the flu starts going around in your community — so the sooner the better.

Learn more about where to get your flu shot. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

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*Use 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. A safety note: Never use a bleach cleaner with an ammonia cleaner. It can form a deadly gas.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; FoodSafety.gov; NSF International