DIY

A Complete Cleaning Guide For The Germaphobe In You

Everything you touch is gross. Here’s how to clean it. All of it.

1. Your toothbrush.

The Why
Although the American Dental Association says that “evidence is lacking that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific health problems”, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep it clean. Mythbusters confirmed that there’s fecal matter on there, so keep it clean.

The How
Livestrong says to keep your toothbrush isolated, out of closed containers (which can cause more bacterial growth), and to store it upright.

2. Your contact case.

The Why
Ever seen pinkish stuff on your lens case? That’s mildew, that can cause eye infections. The American Optometric Association found that 65% of people don’t replace their case every 3 months, as recommended.

The How
Besides replacing the case every 3 months, you should rinse your case off every morning after you put your lenses in using your sterile contact lens solution.

3. The toilet seat.

The Why
Do I really need to explain this?

The How
One word: vinegar. Just the cheapo, white vinegar in the salad dressing aisle. If you can’t stand the smell, try a 50-50 dilution with water, and add a few drops of essential oil. Holly Lefevre goes all out with several different recipes.

4. The bathtub.

The Why
Every time you flush your toilet — especially with the toilet cover up — you expel little bits of everything that’s in your toilet into the air. Besides settling on your toothbrush, it can also settle into your bathtub. Oh, and if you sit down, dirty and naked, int your bathtub, you’ll get more fecal matter in your bubble bath than you might have bargained for.

The How
Care 2 has some tips, but a vinegar wipe-down can solve this problem, too.

5. Your floofy thing (aka bath sponge).

The Why
Because these things sometimes take a while to dry out, and because, unless you live alone, it probably stays pretty damp most of the time (because it gets wet every time someone else showers).

The How
You can soak it in bleach overnight, or, for a more natural solution, in vinegar. Both will kill the germies. But if it’s still gross, just buy a new one.

6. Your towels — both the bath towels and the hand towel.

The Why
In the provocatively titled You’re Clean, But Is Your Towel?, Reader’s Digest says, emphatically, no. Between dead skin, bacteria’s fondness for damp things, and the generally germy state of your bathroom, these towels are most likely NOT clean.

The How
Besides washing it regularly, you should make sure you spread it out to dry thoroughly after every time you use it. When it starts smelling funky, My Thirty Spot has a guide for washing them in vinegar and baking soda.

7. The rugs.

The Why
Because they suffer from all of the same problems as your towels, plus your dirty feet and everybody’s shoes.

The How
A bathroom mat WITHOUT a rubber backing will stand up to many more washings. Throw it into the washing machine at least once a week. Mama’s Laundry Talk has a guide.

8. The evilest thing in your kitchen: the sponge.

The Why
Every time you wipe down your counters with your dirty sponge, you’re just spreading all of the nasty bacteria across your food preparation surfaces. (Yuck). You don’t have to get rid of it, because dish rags can be just as germy, but you do need to take care of it.

The How
According to WebMD, all you have to do to kill all those evil microbes is wet it and microwave it for two minutes. You should also always rinse it thoroughly with hot water and soap after you wash dishes with it, then squeeze all of that water out.

9. Your kitchen towels.

The Why
DId you know that you’re supposed to change your kitchen towels every day? Ugh. Trust me, I’ve been looking for someone telling me it’s okay to keep them for a week (or two..), and it’s just not. They collect so many bacteria, and you use them to dry off eating surfaces.

The How
You can wash them the same way you wash bathroom towels, but you want to wash them in a separate load to avoid cross-contamination (if you wash them with underwear, you might end up with fecal matter on them).

10. The cabinet knobs (or wherever you always touch to open your cabinets).

The Why
Remember that time you were breading chicken, then suddenly remembered you needed the oregano from your spice cabinet, then opened said cabinet with your chicken-juiced hands?

The How
Vinegar is the best solution here, again. I found some more vinegar cleaner recipes for you, though, on The Yummy Life.

11. The faucet and its handle.

The Why
Because after you opened that cabinet with your chicken-y fingers, you went over to the sink to rinse them off. And to turn the water on, you had to touch that faucet handle…

The How
Hopefully you’ve figured this one out by now. I just didn’t want you to forget to wipe this down, too.

12. Your microwave buttons.

The Why
Everybody in your house cooks with the microwave, even if they don’t all cook with the stove.

The How
Just wipe down with vinegar again. BUT make sure you get the buttons and the handle, and anywhere else fingers go. To clean the inside, microwave some vinegar and water in a microwave-safe cup for a few minutes until it steams up, then wipe clean.

13. Door knobs and handles. And light switches.

The Why
Everyone touches them. All the time. With their hands having been wherever the most germy place in the world is.

The How
If you’ve been reading this post, you know already. So I’m getting a little repetitive. But. Vinegar.

14. Game controllers and TV remotes.

The Why
Because last Saturday everyone was drunk and playing Mario Kart and who knows what germs snuck back from the bar.

The How
Clean My Space says to use rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, an old toothbrush, and a microfiber cloth to disinfect them. Just remember to take the batteries out first. You can do the same thing with your TV remotes.

15. Keyboard and mouse.

The Why
Have you looked at your keyboard lately? There’s probably some crusted-on grime somewhere.

The How
The technique is very similar to cleaning your game equipment, except you’ll also want to to get a can of compressed air, according to Lifehacker.

16. Bed and bedding.

The Why
While dust may not be 99% human skin, it’s actual composition is still pretty gross. And I’m sure that the dust that seeps into your mattress and pillows contains more of your dead skin cells than the dust in your kitchen.

The How
Wash your sheets, pillowcases, and comforter regularly — at least once a month. Martha Stewart’s Bedding Care 101 has lots of thoughts and recommendations should you wish to peruse. Make It Do has instructions to spring clean your mattress using baking soda and essential oil.

17. Dust in all the other places.

The Why
Because it makes you sneeze. And looks gross. And is made out of gross things.

The How
Molly Maid suggests you do several things to reduce the amount of dust in your home: change your furnace filters, clean your bedding, clean your closet, vacuum everywhere, and dust with a microfiber cloth.

18. Cash Money

The Why
According to Time.com, “A 2002 report in the Southern Medical Journal showed found pathogens — including staphylococcus — on 94% of dollar bills tested. Paper money can reportedly carry more germs than a household toilet. And bills are a hospitable environment for gross microbes: viruses and bacteria can live on most surfaces for about 48 hours, but paper money can reportedly transport a live flu virus for up to 17 days.” SEVENTEEN DAYS.

The How
For bills, you’re kind of out of luck. I guess you could take a cotton ball, dip it in a little rubbing alcohol, and rub it over the surface of the bill. How to Clean Stuff has a step-by-step for cleaning coins, though.

19. Your cell phone.

The Why
Just take this handy dandy quiz from The Oatmeal to find out.

The How
Because you don’t want to damage your expensive smarty-pants phone, The Incidental Economist says you should use a cotton ball with a little bit of rubbing alcohol. I supposed you could use vinegar, too. Whichever you use, make sure you put it on the cotton ball FIRST and then rub down your device.

20. Your keys.

The Why
Actually, your keys are probably only as dirty as your hands, and they’re cold hard metal, so germs won’t thrive on their surface.

The How
If you want to clean them off anyway, some antibacterial soap and water should do for house keys. Car keys with electronic bits can be wiped down with a little vinegar or rubbing alcohol, similar to a cell phone.

21. Your purse (or man-purse).

The Why
According to CBS News, your cell phone may be spreading its ickiness to your bag. And also: “Twenty percent of handbags swabbed had levels of bacteria-related contamination which could potentially cross-contaminate other surfaces — and contained more germs than the average toilet flush, CBS New York reported.”

The How
This depends on your bag. I’m not going to tell you to wipe your lambskin down with alcohol. If your bag’s tag says “man made materials” or some such, you can probably just wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. Live Renewed has a lovely DIY recipe.

22. Everything at work: your keyboard/mouse, the copier, that pen you found next to the copier, your phone…and the communal fridge.

The Why
Why is it all dirty? Because EVERYBODY TOUCHES IT ALL and germs are floating through the air like INVISIBLE MISSILES. Also, even if you don’t have children who bring home all of their school-germs, the (very nice) coworker who just pressed “start” on the copier might.

The How
This is difficult, because you don’t want to be the crazy one running around rubbing everything down with vinegar. Hope that the cleaning staff does their job well, I guess, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk (it won’t create super germs, I promise). Maybe you can sneak a bottle next to the copier, too. And next to the fridge.

23. The cart at the grocery store.

The Why
According to Snopes, “grocery carts are veritable petri dishes teeming with human saliva, mucus, urine, fecal matter, as well as the blood and juices from raw meat.” Ew.

The How
If you’re lucky, your grocery store provides sanitary wipes to use on your cart handles. If you’re unlucky, you should 1) definitely wash your hands as soon as you’re home and 2) possibly carry around wipes of your own.

24. Public transportation.

The Why
If riding the bus or subway for a couple of stops leaves you unconvinced that the entire system is nasty, read Kate Conway’s tale on xoJane about how she got a staph infection from riding a bus.

The How
This article on Hub Pages suggests trying not to hold onto anything (try leaning. Good luck, NYC commuters), keeping your hands out of your pockets after touching something, and washing your hands immediately after getting off, among other ideas. You could use hand sanitizer, of course. You can make your own, but make sure you have a high enough concentration of alcohol or the germs WILL SURVIVE.

25. Salt shakers at your favorite restaurant. Awww.

The Why
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that restaurants don’t sanitize their salt and pepper shakers after every customer uses them. Not that I’m saying they should! Waiters have enough on their plate already. This also goes for menus and bottles of ketchup. And pepper. Duh.

The How
After you salt and pepper your food, especially if it’s finger food, either wash your hands or sanitize the suckers.

26. Stairwells handrails.

The Why
So maybe you’re being all healthy and have decided to start taking the stairs. Just beware the microbes! Much like public transportation, lots of people who touch handrails have just come from the bathroom without a working sink.

The How
Just like you can clean everything in your house with vinegar, after you touch anything in public you should rub your hands down with sanitizer. Don’t you dare whine to me that you’re drying out your hands. Don’t you dare.

Also, if you are pretty sure you won’t tumble headfirst down the entire flight, you can just go ahead and not touch the handrails.

27. And finally: public bathrooms.

The Why
Public bathrooms are where the kings of germs hold court. And they, like Joffrey, couldn’t care less about your health.

The How
If you sit:
If the stall doesn’t provide you with toilet seat covers, take a couple of strips of toilet paper and lay them on the toilet. Or, if you have some hand sanitizer on you, you could squirt a bunch on the seat and rub it down with TP. Sit (Unless it’s SUPER gross, don’t squat! You might miss and then YOU’RE the person making the bathroom germier) and get ‘er done. You can flush with your foot, but you’re going to wash your hands anyway RIGHT?

If you stand:
Just don’t touch anything, and wash your hands. Duh.

Everyone:
Wash. Your. Hands. And don’t touch the door handle after you’ve done it.

28. BONUUUUUSSS: How to properly wash your hands.

A lovely graphic from the Word Health Organization. They say that “Washing your hands properly takes about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice”.

If it were me, I would use my towel from step 10 to open the bathroom door.

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