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17 Seemingly Harmless Bathroom Habits That Are Actually Disgusting

*touches genitals* *touches towel* *touches doorknob*

First, the good news: Your bathroom is usually one of the cleaner places in your home.

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That's because you're generally more aware of how often you need to clean it, and all the surfaces are easier to disinfect than, say, your living room.

But if you're not cleaning things the right way (or, OK, just being lazy), your bathroom can turn into a breeding ground for germs, bacteria, and viruses.

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Especially during cold and flu season, which is now btw.

So BuzzFeed Life reached out to two experts — dermatologist Dr. Michelle Green and germ expert Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D. — about how lazy bathroom habits can make you seriously sick. Here's a basic list of what not to do:

1. Using the same toothbrush or forgetting to ~deep clean~ it after you've been sick.

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When you brush your teeth with a nasty head cold, all those germs in your saliva and mucus go right into the bristles, and they can survive there for weeks. So if you were sick and finally starting to feel better, those might reinfect you, says Reynolds.

The classic example is strep throat, Reynolds says, which is treated early with antibiotics, so the body doesn't build up much immunity to the infection. If you then brush your teeth with that streptococcal bacteria–infected toothbrush, you're susceptible to a second infection. So if you've been super sick, Reynolds suggests replacing your toothbrush or making sure to thoroughly clean it (like soaking it in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes, then rinsing it thoroughly and letting it dry).

2. Or keeping all the toothbrushes together in the same old cup thing.

If you share a bathroom with roommates, cramming all your toothbrushes into a shared holder is basically inevitable. But if it's so crowded that the bristles are touching and transmitting germs, you may as well be sharing toothbrushes with your roomies (and their significant others). And if someone gets sick, it's likely those germs will get on your toothbrush too.

Besides, have you ever looked at the bottom of the toothbrush cup after not washing it in a while? It's like a reservoir for germy mold and mildew. Reynolds suggests storing toothbrushes individually upright or keeping several cups so they have room to breathe. And definitely sanitizing the cup with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution once every few weeks.

3. Keeping your soap in a dish.

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Unless it has holes in it, this is literally just a petri dish for germs to grow, says Green. That's because one side will always stay wet, which will allow germs to grow — yes, even on soap. Reynolds suggests getting a soap dish that drains properly, or ditching bar soap altogether and using bottled liquid soap if you want to be extra careful.

4. Letting your shower curtain grow mold.

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"Mold spores are microscopic — so if you can actually see the black color, you literally have millions or billions of spores present," Reynolds says. DISGUSTING. Plus, it takes way fewer mold spores to irritate people with mold allergies or asthma, which is about 25% of the population.

Dirty shower curtains can also harbor yeast and fungus, which can cause infections if the curtain comes in contact with exposed skin, says Green. The best solution is either replacing the curtain if it's too far gone or scrubbing it with bleach, which is a super effective and cheap mold remover.

5. Everyone drying their hands on the same hand towel.

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Even though they're mostly used after people clean their hands, a towel is the perfect moist environment for mildew and germs to grow. Plus, you never know if someone used it on their face or mouth, too. Reynolds says the best option is to have your own individual hand towel (make them color-coded if multiple people share the bathroom) and launder it every week. And don't use someone else's hand towel — you have literally no idea what body parts it touched and what germs it picked up.

6. Hanging a bunch of damp, dirty towels on the same hook or rack in the bathroom.

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If you're guilty of this habit, you can literally smell it. "It's almost impossible for a bunch of damp towels to fully dry, so mildew rapidly accumulates and creates that recognizable smell," Reynolds says.

Plus, hanging your towels on top of each other allows them to pick up germs and organisms that live on the skin, such as staph. Reynolds suggests allowing each towel to hang alone and dry completely on its own hook in your room, and laundering them on the hot sanitizing cycle after two or three uses.

7. Leaving your razors in the shower.

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Most of us do this. But if a razor sits in a wet shower for too long, it will become contaminated with bacteria and end up rusting, says Green, and you definitely don't want to shave your skin with that. Instead, take it out of the shower and leave it on a paper towel or on a hook where it can fully dry. Reynolds also suggests lightly spraying it with alcohol between uses to kill any residual germs and bacteria.

8. Ditto for using razors long past their expiration date.

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Even though most disposable razors are annoyingly expensive, it's always smarter to replace a razor after three to five uses, says Green. (Which means using a new disposable razor or replacing the blades.) Not only can the razor rust and get covered in germs like staph, but a dull razor is more likely to cut the skin or cause ingrown hairs, which increase the risk of infection. Not good.

9. Using loofahs for more than three months.

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"It accumulates germs, bacteria, and mildew like a nasty old kitchen sponge, but it's just less obvious," says Green. That means germs from your own body plus any that it picks up from the surfaces in the shower. And all that loofah-ing with bacteria can be a major cause of body acne, says Green.

It's best to just not use these, but if you love loofahs, make sure to clean them properly by rinsing them with super hot water and letting them dry outside the shower in between uses. And always replace them every three months.

10. Letting your toilet bowl get super dirty.

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It's actually not the toilet seat that poses so much risk as it is the droplets and aerosolized water that will spray up to 6 feet out of the toilet each time you flush, says Reynolds. This water (filled with germs and fecal matter) coats surrounding surfaces like the seat, floor, and sink if it's nearby.

These germs are generally harmless at lower levels until they build up to a threshold at which they can cause disease, says Reynolds. So to be safe, just clean the toilet bowl with antibacterial cleaner or bleach and sanitize the surrounding areas at least once a week.

11. Forgetting to wipe the doorknob and light switch. / Via

Every person who forgot to wash their hands after using the toilet, blew their nose with a nasty cold, or puked from a stomach bug — they probably touched the doorknob, faucet handles, and light switch with dirty hands at least once. These are some of the germiest surfaces in the bathroom, says Green, because hands are a primary vehicle for germ transmission.

Even if you wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday," you can easily recontaminate them if you touch these spots. So remember to clean these with an antibacterial wipe or Lysol once or twice a week — and every day if someone who uses the bathroom is sick.

12. Using washcloths you left in the shower.

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Washcloths get totally saturated with water, so they rarely dry out before you use them again, allowing mold and bacteria to grow, says Reynolds. If it does dry out, it's usually all crusty and hard from dirt, dead skin cells, and soap residue, which is equally gross. Plus, if you use the same washcloth on your body and face, you might accidentally transmit fecal germs to your mouth, making you super sick with bugs like norovirus or E. coli. So use a different cloth on your face and your body, and wash them both after one or two uses, says Green.

13. Taking a bath in a tub that hasn't been cleaned and sanitized.

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Baths are fantastic. But if you share a bathroom and you're not careful, you might just end up swimming in a tub of other people's bacteria, says Reynolds. This includes staph and, less commonly, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause serious wound infections and boils if it enters broken skin through a cut, ingrown hair, etc.

So before you settle in for a bath, think of all the dirty (possibly wart-covered) feet that have stood in there before you. Got that? Now scrub the tub with bleach every week, especially before you take a soak. All those bath bombs smell good AF, but they won't do anything to protect you from MRSA.

14. Going over a month without scrubbing the bathroom floor.

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The same kind of germs in your shower will live on the floor, says Green — which includes yeast, athlete's foot, and other fungus from your feet. Because it's usually moist, it's a great environment for mold and fungus to grow. The bathroom floor is also coated in the same drops and aerosols from the toilet we mentioned earlier, so going weeks without cleaning it can expose you to a number of germs which you then track around your house, into your room, on your bedsheets, etc.

Reynolds suggests getting into the habit of quickly scrubbing or swiffering the bathroom floor once every week with a germ-killing disinfectant or bleach. If you know someone using the bathroom has a bad case of athlete's foot or if your feet have new wounds, you might want to clean it every day until the feet are healed.

15. Letting the bathroom get hot and steamy without proper ventilation.

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Because bathrooms are so moist already, lack of ventilation allows the same mold spores and mildew that grows on your shower curtain to grow all over the regular walls, says Reynolds. And unless you're a total germaphobe, you probably aren't disinfecting the bathroom walls. All that mold and mildew on the walls can trigger allergies and asthma in some people, and it's just generally not super healthy to breathe in all the time. If you have a vent fan, turn that on when showering, or keep a door or window open to properly ventilate the bathroom, which can dramatically reduce spore count.

16. Using the same dirty bath mat forever.

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"Mold spores, bacteria, and fungus can accumulate on the bath mat and survive for weeks," says Reynolds — not to mention all the hair and dust bunnies that collect on the mat. Your feet are generally more resilient, but if you have blisters or wounds, it's easier for them to get infected from a dirty mat. Reynolds suggests buying a mat that can be easily laundered and washing it every one or two weeks in a hot sanitizing cycle (or with bleach). If your mat is made from wood or plastic, you can spray it or wipe it with antibacterial wipes.

17. Resting anything on a dirty bathroom counter that will end up touching your face, eyes, or mouth.

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Like every surface in the bathroom, the sink and counter are constantly contaminated with germs from hands and splashes from the toilet. Resting things like face brushes, eyeliner pencils, or washcloths on a dirty counter is risky, because you'll end up directly transferring those germs to your face — especially if anyone else using the bathroom has a nasty virus. Green suggests regularly wiping down the bathroom sink with an antibacterial wipe, and if you must put something like a makeup brush down, rest it on some toilet paper.

Happy bathroom cleaning!

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