As Top Tens go, it's hardly a chart you'd want to wallow in, but knowing the location of the 10 germiest places in your home could save you some serious trouble. Any guesses? Many of them are not where you'd expect, according to research by an international public health and safety organization.
To find out where those bacterial critters hang out, study participants were asked to swab all sorts of household items for analysis. Here's the germ-laden countdown that resulted:
1. Kitchen sponges. Yes, the very thing you use to clean dishes and surfaces is the germiest of all. Cure: Wet it and microwave it for 2 minutes daily. Replace every 2 weeks.
2. Kitchen sink. No surprise here. Disinfect twice a week and clean drains with a teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water.
3. Toothbrush holder. Yuckiest place in the bathroom! If it's dishwasher safe, put it in once a week. Otherwise hand-wash then wipe with a disinfecting wipe.
4. Pet bowl (if you have one). Clean in a sanitizing dishwasher daily. Otherwise soak in a mix of one cap of bleach to a gallon of water, then rinse and scrub.
5. Coffee-maker reservoir. Bacteria, mold and mildew love this dark, damp place. Pour in 4 cups of vinegar, let stand for 30 minutes, then run. Repeat with 3 cycles of water.
6. Faucet handles. In the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. Clean daily with disinfecting cleaner or wipes.
7. Pet toys. A common source of dreaded Staph infections. While it's important to clean toys with soapy water, it's even more vital to wash your hands after handling them.
8. Counter tops. 30% of all homes tested were coated in bacteria from food, pet toys and dirty hands. Wash counters at least daily and always after food preparation.
9. Stove knobs. Bacteria from hands and food finds it way there. Remove the knobs, wash in soapy water and leave to air dry every week.
10. Cutting boards. Germs love the regular supply of different foods. Put boards in the dishwasher after each use, or hand-wash with soapy water, plain rinse and a food-safe disinfecting agent.
"Be aware of the hot spot locations in your home and be smart about protecting yourself and your loved ones,"
says NSF International
, the research body that did the study.