You’ve likely scrubbed down your bathroom at least once in the past few weeks. (Or at least, we hope you have.) You’ve probably also wiped down your phone a time or two. But when was the last time you gave your kitchen the same treatment?
Germs love to hang out in dark, wet, and warm places — and chances are your kitchen is at least two of those things most of the time. In fact, one initial study from NSF International, an independent public health organization, found that the kitchen is the germiest place in your home. And another study, done by Porch.com, turned up germs in some surprising areas you’d probably never think to sanitize.
Read on for some super germy kitchen items, starting with the most obvious. The further down the list you go, the more surprising those items get.
1. Dish sponges and rags
Why it’s gross: Yes, you probably already know your sponge is a breeding ground for germs. But just how much can be a little shocking. In NSF’s initial 2011 study, 75% of sponges and rags sampled contained at least one form of coliform bacteria, which includes salmonella and E. coli and is a potential indicator of fecal contamination. A majority of samples also contained yeast or mold, and a small percentage even contained bacteria that can cause staph infections. This was by far the most germ-ridden item in the house, containing more than 321 million microorganisms per gram.
How to clean it: Keep in mind that not all of those microorganisms were harmful, and not all bacteria will cause you to get sick. However, sponges are inherently damp, and thus more likely to also breed the nastier bacteria as well. Real Simple suggests rinsing your sponge after each use with hot water, and then allowing it to dry in a ventilated soap dish. At the end of each day, pop the wet sponge in the microwave for 1 minute, which should zap most of the bacteria that has stuck around. Cloths should be hung on the towel rack between uses, and then tossed in the laundry and washed with hot water after 1 day of use.
Next: This one might not come as a surprise.