Common Household Items That Are Making You Sick

Feeling under the weather with a sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches, or stomach issues? Before you blame that coughing co-worker or food you ate, take a closer look at the everyday items in your home—they might be the items making you sick.

By URLife Team
21 May 2024

When it comes to germs, we usually keep a distance from dirt and pollution when we are outdoors. Ever wonder why you keep getting sick despite a spotless home? The answer might lie in the everyday items you use without a second thought. From your trusty kitchen sponge to that cosy couch, hidden germs could be lurking in places you'd never expect. 

Is my house making me sick? There are tons of things we tend to use in our lives that are making us sick unknowingly. Think about your bathroom towels, which stay damp and warm, creating the perfect environment for bacteria and mold. Even your toothbrush holder, remote controls, and cell phone screens can be teeming with germs. It’s time to uncover these hidden hazards and learn how to keep your home truly clean and germ-free.
Here are 10 common household things that might be secretly harbouring nasty germs, ready to compromise your health when you least expect it. 


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1. Sponges

First up, let’s talk about the sponge. Sponges might be your go-to tool for wiping down counters and washing dishes, but it’s also a breeding ground for bacteria. A 2017 study from Scientific Reports found a whopping 362 different species of bacteria, with up to 45 billion per square centimetre! The study has shown that kitchen sponges can harbour more germs than a toilet seat, including nasty ones like E. coli and Salmonella. 

To stay healthy, take action. Microwave the sponge for 2-3 minutes every 2-3 days, or use the hottest dishwasher cycle. Remember to replace the sponge at least every two weeks, or sooner if it starts to smell unpleasant. 


Related story: Endocrine Disruptors: Toxic Chemicals Hidden in Common Household Items


2. Toothbrush & holders

When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? There are more bacteria in the mouth than anywhere else in the body, so surely your toothbrush is harbouring bacteria. In addition, most people store their toothbrushes in the bathroom, which tends to contain numerous airborne bacteria because of the warm, moist environment, according to Delta Dental
There are some simple precautions to keep germs at bay: 

  • Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with hot water after brushing. 
  • Store your brush where it can air dry, away from the toilet. 
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are worn out. 
  • To prevent germs from spreading, get a separate tube of toothpaste for everyone in the household.

3. Sink/ Washbasin

And it’s not just the sponge or your toothbrushes, even the kitchen sink is a hotspot for microbial life. The kitchen sink is one of the most used areas of your home. If you or one of your loved ones experience digestive issues, the bacteria in and around your sink may be the cause. Wiping it down with that kitchen sponge can make it worse. To keep it clean, disinfect the entire inside of the sink basin at least twice a week and every time you rinse raw meat. Pour a solution of one teaspoon bleach into a quart of water once a month. 


Related story: Should You Be Worried about Phthalates-the Chemical that is Everywhere?


4. Bedsheets

Did you know that your bed sheets could be a breeding ground for dust mites, which can trigger allergies and asthma? These microscopic pests may not bite, but the allergens from their faecal pellets and body fragments can cause health issues for those who are sensitive. While they don’t bite, the allergen they create comes from their faecal pellets and body fragments, according to the American Lung Association and they can be a major trigger for those with allergies and asthma. To combat dust mites, it's important to keep the humidity in your house below 50 per cent and wash your sheets in hot water once a week.


5. Showerhead

You might not see it, but harmful bacteria could be hiding in your shower head. Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) are bacteria that live in water and soil and often end up in showerheads. While most of the 150+ types of NTM are harmless, some can cause serious lung infections, especially in people with weak immune systems. To stop bacteria from growing, clean your shower head regularly. Remove it and soak it in vinegar overnight. Be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions first to make sure vinegar won't damage it.


Related story: A Guide To Cleaning And Disinfecting Surfaces


6. TV remotes

Think about how many hands touch your TV, DVD player, or stereo remotes every day. The same goes for video game controllers. A TV remote can have 70 bacteria per square inch. These items can collect a lot of germs, especially if they’re not cleaned regularly. To keep these items clean, use an antibacterial wipe to disinfect them once a week. If someone in your home is sick, clean them even more often. Another tip is to use voice commands to control your electronics, reducing the need to touch them at all.

7. Room fresheners

You might think air fresheners are making your home smell fresh and clean, but they can actually release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. According to the National Capital Poison Center, these VOCs can cause health problems. The chemicals in air fresheners can combine with ozone in the air to create secondary pollutants, which can be harmful even when the products are used correctly. Repeated exposure to these chemicals raises concerns about potential health issues.


Related story: The Lingering Dangers in Your Fragrance


8. Keyboard

Think of your computer keyboards like your TV remote—it's full of bacteria and germs. Every time you touch something dirty and then use your keyboard or mouse, you're transferring those germs to your computer. To keep it clean, regularly wipe down your computer, especially the keyboard and mouse.

9. Cutting boards

Cutting boards are essential for preparing food, but they can also cause cross-contamination. This happens when bacteria from raw foods, like meat, spread to other foods. Wooden cutting boards are especially risky because bacteria can get trapped in the cuts on the board. To avoid health problems, always wash your cutting boards with hot, soapy water after using them. Let them air dry completely by storing them in an open space. For extra safety, many professional chefs suggest using a separate cutting board just for raw meat to prevent germs from spreading.


Related story: Handy Hacks To Master The Kitchen


10. Carpets, curtains, & door mats

There's nothing better than coming home after a long day, kicking off your shoes, and feeling the soft carpet beneath your feet – until you learn what it's hiding. Carpets, curtains and door mats are magnets for dust, dirt, dust mites, and mould. Every time you step on the mat or move the curtains, these particles are released into the air. What's worse, the chemicals used in their production and installation could be harmful. 
If feasible, opt for blinds and hard flooring, or use area rugs that can be cleaned outside your home.

Everyday items in your home, such as kitchen sponges, cutting boards, remotes, and towels, can harbour harmful germs if not properly cleaned. Regularly disinfecting these items can significantly reduce the risk of cross-contamination and keep your home a healthier place. By being mindful of the hidden dangers in common household objects and taking simple preventive measures, you can protect yourself and your family from potential health issues. Remember, a truly clean home goes beyond what meets the eye—it's about tackling those hidden germs too.


Related story: The Science of Spring Cleaning

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