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Spring Cleaning: 11 Germ Traps To Clean Today

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/24/2012 11:16 am

If you've shaken off the dust bunnies and scrubbed the floors, you're off to a good start at your spring cleaning, but there are some often-overlooked places that need a thorough scrub-down, too.

And for greater reasons than simply relishing in that feeling of accomplishment when the garage is finally organized and you could practically eat off the bathroom floor (please, don't actually try that at home!).

The germs lurking in these sneaky places at home, at the gym and in the office can truly threaten your health. Luckily, one of the best ways to prevent problems is also the easiest: wash your hands.

Click through the slideshow below to see the sneaky places you don't want to forget to spring clean.

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  • Water Bottles

    Switching from plastic to a BPA-free, reusable bottle is smart for your wallet and the planet. But as fantastic as we think reusable water bottles are, they aren't invincible to bacteria and fungi. The damp enclosed space is a <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/fight_household_germs/water_bottle_germs.php" target="_hplink">perfect breeding ground for germs</a>, so it's a good idea to <a href="http://www.self.com/health/blogs/healthyself/2011/08/how-to-clean-a-dirty-water-bot.html" target="_hplink">wash your bottle every day</a>. Hot water and soap are strong enough to do the trick, but for tall bottles or ones with slimmer openings, <a href="http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/cleaning-your-reusable-water-bottle" target="_hplink">consider trying a bottle brush</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/5091713405/" target="_hplink">Alan Levine</a></em>

  • Yoga Mats

    Don't leave your warm, damp mat in its bag after class -- it'll <a href="http://www.fitsugar.com/How-Keep-Yoga-Mat-Clean-21456804" target="_hplink">encourage bacterial growth</a>. Instead, drape it over a door or banister and let it dry completely before your next sweat session. Be sure to wipe it down regularly as well, with a solution of one cup of warm water and two drops of dish soap, recommends FitSugar. And keep your mat to yourself! Communal mats that aren't cleaned properly could be linked to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/27/fashion/27Fitness.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">spread of unpleasant gym-related troubles</a> like jock itch and athlete's foot, according to the <em>New York Times</em>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/4425366955/" target="_hplink">lululemon athletica</a></em>

  • Reusable Grocery Bags

    A 2010 study found that more than half of eco-friendly reusable totes are contaminated with bacteria, possibly even E. coli -- not something we want getting cozy with our groceries. The reason? A whopping 97 percent of shoppers interviewed said they <a href="http://uanews.org/pdfs/GerbaWilliamsSinclair_BagContamination.pdf" target="_hplink">never wash the bags</a>, the study found. While we're probably not at risk of any <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/06/25/128105740/plastics-industry-funded-study-finds-bacteria-in-reusable-grocery-bags" target="_hplink">shopping-related outbreaks</a>, it certainly wouldn't hurt to throw the bags in the wash regularly. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/neeta_lind/2191904258/" target="_hplink">Neeta Lind</a></em>

  • Purses And Wallets

    You don't leave home without it -- which means it's going everywhere you go and picking up germs along the way. Microbiologist Chuck Gerba, who researches the sneaky places germs hide, told ABC in 2006: <blockquote>"We found fecal bacteria you normally find on the floor of restroom. We found bacteria that can cause skin infections on the bottom of purses. What's more amazing is the large numbers we find on the bottom of purses, which indicates that they can be picking up a lot of other germs like <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=2283311&page=1#.T2yVH-zLyK4" target="_hplink">cold viruses or viruses that cause diarrhea</a>."</blockquote> Many of the women in Gerba's research argued that they don't touch the bottom of their purses, so they weren't concerned about the spread of germs, but it's easy to unknowingly transfer germs, he said, including to areas of food preparation. And because money is constantly changing hands, your wallet as well can play host to numerous germs that you then transfer to other belongings. Dr. Oz offered some cleaning tips in a 2009 episode of "Good Morning America", including <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BeautySecrets/dr-oz-explains-germs-off-purse-make/story?id=8543211#.T2yVIuzLyK4" target="_hplink">wiping down the contents of your purse</a> with antibacterial wipes and leaving your purse at your door instead of bringing it and its germy freeloaders further into your home.

  • Makeup

    Even though you may feel like keeping your favorite tube of lipstick forever, makeup can both spoil and harbor germs, bacteria and mold that spread icky infections and cause breakouts. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/makeup-germs_n_1283034.html" target="_hplink">Find out how long your makeup lasts here</a>, then use spring cleaning as an excuse to go through your stash. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ummella/4943967868/" target="_hplink">Vivianna_love</a></em>

  • Gym Bags

    Like purses, you probably put your gym bag down in some pretty germy places. Not to mention, you put damp, warm gym clothes <em>inside</em> the bag, and might not take them out in a timely manner. Instead, <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410993,00.html" target="_hplink">regularly empty your entire bag and air it out</a>, suggests Health.com. Wash it in hot water every week, or at the very least give it a rub down with disinfecting wipes. And commit to taking those sweaty clothes out as soon as you get home. Even if you can't wash them right away, at least let them dry out so germs won't take root.

  • Toothbrushes

    Studies have shown that some pretty <a href="http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-2/the-ugly-truth-about-your-toothbrush" target="_hplink">nasty bacteria like to make your toothbrush their home</a> -- but they aren't likely to make you sick, according to the American Dental Association. Still, it's a good idea to rinse off your brush after scrubbing your pearly whites so no debris or toothpaste lingers, and don't store your brush in a closed container, which can promote the growth of bacteria. The ADA recommends <a href="http://www.ada.org/1887.aspx" target="_hplink">replacing toothbrushes every three to four months</a>, so if it's been a while, swap yours out now. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimwinstead/91836729/" target="_hplink">jimw</a></em>

  • Sponges

    Public health and safety firm NSF International found that 72 percent of sponges and dishrags were contaminated with bacteria that can cause food poisoning, making them the <a href="http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/pdf/0611_germs_hide.pdf" target="_hplink">germiest thing in your house</a>. Allowing the sponge to dry between uses will help -- so don't leave it in the sink when you're not washing dishes -- as will <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/germs-in-kitchen" target="_hplink">zapping it in the microwave</a> for a minute or two. <em>Fitness</em> recommends <a href="http://features.fitnessmagazine.com/12ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutGermandBacteriaHotSpots.html" target="_hplink">replacing your sponges once every three weeks</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/336000454/" target="_hplink">Beatrice Murch</a></em>

  • Shower Curtains

    The soapy gunk that gathers on vinyl <a href="http://aem.asm.org/content/70/7/4187.full" target="_hplink">shower curtains can actually cause infections</a>, according to a 2004 study, and taking a shower can send those <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/eliminating_germs/Surprising_Germ_Hotspot__1.php" target="_hplink">germs flying into the air</a>, <em>Men's Health</em> reported. While you're spring cleaning the bathroom, swap out your vinyl curtain for a fabric one -- it won't be any more resistant to growth, but you can clean it more easily, by tossing it into the washer with the hottest water the material can stand. Once a month should do the trick. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nieve44/3145782846/" target="_hplink">Nieve44/Luz</a></em>

  • Contact Lens Cases

    A 2007 study found that 34 percent of contact cases were crawling with germs that could lead to eye disease. Rinse the case <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/eliminating_germs/Surprising_Germ_Hotspot_2.php" target="_hplink">every day in hot water</a>, recommends <em>Men's Health</em>, and replace your solution every two months, when it loses some of its germ-fighting powers. Replace the case <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/vision-center/lenses-and-beyond/keeping-an-eye-on-contact-lenses.aspx" target="_hplink">every two to three months</a>, reports Everyday Health. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lenore-m/3172546365/" target="_hplink">L. Marie</a></em>

  • Cell Phones

    Last year, a study that found <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/17/study-1-in-6-cell-phones-contaminated-with-fecal-matter/" target="_hplink">fecal matter on one in six cell phones</a> grossed out readers worldwide. You don't want to spray anything directly on your gadgets, for fear of damaging them. Instead, <a href="http://news.menshealth.com/the-filthiest-gadget-you-never-clean/2011/10/20/" target="_hplink">wipe down your phone</a> with a disinfecting wipe or solution on a paper towel. While you're at it, give your desk phone or home landline a swipe as well. <em>Flickr photo <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/prosto/416542784/" target="_hplink">prosto photos</a></em>

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