12/01/2014 09:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Things That Are Way Dirtier Than You Realize (And What To Do About It)

If you’re a germaphobe, you can’t help but wonder about the sinister mysteries that lurk in the nooks and crannies of your bathroom. The harsh reality is that science actually validates your fears: many of the items in your bathroom can harbor tons of bacteria, and you don’t even know it.

Now for the good news: these problems are totally fixable, and we’re here to hold your (well-scrubbed) hand.

We’ve partnered with The Home Depot’s line of Squeaky Clean fixtures to take a hard look at every item in your bathroom so you can rest easy in your gleaming temple of good hygiene.

Shower Curtain


Have you ever noticed a thin film of pink mildew on your shower curtain? While some call it “soap scum,” scientists refer to this as “lush microbial biofilm.” (We know. Gross.) A study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that vinyl shower curtains are a breeding ground for microbes, including sphingomonas and methylobacterium, which can lead to infection.

Clean Up Your Act: The aforementioned study recommends frequently cleaning or disposing your shower curtains. We recommend ditching the cheapo vinyl curtains for a machine-washable version.

Bar of Soap


It’s an age-old question: Does a bar of soap clean itself? The short answer: it’s complicated. Soap does get dirty, since its purpose is to attract dirt and oils better than your skin can. But even if soap attracts microorganisms, numerous studies have shown exactly zero evidence of bacteria transfer from the soap to your hands. The most likely theory is that when you scrub and rinse your hands with bar soap, you’re cleaning your hands and rinsing microorganisms from the soap itself.

Clean Up Your Act: There is no scientific evidence that “dirty” soap is a health hazard, but if you’re still squicked out, liquid soap from a touchless dispenser will make you forget all of your worries.



When you shave with a razor, you’re not only removing hair but sloughing off bacteria that lives on your skin. Then, most likely, you’re storing your blade in a damp, humid environment, whether it’s in your shower or on your sink.

Clean Up Your Act: Replace your razor every five to 10 uses, and definitely toss it if you see any signs of rust. You can clean your blade after each shave with a quick rinse in water, a dip in rubbing alcohol and a wipe with a dry paper towel. Store it in an enclosed area away from moisture: say, in your medicine cabinet. You might also want to try a shaving stand to avoid any contact with the surface of your sink, which can harbor bacteria. One final word of advice: Never share a razor. You’re better than that!

Hand Towel


There’s no way around it: hand towels make very happy homes for bacteria. A few years ago, microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba tested over 500 towels across the U.S. and Canada, and he found incidences of e-coli and even salmonella. ”You wash your hands and you dry it in the towel and then maybe you had some e-coli or salmonella on there and they get into the towel,” Gerba told NBC News. “It's wet. It's moist. They grow. You may start out with a few [germs], but in a few days you've got millions.”

Clean Up Your Act: We’ve recommended washing bath towels after every three uses, and the same rule applies for hand towels. If you struggle with getting your towels super-clean, check out Jolie Kerr’s extraordinarily detailed guide to washing your towels. (Scroll down to the second question.) Try presoaking them in Cascade -- yep, the powdered dish detergent -- or adding vinegar to your laundry to make your whites brighter. Also, please be a dear and never, ever use a hand towel on your face.



According to a study at the University of Manchester in England, the average toothbrush can contain 10 million bacteria or more. Think about it: your toothbrush goes in your mouth, which harbors bacteria, and then you likely store it next to your sink, where you wash your dirty hands. We’re sure you’ve heard the tip about closing your toilet lid before flushing, but it definitely bears repeating.

Clean Up Your Act: Store your toothbrush in your medicine cabinet, safely away from errant germs and viruses. Don’t keep it in an airtight container, as that prevents the brush from drying between uses, leading to mold growth. Replace it every three to four months.



Most people know to keep their toilet clean, but what about the tools you use in your toilet? Let’s talk about your plunger. After using it, you most likely rinse the rubber piece with a flush of toilet water and set it back next to the toilet.

There are a few problems here. Not only is rinsing not enough to kill accumulated bacteria, but the handle is probably contaminated as well.

Clean Up Your Act: Disinfect your plunger with a mix of bleach and detergent. Don’t forget to clean the handle with antibacterial wipes.



Although natural sponges are great for sloughing off dry skin and getting squeaky clean in the shower, there are a lot of drawbacks. As we reported in July, a 1994 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that loofahs can host and transmit pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals. As New York-based dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, M.D. told HuffPost: “You spread the bacteria that you washed off your body the last time. The loofah is spreading yesterday's dirt back on your body."

Clean Up Your Act: You can let your loofah dry in a well-ventilated environment (say, outside of the shower with a window cracked). You can bleach your sponge to get rid of bacteria. You can replace it every three or four weeks. You can also just step away from the loofah.

Faucets and Doorknobs


As all hygenically aware people know, everything you touch yields the possibility of germs. But faucets and doorknobs, which are extremely high-touch areas in your bathroom, are some of the worst. Added bonus: you likely grab them with dirty hands.

Clean Up Your Act: At least once a week, clean any high-touch areas in the bathroom with antibacterial wipes. Make sure you switch wipes frequently.

The Home Depot’s new, innovative line of products will make it easier to keep even the busiest of bathrooms germ-free. Check them out here!