How Ordinary Household Items can be a Source of Bacteria in Your Home

So, how often should you clean or even replace those everyday household items such as kitchen sponges, toothbrushes, mattresses and even duvets?

In most cases, we never give a second thought as to how long we have had that chopping board or those pillows. While they may all look clean and durable enough, these apparently innocent household items can actually habour potentially harmful bacteria if used for too long irrespective of how often they're washed.

Lets examine, scientifically, how often you should house-clean those ordinary household items and when should you simply decide to toss them away.


Pillows, Duvets
Did you know? a new pillow doubles its weight in three years, thanks to the remains of dust mites that build up inside it. This could worsen asthma, eczema especially since your face is touching the pillow and you're inhaling these remains.

Dust mite waste also leads to susceptibility to stuffy nose and sinusitis. Washing your pillow, say every few months at 60 °C at least 20 minutes. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, buy hypoallergenic pillows, which are normally made from foam.

Duvets also harbour skin debris and dust mites in the same way. In a study, 10 typical duvets were analyzed and it was discovered that they contained up to 20,000 live house dust mites along with fungal spores and bacteria. Duvets should be washed after twice a year, preferably after every six months.

Mattresses
Did you know that every night we excrete half a pint (284 cm3) of moisture? This, and the annual 2 Kg of skin scales we shed, provides a constant source of nourishment for dust mites. Although, you may not have allergies, being in constant contact to such a mattress can make you allergic.

To avoid this, keep mattresses clean by stripping the bed and vacuuming it at least once a week. It's advisable to replace you mattress after every five years. Though, for those who vacuum clean their mattresses weekly can stay with them up to 10 years.

Bath towels
To avoid infestation of your bath towel by staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can be transferred from your skin to the towel.

There's a need to wash them once a week at 90°C or more to wipe them out. These bacteria is not progressive, but it can cause an infection when in contact with a wound. It can also reside in dry surfaces. To use your towel indefinitely wash at higher temperature with no damage.

Toothbrushes
Unhygienic use of toothbrushes can lead to serious health problems, including arthritis, stroke, heart diseases and other chronic infections.

Studies have shown that an average contained  about 10 million germs including some of the most fatal ones such as E. coli, candida, staphylococcus and streptococcus. You may not see the build-up of germs, but a clear indicator is the distorted and broken bristles of your toothbrush that creates a haven for these bacterias. Replace your toothbrush after every 3 months.

Wooden spoons
Due to the nature of wood been more porous than plastic or metal, it makes it susceptible to carrying bacteria. For e.g. the bacteria prevalent in the kitchen is E. coli, usually from raw meat or as a result of unhygienic handling by children. This can lead to serious food poisoning.

Avoid putting wooden spoons in the dishwasher, especially not on a regular basis, as they may crack hence housing these bacteria. Instead soak in disinfectant for about half an hour and wash with boiling soapy water. Replace if it cracks or you notice sections of it has become soft or dark (this indicates that the wood is rotting and hence accumulating bacteria). Otherwise,  replace after every 5 years.

Kitchen sponges/cloths
Did you know kitchen sponges are 200 more infested with bacteria than a lavatory? Its warm, damp and porous nature make them an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. They also spread germs easily by as they are moved from surface to surface.

Ensure you have different cloths for different jobs e.g. one for washing dishes and another for work tops.  Wash these cloths at high temperature (at least 90°C) preferably in a dishwasher, as the powerful chemicals of the dishwasher tablet kills the germs.

For sponges, they should be squeezed out and dipped in disinfectant and rinsed in water so hot that you can't put your hand in it. However, an even efficient way to kill germs is to put the sponges in the microwave. Two minutes of microwaving on full power kills or inactivates more than 99 per cent of all living bacteria in kitchen sponges. In fact, it's the heat rather than radiation that kills these bugs. And as microwave work by stirring water molecules, it is better to put wet rather than dry sponges in the oven.

It's recommended that you replace after every three months. 

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