16 Filthy Things Even Clean Freaks Miss

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While much of the world is busy with Marie Kondo's "The Art of Tidying Up" methods, we're over here less worried about keeping items that spark joy and more worried about getting rid of things that bring us unpleasantness, like germs and the illnesses they can cause. So while it's fine to go on a purging bender, you should also purge your house of these 16 filthy surfaces.

Cleaning Supplies


Imagine all the dust, germs, and bacteria your rags and sponges are picking up, then imagine expecting them to clean surfaces. US News & World Reports says cleaning your cleaning supplies is imperative to a clean house, while a study by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) points to the dish sponge and rags as the dirtiest things in your home. Throw your rags in the wash every one to two days, shake out your dusters and brooms weekly, and microwave your kitchen sponge for two minutes daily, then completely replace them every two weeks.

Soap Dispenser Pumps


Washing your hands is a great first step in eliminating germs but have you ever thought about how dirty the top of the soap dispenser pump gets? According to a survey of professional cleaners done by, the soap dispenser is one of the dirtiest surfaces in your home and often the most overlooked. To clean it, just use a disinfectant wipe or a paper towel sprayed down with vinegar and wipe the whole dispenser off several times a week.

Entryway Rugs


The first thing your feet touch when you return home is your entryway floor. Now think about what your shoes touch daily: fecal matter in public restrooms, toxic chemicals from lawn care treatments, lead that occurs naturally in the soil, and more. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highly recommends shoes not be worn in the home, but even if you abide by this, your entryways can still get littered with unseen germs and toxins as you come and go. Consider using only rugs that can be regularly tossed in the washer and dryer at entry points.

Washing Machine


The washing machine is a warm, moist environment perfect for bacteria growth, not to mention its main job is to clean soiled clothes which can cause a build-up of detergent and grime. To ensure that your clothes come out as clean as possible and smelling their best, Better Homes and Gardens recommends cleaning the washing machine every three to four months. Run an empty cycle with hot water and two cups of white vinegar to kill bacteria and loosen any residue. Then simply wipe out the inside of the machine and run a cycle of water to wash it all away.

Toothbrush Holder


In the NSF study, the toothbrush holder was found to be the third germiest item in the home. NSF recommends running toothbrush holders through the sanitize cycle a couple times per week if your holder is dishwasher-safe. If not, hand wash with hot, soapy water and follow up with a sanitizing wipe one to two times per week.

Utensil Tray


Imagine how many hands, with who knows what on them, reach into the utensil tray daily — not to mention all the crumbs that fall in and make themselves at home. It's a good idea to empty the entire tray and wash it in the sink with warm, soapy water at least once a month.

Pet Bowls


According to the NFS study, pet bowls were found to be one of the top five dirtiest things in the average household. Pet bowls should be washed as frequently as human dishes. That means once a day or after each use. The sanitizing cycle of your dishwasher works just fine on these.



According to a survey via, one area that is often overlooked is the refrigerator. Food gets dropped, spills happen, dust and hair get blown in when the door is opened, and all of it can just fester inside the fridge. It's recommended that you remove items from your fridge and freezer at least once a month and thoroughly wipe down the inside (including the drawers) with a warm water and vinegar solution.

Coffee Makers


Sure, most people wash their coffee pot, but the actual coffee machine needs to be cleaned, too. As mentioned in the NSF study, the coffee reservoir — dark, damp, and a prime breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria — falls in the top five dirtiest items in the house. To clean it, either follow the manufacturer cleaning instructions or fill the reservoir with vinegar. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then run the vinegar through the machine followed by two to three water cycles to get the vinegar smell out. This should be done at least once a month or every 40 to 80 brews.



Consumer Reports points out that while food particles do get washed down the drain, it's important to keep the dishwasher clean in order for it to run in tip-top shape and to prevent foul odors from seeping out into your home. The first step is to clear the filter of trapped food and scrape off any food caked on the spraying arms. Do this weekly. Once a month, fill a bowl with white vinegar and set it on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Run a normal cycle without detergent. Once the cycle is done, use a rag to wipe up any grime that has loosened up around the bottom of the door.

Remote Controls


In a study done by Travel Math called Hotel Hygiene Exposed, the remote control was discovered to be the second dirtiest surface in the nine hotel rooms they tested. Remote controls are often overlooked at home, too, but the good news is that despite lots of nooks and crannies, they're easy to clean. Just dip a cotton cloth in rubbing alcohol and wipe down the remote. Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to wipe around the bottoms and in all the crevices.

Cell Phone and Tablet Screens


British company Which? swabbed 30 tablet and phone screens to find upwards of 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause severe cases of the stomach bug, on the dirtiest. By comparison, the office toilet seat they swabbed contained 20 units. Digital Trends recommends cleaning your screen with a soft microfiber cloth to remove residue and dust particles. If you need some moisture for tough gunk, lightly wet the microfiber cloth and wipe the screen. It is not recommended to use rubbing alcohol as that can cause damage, but there are specific screen wipes you can purchase if necessary.

Handles, Doorknobs, Switches, & Handrails
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You come home after work or school, flip on the light, and unknowingly transfer a day's worth of germs to your light switch. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms how easy it is to transfer germs from hands to hard surfaces and recommends washing your hands with soap and clean, running water frequently. At home, take a disinfecting wipe and wipe down commonly touched surfaces, knobs, and switches a few times a week, if not daily during cold and flu season.



According to, a pillow becomes one-third skin, dust mites, and dust mite droppings after just a few months without washing. One great alternative to cleaning your pillow — which can be hard to do — is to get a pillow protector that provides a barrier between your pillow and pillow case. Otherwise, Consumer Reports recommends fluffing your pillow daily to remove dust; airing it out once a month by hanging it outside on bright, breezy days; and washing it every few months on the lowest agitate cycle followed by the lowest heat cycle in the dryer. You can look up your particular pillow type to get more specific directions, and always make sure the pillow is completely dry before using it again.

Duvets and Duvet Covers


When we sleep we sweat, loose skin dander, and attract dust mites. These all build up not only in our sheets but also on the duvet and duvet cover. Remove the duvet cover and wash with your bed sheets at least once a month. The duvet is a little trickier. Check the label for any washing instructions and take to the dry cleaner if needed or if it doesn't fit in your washing machine. If it does fit, wash on the normal spin cycle, then dry on low heat in the dryer or hang to dry, preferably outside in the sunlight. If hanging it up outside isn't an option, you may line-dry it inside and then run a warm iron over it to kill any residual bacteria. Make sure it is completely dry before putting it back on the bed.



Skin dander, dust mites, and mite dropping can also accumulate on your mattress. A good mattress cover can help cut down on this, you still want to clean it thoroughly twice a year, suggests Consumer Reports. To clean your mattress, use the brush attachment on your vacuum and go over the whole surface, including the crevices. Sprinkle the surface with baking soda and allow it to sit for 24 hours, preferably near a window that lets plenty of sunshine in to further activate the baking soda. Re-vacuum and make the bed as normal.