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6 Sneaky Germ Hot Spots You Probably Don’t Know About

Research reveals the unexpected places bacteria and viruses lurk. Read on to learn how to avoid them—and ward off illness!

We often think of germs as being on things like door handles, light switches, and cell phones. But they are actually in a lot more places than that, which is why we have rounded up the 6 most surprising germ hot spots out there and how to get rid of them for good!

1. Reusable grocery bags

Yikes! According to Loma Linda University researchers, our eco-friendly reusable totes are also, unfortunately, germ-friendly (99% of them test positive for illness-causing bacteria and viruses). And the problem isn’t just leaky chicken and meat packaging — those handy carry-alls also pick up germs when they’re plunked down in grocery carts and on check-out conveyors, and when we multi-purpose them to lug around gym clothing, shoes and more. The good news: Experts say just opting for cotton or canvas bags, then washing them in hot water and drying well after each use can cut pathogen levels by as much as 100%.

Related: Germ Hot Spots MDs Want You To Know About + Easiest Ways To Clean Them

2. Germ hot spots: Vacuum cleaners

Carpets trap six times more dirt and grime than wood, tile and other flooring materials do, so it’s no wonder at least 50% of vacuum cleaner attachments test positive for fecal bacteria and other harmful germs. Fortunately, University of North Carolina research suggests using a disinfectant spray (such as Lysol or Clorox) to lightly spritz your beater brush and the underside of your vacuum’s powerhead after each use — or after vacuuming grimy spots such as the entryway if you’re moving into cleaner areas of your home — can kill up to 100% of germs before they spread. More good news: Since these spritzes evaporate quickly, they won’t damage surfaces when you vacuum.

3. Shower curtain liners

Germ Hot Spots: Shower curtain

Moisture-loving bacteria breed like wildfire on damp shower curtains, and even liners that look squeaky-clean can be teaming with millions of lung-irritating microbes per square inch. Thankfully, San Diego State researchers say regularly washing off what those germs are feasting on (soap scum) can instantly halt their growth and spread. To do: Each time you’re cleaning the bathroom, toss your fabric or vinyl curtain liner into the wash (use the gentle cycle and lots of warm, soapy water, then hang back in the tub to dry). Also smart: Keep your shower curtain closed between uses so there are fewer damp nooks and crannies for germs to grow in.

Related: Is Pink Mold in the Shower Dangerous? Mold Experts Weigh In + How To Clean It With Ease

4. Germ hot spots: Spice jars

It’s understandable that the spices and seasoning jars kept within arm’s reach of the stove are exposed to splatters and cross-contamination as we chop, measure and cook. But researchers at New Jersey’s Rutgers University found that 48% of jars used while cooking­—even those tucked in a cupboard—were contaminated with illness-causing bacteria. The simple fix? Once a week, give your most-used jars a wipe-down with the same disinfectant you use to scrub your kitchen sink and countertops.

Related: Your Dried Herbs & Spices *Do* Expire — Here’s How To Tell When To Toss Them

5. Office armchairs

You’d think a computer mouse would be the grimiest thing at a busy work station, yet office chair arms and desk tops team with 12 times more germs per square inch, since those are the surfaces where the crumbs and other food residue that germs love to feast on is most often found. Instead of giving up your much-needed snacks and sips, start each day by grabbing a fresh disinfecting wipe and thoroughly cleaning your chair arms and desk top. Infectious disease researchers say getting into this a.m. routine can cut your pathogen exposure by 95% or more.

6. Germ hot spots: Pet bowls

Pets will stick their snouts into pretty much anything, so it’s probably no surprise that their food and water dishes team with millions of illness-causing germs, including fecal coliform bacteria and drug-resistant staphylococcus, and they consistently rank as some of the most contaminated objects in any home. To make sure your furry friends (and you!) stay healthy, toss their food and water dishes into the dishwasher every day, or scrub daily with hot, soapy water. North Carolina State scientists say this simple trick can make germ levels plunge by 85% or more.

Related: Study: You’re Likely Not Cleaning Your Pet’s Bowls Enough — Vet Explains Why It Matters, Especially If You Feed Them This Food

For more on cleaning, click through the links below!

Experts Reveal Just How Long Can Clothes Sit Wet in the Washer Before Getting Moldy

How to Clean a Toilet Tank: Plumbers Explain Why It Can Save You From Pricey Repairs

How to Get Streak-Free Windows + Why Cleaning Them on a Cloudy Day Guarantees the Best Results

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