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5 Quick Ways to Rid Your Home of Hidden Germs

There are more than 7,000 species of bacteria in our homes — and believe it or not, the toilet is not the No. 1 most germ-filled site! Here’s where the worst offenders are really lurking and how to banish them from your home — fast.

1. Sanitize Grocery Bags in the Spin Cycle

In one recent study, a whopping 50 percent of all reusable grocery bags tested were contaminated with E. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria. As it turns out, the opportunistic germs are hitching a ride on the groceries we carry home — such as raw chicken — and then spreading to other foods, as well as our countertops, when we set our bags down. The good news is that by simply throwing reusable cloth bags into the washing machine in hot water and running them through the dryer, it will kill virtually all of the bad-guy bacteria!

2. Clean Coffee Makers With a Vinegar Rinse

You probably never suspected your coffee maker of being a germ trap, but its water reservoir is a perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. The fix? About once a month, fill it with white vinegar ($11.98, Amazon) and run the machine twice, advises Costello. “The vinegar is acidic, which gets rid of unwanted microbes.”

To remove any lingering vinegar smell afterward, just run plain water through a brew cycle.

3. Zap Sponge Gunk With a Quick Nuke

The top germ hot spot in your home is actually the kitchen sponge, asserts consumer safety expert Mindy Costello. The problem is that the sponge picks up germs from whatever it touches, and because it stays moist, it feeds them, so they multiply. To sanitize it, just pop it into the microwave for two minutes once a day (the heat kills bacteria) and replace it ($1.81, Amazon) once every two weeks.

4. Knockout Bathroom Germs in the Dishwasher

Your toothbrush and holder are among the biggest germ magnets in your home. “Not only are they damp bacteria havens, the spray from every toilet flush can travel up to 15 feet in the air, landing on them,” reveals Elizabeth Hemmings, author of Easy Green Cleaning ($11.99, Amazon). Luckily, de-germing both your toothbrush and holder is easy: “Simply run them through the dishwasher once a week, and voilá — no more ick!”

5. De-Grime TV Remotes With a Spritz of Vodka

We touch remotes constantly, so it’s no wonder that nearly 70 percent are teeming with mold and 14 percent with staph bacteria — yikes! To clean them, just spray a cloth with one part water and one part vodka ($21.99, Amazon), then wipe them down. Says Hemmings, “Vodka kills bacteria, including staph, in 10 seconds. Plus, it dries quickly, making it safe for electronics.”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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