It Looks Clean Enough, But Is It?

October is the month of witches and scary themes. But have you ever considered the haunting idea that germs, dust mites, bacteria and viruses might be lurking in your home?

What do you do as soon as you enter a room? Turn on the light switch? That Halloween witch on your door might be scary, but your light switch might actually be scarier!

More than likely, the last 20 people that flipped that switch didn't wash their hands immediately before touching it. How many people have touched that switch since it was last cleaned? I can’t remember the last time I washed mine. I clean the surrounding plate when I see fingerprints, but not the actual switch. It’s a mysterious electrical device that I would never wash or spray with a cleanser.

Let's explore places where germs often lay in waiting, hiding in your home for your unsuspecting body. You may be shocked to find out how many places germs and bacteria are lurking, and that the toilet isn’t the scariest one on our list. When I was a child, the bathroom was considered the ‘dirtiest’ and the kitchen the cleanest room in the house.

Several years ago, a surprising article shocked readers and was passed around in record numbers. According to researchers, bacteria love the kitchen sink’s wet atmosphere and the number of E. coli germs in the kitchen sink usually exceeds the number of bacteria and germs in the bathroom. After that article made its rounds, everyone I knew began taking extra effort to disinfect their kitchen sink and drains. It's a good start, but if you're trying to avoid the flu and cold viruses this year, you may be surprised to find out many germs are hiding in youir home, even if you live alone.

Objects that people touch several times throughout the day before they wash their hands are doorknobs, appliance handles and sink faucets. If someone in the house is ill, don’t forget to frequently wipe down all the doorknobs, handles and faucets to help slow down the spread of germs to other family members. Another stealth germy spot? Electronics! Few people clean their TV remotes, computer keyboards and cell phones when they clean the rest of the home. Do you share the computer with other family members and visitors? If so, you are also sharing their germs. Do they wash their hands before they use the keyboard? There have been studies that found morebacteria and germs on the family keyboard and cell phone than on the toilet seat.

Many people drink coffee or other beverages and eat while they work or play on the computer. Over time, food crumbs, sputum from sneezing and coughing, dust and pet hair all end up on the keyboard and between the keys. My keyboard looked clean enough, but when a friend suggested I gently run a business card down the key rows, I admit I was shocked at what I saw had been hiding.

You may have heard that hotel TV remote-controls are covered with germs, but your home TV remote may not be much better. One study found cold viruses on more than 50% of TV remotes. When the average person doesn’t feel well, they often watch TV. Everyone in the house usually handles it sometime during the day. Since very few people wash their hands before sitting down to watch TV, the family remote could be one of the ‘dirtiest’ objects in your house. You may wish to disinfect the keyboard, cell phone and remote frequently during cold and flu season, remembering not to get any drops of liquid into the keyboards or keypads. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions when cleaning your phone or computer and be sure to unplug it first.

Another scary question is, "How ‘dirty’ is your bed pillow?" You change the sheets on a regular basis, but few people wash their pillows. According to a study by Ohio State University, 10% of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is dead mites. Another article said that the average bed pillow gains almost a pound in a year! Where is that extra weight coming from? The answer is scary; dust mites, oil, sweat and dead skin cells make up most of the extra weight. Experts recommend washing your bed pillow at least twice a year. How to clean it? Follow the directions on the tag if it is still on the pillow. Protect your pillow from allergens between washings by using a dust miteprotector and a pillowcase.
A microbiologist once compared a flushing toilet to an invisible germ fireworks display, and the microbes can go as far as 20 feet! Think of everything within 20 feet of your bathroom. Focus on objects that you will put in your mouth. Removing the bathroom water glass is probably a good start. Keeping the bristles of your toothbrush inside a holder will cut down the number of germs dramatically, but remember to also clean the holder frequently. The inside of a toothbrush holder is moist and dark, conditions that are perfect for germ incubation.

Also, to avoid hitchhiker germs remember to wipe the bottom of your purse or briefcase with disinfecting wipes before you set it down in your car or bring it into the house. You know your shoes have collected some questionable germs, so most people wipe their shoes on a mat and remove them when they step into the house. But briefcases and purses are set down on floors, or iffy environments, and then placed in our cars or homes without thinking. Many viruses or germs may have hitchhiked a ride to your house on the bottom of your purse or briefcase! Being mindful of where you place your purse in public places to avoid the most obvious germs and a quick wipe down will remove many of the germs.
Another germ fortress? Your automatic dishwasher. Since gallons of hot water and strong detergents swish around the inside, it’s easy to understand why so many people don’t 'clean’ the inside of the dishwasher. Over several weeks, small particles of soap, grease, food bits and oils can end up in the corners, filter and drains of the dishwasher. This can cause odors and may decrease the efficiency of your machine. Have a ‘handy’ friend help you remove and clean the filter or check it out as a ‘how to’ on YouTube.

These are just a few of the unexpected spots where germs may be hiding. We can also give a quick shout-out to the family car keys, gas pump handles, stair rails, shared power tool handles, and just about any place that humans touch. If you think of other frequented areas where we usually forget to eradicate germs, please send an email to [email protected], and don’t forget to ask me what portable hand cleaner I use on a regular basis to kill germs without bothering my skin.

Dr. Jim Ribley, D.C., is a chiropractor at Siegel Chiropractic, 21641 Allen Rd., Woodhaven. He received his Doctor of Chiropractic in 1993. He educates his clients about the importance of nutrition and a properly functioning nervous system, and options to overall better health. Call: 734-362-7500 or visit: www.siegelclinic.com for information or to schedule an appointment.

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