Healthy Hostess

How to Keep a Super-Clean House

Ericka McConnell

You've worked hard to make your house a beautiful, peaceful haven—but even super-tidy homes can harbor unwelcome germs. In fact, "you're more likely to get sick from a germ in your own house than from any other source," says Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona.

But, not to worry: we've tracked down these germs and come up with simple strategies to get rid of them. Here, 10 places in your home, ranked from most to least germy by a team of experts, and easy ways to keep them clean—and you healthy.

1. Kitchen sink, countertop, and sponges
There are lots of places for germs to hang out in the kitchen, including the drain in your sink (typically home to more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch), the countertop (a welcome mat for food crumbs and meat juices), and the sponges, rags, scrubbers, and towels you use for cleaning (roughly 70% harbor microbes like E. coli, the bacteria responsible for most urinary tract infections). But for every germy hot spot in the kitchen, there's a smart and simple way to clean up.

Simple Fix: After you rinse or cook food, clean the sink, counters, and faucet with soap and water or an antibacterial cleanser. (Water washes germs away. A cleanser with bleach kills the germs.) It's tempting to leave your cleaning implement—a damp rag or sponge—hanging around to use the next day, but that could create a germ breeding ground, says Michael G. Schmidt, PhD, professor and vice chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Instead, sanitize your sponge or brush in the dishwasher and your dishrags in the washing machine. To really disinfect the sink and drain, clean them twice a week with a solution of one tablespoon of bleach and one quart of water: scrub the basin, then pour the solution down the drain.

Next Page: 2. Your cutting boards