Your clean laundry
A load of underwear will transfer at least 100 million E. coli bacteria—the culprit behind diarrhea—to the washing machine, which becomes a breeding ground that can contaminate other clothing. With a front-loading machine, it’s worse; water settles at the bottom and creates the moist environment bacteria loves. Your toilet seat, on the other hand, is too dry to support a very large bacterial population.
Clean it: Disinfect your machine by washing a load of whites with bleach first, or cleaning your washer with bleach at least once a month (pour two cups of bleach into the detergent compartment, and run empty on the hottest cycle before wiping dry; leave the door open after). To avoid spreading bacteria, wash underwear separately with hot water and a color-safe bleach replacement. Here are some tricks professional housecleaners use to keep their own homes germ-free.
Your smartphone or tablet
A 2018 study from Initial Washroom Hygiene found that phones are more than six times dirtier than toilet seats, according to the Daily Mail. The company swabbed 50 phones for germs and found that the average phone had 1,479 bacteria “hot spots,” compared to 220 on toilet seats. A leather phone cases that doubled as a wallet was the biggest offender, carrying 17 times more germs than the toilet. Another uncomfortable detail: In a 2016 survey of 1,000 U.K. employees, about one third admitted to using their phones while using the toilet. “A smartphone which is brought into a washroom will invariably end up with invisible traces of feces and urine on it,” hygiene expert Lisa Ackerley said in a report. “These will then transfer to the owner’s hands.”
Clean it: Reduce your exposure to germs by cleaning your electronic screens with screen wipes or a damp, soft cloth—and leaving them out of the bathroom in the first place.
Fun fact: Bacteria love munching on dead skin cells. Considering that the average person sheds about 1.5 million every hour, that turns your rugs into a fine dining experience when you add food particles, pet dander, pollen, and other bits. About 200,000 bacteria live in each square inch of carpet (nearly 700 times more than on your toilet seat), including E. coli, staphylococcus, and salmonella.
Clean it: Since your vacuum cleaner can’t reach to the bottom of the carpet, hire a company to deep clean at least once a year. Learn what the dirtiest items in hotel rooms are.