For most of us, our beds are the comfiest spot in our homes, a place best suited for rest and relaxation. Maybe a little too much relaxation, though—the one-third of our entire lives that we spend in bed apparently makes us pretty nonchalant when it comes to cleaning our sheets. In fact, if you’re sleeping on dirty sheets, we can guarantee that you’re not sleeping alone every night, because your bed is definitely a host to fungi, bacteria, allergens, and lots of… fluids.
Get your washer ready (and maybe get out the rest of your cleaning supplies while you’re at it), because we’re about to tell you just how dirty your home really is.
Your sheets are worse than you’d think.
The average human produces an estimated 26 gallons of sweat each year while in bed. Where does all of it go? Some will be absorbed into your clothes which, thankfully, you can later take off, but the rest sits in your pillows, sheets, and mattress.
It’s a thought that’s definitely gross enough on its own but, combine all that sweat with a hot, humid environment during the warmer months, and you’ve got what scientists describe as an “ideal fungal culture medium.” Ew.
Oh, and it’s not just one type of fungus.
Or even just fungus, for that matter. A 2015 study found that the average feather- or synthetic-filled pillow might contain between four and 16 different types of fungi after only a year and a half of use. The scariest part? Some of the microscopic stuff lurking in your bed might not have even come from you.
In addition to things like sweat, spit, skin cells, and fluids from your nether regions, your sheets and pillows can also contain things like feces, dust mites, animal dander, pollen, soil, lint, and more.
Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University, says it only takes about a week for a significant amount of this stuff to add up, and things like pollen and dander tend to cause trouble. “Even if you don’t have allergies per se, you can have an allergic response,” he told Business Insider. It makes sense when you consider that you’re essentially forced to breathe in any particles sitting on or floating around your bed, where they can trigger all of the sneezing and sniffling they want.
Tierno said that to keep our sheets clean on a microscopic level, we have to clean them as if everything on them was actually visible—it’s recommended to wash them at least every two weeks, but once a week is ideal.
“If you touched dog poo in the street, you’d want to wash your hands,” he said. “Consider that analogous to your bedding. If you saw what was there – but of course you don’t see it – after a while you have to say to yourself, ‘Do I want to sleep in that?'”
The rest of your house isn’t much better, either.
If you would’ve guessed that a spot like your toilet seat was the germiest place in your dwelling, think again—in fact, a 2011 study found that it wasn’t even one of the top 10 grimiest spots.
In the study, NSF International swabbed 30 of the same surfaces in 22 different homes, giving them a total of 660 samples. They set out to test for levels of things like E. coli, salmonella, mold, yeast, and staphylococcus bacteria. By determining the average germ count for each particular item swabbed in the homes, they were able to determine the areas that are likely to be the dirtiest for everyone. The results?
10. Cutting Boards
We use cutting boards all the time, and even when we aren’t using them, we usually keep them out for decoration. Welp, turns out they’re infested with germs. It may seem odd to soak wood in water, but as our video below will explain, it’s exceedingly worth it:
9. Oven Knobs
While 14 percent of oven knobs were also found to harbor coliform bacteria, a whopping 27 percent of them tested positive for mold and yeast.
To make sure they’re squeaky clean, take them off at least once a week—more if you actually get food on them—and wash them in soap and hot water.
8. Kitchen Countertops
Think again before you ever lay any food directly on your kitchen counter (although that could also be why they’re so dirty in the first place). Of those swabbed, 18 percent of counters had mold on them, and a terrifying 32 percent were positive when it came to salmonella and E. coli.
Unless your counters require some sort of special cleaning solution, they should be rinsed with a diluted mix of bleach and water every time you finish preparing food.
7. Pet Toys
If you thought your dog’s mouth was cleaner than yours, you’ve been living a lie this whole time, and their toys are proof. Approximately 23 percent of pet toys swabbed were found to contain dangerous staph bacteria, and 14 percent contained coliform bacteria. More than half were also found to harbor yeast and mold.
To keep them clean, throw soft toys in the washer and scrub harder toys with hot water and soap. When they get too gross, just toss them.
6. Faucet Handles
You obviously can’t wash your hands without running water—perhaps that’s why sink handles are so dirty. Many that were swabbed were contaminated with mold, and 5 percent of them contained staph bacteria.
It’s recommended that you clean them daily with a disinfectant spray or wipe.
5. Coffee Makers
Not the outside, which you may or may not wipe down every once in a while. We’re talking about the inside, where the warm, moist environment allows different organisms to flourish. Fifty percent of all coffee makers swabbed contained both yeast and mold, while 9 percent contained coliform bacteria.
The manual for your machine might tell you how to clean it, but you can also run some white vinegar through it and then rinse until clean. Check out how:
4. Pet Water Bowls
If pets’ toys are bad, how terrible is their water bowll? Eighteen percent of them swabbed contained coliform bacteria, and 45 percent of them were home to yeast and mold.
Try to hand-wash them at least once a week with soap and warm water, but you can also throw them in the dishwasher, too, as the long as the material allows it.
3. Toothbrush Holders
Toothbrush holders can be gross for a lot of reasons, one of them being because they often sit so close to the toilet—nothing like sticking a poop-coated stick in your mouth to start your day. Fourteen percent of them swabbed contained staph bacteria, 27 percent had coliform bacteria (yuck!), and a massive 64 percent contained yeast and mold.
Don’t forget about these the next time you’re doing the dishes—either toss them in the hot, soapy water to clean or put them in the dishwasher if it’s safe. In the meantime, you should store your toothbrushes in a closed bathroom cabinet or closet.
2. Kitchen Sink
This one isn’t too surprising, considering all of the things that get thrown into the sink, many of which get left there for a while. Twenty-seven percent of kitchen sinks tested positive for mold, while 45 percent had coliform bacteria—raw chicken, anyone?
Don’t just rely on your dish water to keep the sink clean. Make sure you actually give it a scrub from time to time to disinfect the surface.
And the award for the dirtiest spot in your home goes to…
Of those tested, 18 percent harbored staph bacteria, 77 percent contained coliform bacteria, and a massive 86 percent were positive for yeast and mold.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a reliable way to keep them clean, so you’ll want to swap them out every two weeks or so. If you’re waste-conscious, you can also try microwaving them for a few minutes every couple of days or soaking them in hot bleach water and then giving them a rinse.