When Is the Last Time You Cleaned

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Do you think your house is spotless? You might consider yourself clean and mean, but the insides of your appliances may tell a different tale. A look at what lurks on certain items under a microscope could give you the streaming horrors. When was the last time you disinfected your purse? Your phone? 

Germs can linger on surfaces. They transfer to your hands, you rub your eyes or wipe your mouth and bam. You’re down with the sickness. 

Prevent illness and keep your family healthier by doing a deep dive. When is the last time you cleaned these nine frequently used but seldom disinfected items? 

Portrait of a beautiful housewife cleaning dust with protective yellow gloves. Woman happy cleaning concept

1. Your Washing Machine 

You might not think of the device that washes your clothes as something that needs cleaning, but it does. If you don’t, bacteria can build up, causing odors even in fresh loads. Using scented beads won’t help, as they can leave marks on your clothes. 

Fortunately, cleaning your washing machine is as simple as putting a special tablet in the basin and running a cycle. You can also use baking soda and vinegar, peroxide or bleach. Do this once a month for maximum freshness — you’ll notice the difference with each load. 

2. Your Dishwasher 

Here’s another gadget that handles dirty work for you — wait, you have to clean it, too? Well, yes. Like your washer machine, all those oogy bacteria that come off your plates can accumulate over time. It makes each wash less efficient, can lead to streaks and may increase your family’s risk of illness. 

Fortunately, this machine is even easier to clean than a washer. Simply empty the device, add a cup of pure white distilled vinegar or extra-strength cleaning vinegar to a small bowl and place it in the bottom basket. Run the dishwasher on the highest setting and disinfect it in a single cycle. Plus, today’s Energy Star appliances are so water and energy-efficient, it takes fewer resources to run them than washing by hand, so you aren’t impacting your footprint much. 

3. Your Remotes and Light Switches 

During the pandemic’s heyday, you sat and cleaned every button with rubbing alcohol. How well did you keep up with that habit after you got vaccinated and mask restrictions disappeared, though? If it slipped your mind, you aren’t alone — consider this a friendly reminder. 

Anything that sees tons of hand traffic will accumulate bacteria and viruses. Break out the alcohol swabs again if you have nasty crumbs. Otherwise, a once-over with a specially-made disinfectant screen wipe or a swipe with a funky UV ray germ killer does the trick. However, these devices don’t work well if the germs remain covered with grime, so perhaps a one-two punch approach is best. 

4. Your Air Fryer 

It’s easy to see when your microwave needs a little “Angry Mama” love, but the inside of your air fryer basket is darker and more mysterious. It’s easy to fall into the trap of reusing it without washing it first — after all, it only uses air and heat, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always get hot enough to kill every germ, and that nasty stuff can linger and grow on food particles. 

Fortunately, cleaning this device is often as easy as putting the basket in the dishwasher and giving the rest of the machine a wipe-down with an antibacterial wipe. However, you might opt for hand-washing if concerned about damaging the nonstick coating. 

5. Your HVAC System 

Indoor air quality made news headlines two short years ago, but you also might have neglected this task once the worst pandemic panic passed. If you can see gray streaks around your vents, you have dirty ducts that you need to address. 

Take a multi-step approach: 

  • Begin by powering down your system, removing your old filter and sweeping up any dust bunnies. 
  • Then, remove the filter grate and vent covers. Use your vacuum to suck out any visible debris and wipe any smudges from your walls. 
  • Reassemble everything, put in a new filter and restart the system. 

6. Under Your Furniture 

If you have young kids, you know that anything and everything they find can end up in their mouths. Even seemingly innocuous objects can pose harm to little ones. In Gavin de Becker’s book “Protecting the Gift,” one mother tells how her child nearly choked as a piece of string she was vacuuming wrapped around their wee throat. Those things you casually dropped before can spell disaster — clean them up. 

Once a week, check under your furniture. If necessary, slide that couch or end table to the side and vacuum beneath. You should ideally vacuum once a week anyway — become slightly more mindful as you do. 

7. Your Backpack, Purse or Briefcase

These items accompany you everywhere, picking up germs along the way. Use the one-two punch method described for remotes above. Start with a scrub with an antibacterial wipe unless it would harm the material. Mild soap also breaks the germy bonds, and a slightly damp rag removes residue. 

Then, whip out your UV wand and give it a second germ-busting treatment. You can pick these up for less than $20 at hardware stores like Ace. 

8. Your Laptop and Phone

Follow the same instructions as for remotes and briefcases, using electronics-safe wipes. 

9. Your Bed Pillows 

Do you know you have microscopic friends eating your skin while you sleep? They’re called dust mites, and while not harmful, they can make sleep elusive by keeping you stuffy. 

Most pillows are machine-washable, so follow the directions on the tags. Exceptions include memory foam, which requires gentle hand-washing and drying. 

Catch Up on These Seldom-Cleaned Items

Germs can lurk in unexpected places. Your house might look clean — but what would a microscope reveal? 

Catch up on these seldom-cleaned items by following the above tips. Your reward is a healthier self and family. 

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