We all want our homes to feel sparkly clean, but there are some areas that may not be making it onto your household chores list.
Aisha Pandor, whose on-demand home services company SweepSouth helps thousands of people to keep their homes spotless, lists the places we often forget to clean.
In a study by global health organisation NSF International looking at where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, three of the top five germ hot spots were in the kitchen – which leads to the first area that needs a good spring clean.
The back of your fridge
Topping the list of places in the home that rarely gets cleaned is the back of the fridge – that’s the exterior back, not inside! The coils located there work to cool the air down, but they can’t do so efficiently if they’re coated with grime. To reach the coils, Aisha advises you unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall and gently brush off any dirt and dust on the coils.
Do this annually and it will help you save on power costs. A fridge is one of the top energy-using appliances in the home, and simply cleaning its exterior coils can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30 per cent. Remember to leave space between your fridge and the wall once you’ve pushed it back into position, to allow air to freely circulate.
Tiled backsplashes are often overlooked during cleaning, but they’re notorious for attracting grease and grime. That grease acts as a magnet for dust and dirt, says Aisha – not exactly the type of environment where you want to be preparing food. To clean backsplashes using natural products, mix two cups of distilled white vinegar with a cup of water and 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Dab a cloth into the mixture and rub over the tiles to clean. You can use this cleaning mixture on any shiny non-porous surface, like sinks, too.
Ovens and hobs
At the very heart of the kitchen’s food preparation, ovens are prime real estate for germs. Clean the interior regularly, and line the bottom with foil to catch any drips and spills. When the foil becomes grimy, simply peel off and throw away. It’s not just the inside that needs cleaning, though – stove knobs are in the top 10 for common places where germs hide. To clean, remove the knobs and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well, allow to dry, and reinstall. On a gas hob, dismantle the gas rings and clean separately in hot soapy water.
We love our pets but the NSF International germ study revealed that pet bowls were the fourth most germ-ridden area in the home. Wash pet bowls and dishes every day, either in the dishwasher or by hand in hot soapy water. Rinse off any residue, then air dry.
Chances are that you seldom take a close look at your can opener, yet it’s surprising how grimy this kitchen aid can become. Can openers can harbour bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, and should be washed after every use to clean the gears and cutting wheel. Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If there’s a build-up of dirty residue in your can opener’s wheel, Aisha has a nifty trick to clean it: simply clamp the wheels onto a piece of dry paper towel and turn the handle to get rid of any gunk.
Sort out your shower
Bathrooms are hotbeds for microbial growth but it’s particularly creepy to think that you may not be alone while you’re showering … with germs swarming on the floor and walls, and lurking unseen in the showerhead! Scientists from Manchester University have found that slime build-up inside showers can contain bacteria and fungi linked to a range of illnesses, including Legionnaires and Crohn’s Disease, as well as general skin, hair, eyes and ear complaints. With germs thriving in such a wet environment, Aisha advises that you regularly clean your shower’s interior with a bathroom disinfectant, not forgetting a shower’s two prime germ locations: the floor and shower curtain.
Clean out your make-up
Your pretty makeup collection may be the last place you’d expect nasties to be crawling around. However, experts warn that dirty makeup brushes can wreak havoc on the skin. The brushes you use to contour and apply blush, powder and eye colour trap product residue, skin oils and cells, and general dirt in their bristles – the ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dirty brushes could lead to acne breakouts and rashes, and even cause a fungal infection, E. coli, or a staph infection, which can be serious. If you wear makeup daily, clean your brushes every seven to 10 days by gently washing them with mild baby shampoo, then rinsing with cold water until the water runs clear. Lie the brushes on a towel, and leave to air dry.
Makeup products need attention, too
It’s not just make-up brushes that need a clean out, your products do, too. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology looked at the presence of bacteria in makeup products (lipstick, lip gloss, eyeliners, mascaras and beauty blenders) and found that 70 per cent to 90 per cent contained fungus and bacteria, including E. coli — which can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and respiratory illnesses.
The study highlighted beauty blenders, citing that 93 per cent had not been cleaned and 64 per cent had been dropped on the floor and continued to be used! Discard any old make-up that’s in your collection. Most make-up doesn’t have an expiry date, but be vigilant about how long it lasts. Switch out mascaras and liquid eyeliners every six months. Lipsticks will last a year, while blush, eyeshadow and foundation will last for two years.
While experts do say we need some exposure to germs to help build strong immune systems, we need to limit being around germs that cause serious illnesses, says Aisha. By cleaning the above areas regularly, you’ll help keep your home more hygienic and safer.