10 Germ Magnets That Need Spring Cleaning

The obvious germ factories are well-known: cutting boards, carpets, shoes, hands. But there are many seemingly innocuous sources that can make you very sick. Spring is the time to emerge from hibernation and rethink cleaning habits with an eye to health. Fewer trips to the doctor mean fewer medications, which in turn mean more money in your pocket.

No need to go overboard, though. Some germs are good -- they build up your immunity to certain bacteria. There is a happy medium between obsessive hand sanitizing and not washing after using the restroom. Here are 10 safe havens for germs that belong on your spring-cleaning list.

DISHWASHER

It might seem that something with the word "washer" in its name would be as clean as a whistle. Nope. The dishwasher is one of the dirtiest spots in the kitchen. Food particles that remain on the dishes after loading create a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can make you sick. Reviewed.com recommends multiple methods for keeping your dishwasher safe from troublesome germs, including one technique that involves a jar of Tang drink mix.

DOOR HANDLES, LIGHT SWITCH PLATES, AND KNOBS

It's hard to go anywhere without touching a door handle, switch plate, or knob. Then think of the hordes who have been there before you. Light switch plates are especially troublesome because of all the nooks and crannies. Do everyone in the household a favor by routinely using a safe disinfectant on these surfaces. If out in public, consider using the paper towel you dried your hands with in the restroom to open the door before throwing it away -- or carry wipes.

PANTRY

Spring is a good time to go through your pantry and refrigerator in search of foodstuffs that were shoved to the back an untold number of months ago. Check for shelf-life dates to determine what is still safe and what is not. Although many dry and canned products (rice, pasta, spices, tomato sauce, beans, and the like) and refrigerated standbys (salad dressings and condiments) have lengthy shelf lives, this can lead to a false sense of security. If you can't read an expiration date or just aren't sure, abide by the old maxim: "When in doubt, throw it out." Eating expired food can put you at risk for gastrointestinal distress and other uncomfortable illnesses.

TOWELS AND SHEETS

We get up close and personal with sheets and towels at least once a day, allowing them to pick up germs, allergens, dirt, and other bits of nasty. Hygiene experts recommend changing sheets and towels every seven to10 days. Getting into a routine, maybe picking one day of the week as "sheets and towels" day, can help reduce the spread of germs and the likelihood of anyone at home getting sick. If you are sick, make sure your towel is yours only for the week and wash it as soon as you feel better.
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BED PILLOWS AND MATTRESSES

Pillows and mattresses accumulate dust, dead skin, sweat, drool, and germs. Replacing pillow cases and sheets takes care of only part of the problem. The accumulation of these particles in the place where you rest your head every night can cause repeated allergy flare ups, which can lead to prolonged medication and doctors' visits. Most bed pillows can be cleaned fairly easily. A Bowl Full of Lemons provides a tutorial for keeping pillows fresh and germ-free. Prevention also recommends replacing pillows every year and a mattress every nine to10 years (more often if you aren't sleeping well).

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CELL PHONE

We're all guilty of taking the cell phone into the kitchen, the bathroom, the grocery store, and sometimes even (gasp) the public restroom. In the many miles this mobile device traverses daily, it picks up more than the 25,000 germs cavorting on a toilet seat, according to Clean Link. And after you've been sick, do you clean the phone? Geeksugar offers tips for thoroughly cleaning all your portable devices.

PURSES AND WALLETS

Much like cell phones, purses and wallets travel with us everywhere. According to Huffington Post, the bottoms of women's purses pick up bacteria that can cause a variety of illnesses, from colds to diarrhea. Regularly replacing these items is one way to limit the germs' impact. Dr. Oz suggests wiping down the contents of your purse with antibacterial wipes and not bringing it farther than the front door to avoid the risks of exposing other areas of your home (especially the kitchen).

COFFEEMAKER

Because bacteria thrive in damp places, your morning cup o'Joe may be at risk for contamination. Keeping the coffee maker clean means more than running water over the components; scrubbing with soap and water is necessary to remove harmful germs. Fox News says a weekly breakdown and cleaning is optimal, with a monthly run-through using a vinegar solution for further protection.

TOOTHBRUSHES

For something that is used in your mouth at least twice a day, a toothbrush is not all that clean. WebMD cites research from the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science that found that drops of bacteria can float around the bathroom for up to two hours after the toilet is flushed. To prevent germs from settling on your toothbrush, flush the toilet with the lid down, keep toothbrushes as far away from the toilet as possible, and replace them often. Replacing a toothbrush following an illness is an easy way to avoid renewed exposure to the germs.

KEYBOARD AND MOUSE

Those of us with desk jobs are constantly going from car to computer, bathroom to computer, lunch to computer, and so on. By the time your hands hit the keyboard and grab the mouse again, you've likely accumulated quite a few germs. Never mind all the crumbs dropped in between the keys after scarfing down lunch or a snack. Hand washing is the No. 1 protection against transferring bacteria to and from computer components. Also make sure to clean the keyboard and mouse frequently.