Have you washed your toothbrush lately? The surprising truth about how to keep your home truly clean | Homes

Bedding: weekly

This one is divisive. However, Hayley Leitch, presenter of Channel 5’s Dirty Home Rescue, says she “strongly encourages” people to wash their bedding once a week. Aside from the wonderful feeling of clean sheets, “we shed a huge amount of skin cells daily, which are a perfect food source for dust mites,” says Leitch. “By not washing your sheets regularly you are allowing them to thrive, which can cause allergies and even skin rashes.” To ensure that mites and bacteria are killed off, she advises washing at 60C.

Bath towels: weekly

Dirty towels can spread viruses, fungi and bacteria. To avoid this, cleaning expert Laura Mountford recommends changing them twice a week, and washing them once a week. “Towels can be washed on a cool 30C cycle to keep energy costs down,” she says.

“Instead of a hot wash, add a laundry cleanser to your normal detergent for a hygienic clean.” And no, hanging them to dry on a towel rail won’t mean you can wash them any less frequently. To keep the towels bright and fluffy, Mountford suggests using white vinegar in the fabric softener section of your washing machine drawer.

Toothbrushes: weekly

The average toothbrush is home to millions of bacteria, so just rinsing them after every use isn’t enough. Mountford recommends giving your toothbrush a more thorough clean at least once a week by “dissolving a denture tablet in a cup of water and leaving the toothbrush to soak overnight”. Toothbrush holders can also harbour viruses, bacteria and mould, so they should be washed weekly, too. For electric toothbrush chargers, wipe them down weekly after unplugging with a few drops of washing-up liquid on a damp microfibre towel.

Bins: monthly

Household bins are a germ hotspot and left uncleaned they can smell pretty unpleasant, too. So, give the insides a wash once a month, says Vaida Drungilaite, the owner of VIP Cleanings. “Put your empty bin under a hot shower and clean it with a sponge and some washing-up liquid,” she says.

When that’s done, turn the bin upside down to drain and dry it with a microfibre towel. To ward off the bad smells between washes, wipe the exterior of the bin with a probiotic spray once a week, Drungilaite says. “These are good bacteria which attack the bad bacteria.”

Fridges: monthly

A filthy fridge isn’t just unappetising; it can pose a serious health risk. There could be more than 1.8m bacteria lurking in your fridge, which can cause food poisoning and other illnesses. Wipe down your fridge weekly using a food-safe disinfectant to prevent the build up of bacteria and remove spills,” says Mountford. She also recommends doing a deep clean once a month – remove the shelves and drawers and soak them in warm soapy water.

“To keep your fridge smelling fresh, leave an open jar with a small amount of bicarbonate soda on the top shelf,” she says. Replace it roughly every three months.

Toilet every other day

From the flusher handle to the seat, it will be no surprise to learn that toilets are swarming with harmful bacteria and germs. So you should aim to clean your loo three times a week, says Georgia Ward, a cleaning expert who shares tips on Instagram.

“The first step is to get rid of dust from all of the external surfaces, using toilet paper to remove it,” Ward says. “This makes disinfecting much easier, as once your surfaces become wet with a cleaning product it’s then much harder to remove that dust with a cloth, as you end up sliding the dust around.”

Next, Ward advises spraying all of your toilet down with an antibacterial spray and leaving it to sit for five minutes.

“Wipe from top to bottom with a microfibre cloth. You can use either bleach or toilet cleaner in the bowl,” she says. “For a deeper clean, I recommend leaving it overnight.”

Shower heads: monthly

If the water pressure in your shower seems low, the likely culprit is limescale. To avoid this, Drungilaite says most people should clean their shower heads once a month. Others may need to do it more often: “If you have four or five people sharing one shower, or live in a hard water area, you should clean it every other week,”

Remove the head, pop it in the sink, and spray it with limescale remover. “I find natural solutions, like lemon and salt, don’t work as well,” says Drungilaite. “Place a paper towel over the shower head, allowing it to soak up the liquid and stick to it, and leave for about three minutes. Then, take a grout brush or hard sponge to remove the limescale. If it’s quite heavy, you’ll probably need to do it two or three times.”

If the shower head isn’t removable, spray it with a limescale remover, and then wrap a plastic bag over it tightly. “Leave for a few minutes. Then, use a soft handheld brush to get rid of any stubborn limescale,” she says. “Rinse well using a wet cloth (you can use running water from the shower) and dry thoroughly.”

Phone screens: weekly

Many of us will be horrified to learn that phone screens are dirtier than most toilet seats. We touch them so often they become breeding grounds for bacteria. Sarah McAllister, the founder of home-education platform Go Clean Co, recommends wiping them down at least once a week with a microfibre cloth spritzed with rubbing alcohol.

Jeans: occasionally

While some wearers swear by never washing their jeans, this isn’t necessarily the best idea for personal hygiene. Mountford recommends washing jeans after every four to five wears, but taking extra care while doing so, as washing them in the wrong way can change the fit and the colour: “First, turn the jeans inside out and fasten the buttons and zips to avoid snagging. Wash on a 30C short cycle with a slow spin speed, and allow to dry naturally. If you feel your jeans need a freshen up, use a handheld steamer to remove any odours or bacteria.”

If you want to go even longer between washes, Levi Strauss & Co recommends spot-cleaning to remove small stains with a damp cloth, an old toothbrush and a mild soap.

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Bath toys: monthly

Bath toys that are not cleaned regularly can be a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria and mould. “Once a month, throw them in the dishwasher in a mesh bag,” says McAllister. “Avoid toys with holes that let water in, as they get mouldy inside.”

Keyboards: weekly

Mountford recommends a weekly clean. “Firstly, unplug your laptop or keyboard,” she says. “Use a handheld vacuum with the brush attachment to remove dust and debris before wiping it down with a dry microfibre cloth.

“Clean your computer screen with a quality clean lint-free cloth to remove dirt and fingerprints: the ones for window and glass work really well. Don’t spray anything directly on to the screen or keyboard – if your laptop is sticky, spray glass cleaner on to a cloth and wipe.”

Reusable water bottles: daily

According to a recent study, reusable water bottles contain twice as many germs as the kitchen sink. “You should be cleaning these every day, or after every use,” says Natasha Blythe, a food hygiene expert at online training provider High Speed Training. “For a daily clean, wash in hot, soapy water. If you use a dishwasher, handwash the smaller parts,” says Blythe. “Take extra care with built-in straws; these are the perfect place for bacteria to grow.” Blythe recommends a bristle brush to clean the straw, or leave it to soak in hot water with a tablespoon of vinegar added.

Wooden floors: weekly

Vacuum every two or thee days and mop once a week, says McAllister. “Brooms just kick up dust and move the smaller particles of dirt around. I always vacuum before and after I mop, using one gallon of hot water to one tablespoon of laundry detergent.” It’s important to get as little water as possible on the floor, to prevent it from soaking into and damaging the wood. “You want your mop damp, not dripping.”

Washing machines: monthly

These appliances get dirty surprisingly quickly, so it’s worth cleaning them once a month, says Ward, so “remove your detergent drawer and soak it in warm soapy water – and spray it with mould remover if there is mould present. If not, use an antibacterial spray. You can use washing machine cleaner or soda crystals on the rest of the machine. Ensure the filter at the bottom is free from debris and run on a hot cycle. And leave the door and drawer open after every wash to help prevent the buildup of mould.”

Curtains: every 3-6 months

To keep dust and allergens at bay, Ward recommends vacuuming curtains every week. “Use the soft bristle brush to remove surface dust,” she says. Every three to six months, do a deeper clean. “A steam cleaner will remove odours and disinfect without having to remove them from the pole. For in-between cleans and refreshes, spray them down with a fabric spray.”

Rugs: monthly

Mountford recommends vacuuming rugs once a week – on both sides: “A lint remover is a great tool for getting out pet hair and dust from deep within the pile.” On top of this, do a deep clean monthly, “using carpet shampoo or non-bio liquid laundry detergent, and gently scrub with a sponge,” says Mountford.

Light switches and door handles: weekly

We carry more germs on our hands than we may realise – about 3,200 different types. “In a busy household, I’d recommend that door handles are wiped every few days,” says Blythe. “For a single person in an apartment, I’d probably say once a week or every fortnight. The same goes for the light switches.”

Wipe them down with antibacterial wipes or a spray (and cloth), and dry off with a clean, disposable cloth or kitchen roll. Remember not to use too much liquid when cleaning the light switch, or it’ll end up seeping into the gaps, says Blythe.

And the kitchen sink: daily

Even when they look clean, sinks are among the most unhygienic places in our homes. “We should disinfect them once a day, or more often if you are using them frequently or handling raw meat,” says Leitch. She recommends cleaning it with hot water and a teaspoon of washing-up liquid and wiping over the entire sink.

Then, to disinfect: “Use a spray disinfectant, or dilute some bleach in cold water and wipe over everything. Then, use a clean dry cloth to dry off the sink and finally add tea tree oil down the drains or baking soda and flush through with hot water.”

Bedding: weekly

Cleaning your bedding regularly is important to prevent dust mites and bacteria buildup. Hayley Leitch from Channel 5’s Dirty Home Rescue recommends washing your sheets once a week at 60C to kill off mites and bacteria.

Bath towels: weekly

Dirty towels can spread viruses and bacteria, so it’s important to change them twice a week and wash them once a week. Laura Mountford suggests washing towels on a cool 30C cycle and using a laundry cleanser for a hygienic clean.

Toothbrushes: weekly

Toothbrushes harbor millions of bacteria, so it’s recommended to clean them thoroughly at least once a week. You can dissolve a denture tablet in water and soak the toothbrush overnight. Also, remember to wash toothbrush holders weekly.

Bins: monthly

Household bins should be washed once a month to prevent bad smells and germ buildup. Vaida Drungilaite suggests cleaning the bin with hot water and washing-up liquid.

Fridges: monthly

A dirty fridge can pose health risks, so it’s important to clean it monthly. Laura Mountford recommends wiping down the fridge weekly with a food-safe disinfectant and doing a deep clean by removing shelves and drawers once a month.

Toilet every other day

Toilet seats and handles are full of harmful bacteria, so it’s recommended to clean your toilet three times a week. Georgia Ward advises using an antibacterial spray and leaving it to sit before wiping it down.