Germs-the catchall name for bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms-are everywhere: at home, in the office, even in your car. Freaked out? Well, about 99% of them can’t harm us, but the other 1% can be annoying, uncomfortable, or downright scary: Most of these nasty critters are either viral or bacterial and can cause everything from a runny nose to a potentially life-threatening infection.
Here are a few surprising spots where germs like to lurk-and easy ways to get rid of ’em:
The Kitchen Faucet
That metal aeration screen at the end of your kitchen faucet reduces water flow, which is good for the environment, but not so much for your health: Running water keeps the screen moist, an ideal condition for bacteria growth. Because tap water is far from sterile, if you accidentally touch the screen with dirty fingers or food, bacteria can grow on the faucet. Over time, bacteria build up and form a wall of pathogens called biofilm that sticks to the screen. Eventually, that biofilm may even be big enough to break off and get onto your food or dishes.
KEEP IT CLEAN: Once a week, remove the screen and soak it in a diluted bleach solution-follow the directions on the label. Replace the screen, and let the water run a few minutes before using.
Your Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuums-including the brushes and bags-are like a banquet for bacteria: You suck in all this bacteria and food, creating an atmosphere for growth. A recent study found that 13% of all vacuum cleaner brushes tested positive for E. coli, which means you could spread it around the house each time you use the appliance.
KEEP IT CLEAN: Change your vacuum bag frequently, and do so outdoors to avoid the cloud of bacteria that filters into the air. (Vacuum bags that feature antibacterial linings are best and are available for many major brands.) Clean the cavity of a bagless vacuum with diluted bleach and let it air-dry.