Thursday, October 27, 2022

Ignored places in your home can be 'hotbeds of germs, mold, yeast, pathogens,' newspaper says

Some often ignored germ-filled spots in your home desperately need cleaning.

That's the conclusion of a report by Susannah Herrada in editions of The Washington Post this week. In her story, she notes that those often-overlooked places "can be hotbeds of germs, mold, yeast and pathogens."

Chrysan Cronin
Herrada's article quotes Chrysan Cronin, PhD and an infection disease epidemiologist and director of public health at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, as warning that although we coexist with microbes, "there are some that are more harmful to humans than others. We need to be a little more vigilant in making sure we don't come in contact with those."

The Post piece cites the following, beyond the expected toilets, phone and doorknobs, as danger points where perilous bacterial colonies often lurk (not necessarily in order):
• Sponges and dish towels.
• Knobs and buttons on kitchen appliances.
• Pet bowls.
• Toothbrush holders. 

The story cites research from NSF International, a "go-to global organization for establishing public health standards and certifications," to the effect that "the sink sponge is a veritable Noah's ark in the diversity of microorganisms it contains."

The average sponge, it continues, supports mold and yeast, and is a "perfect habitat" for bacteria that may include E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, all pathogens that can cause fever and stomach upset."

You can eliminate the problem, Herrada says, by running a sponge through the dishwasher. Even so, "you should toss it after a week."

Cronin, meanwhile, suggests changing dish towels daily (at worst).

The Post story also contends that "contrary to popular myth, a dog's mouth is not cleaner than a human's. Wash pet bowls regularly with hot, soapy water — and reserve a separate sponge for pet items. While you're at it, toss hard pet toys in the sink suds and run soft toys through the washing machine." 

Knobs and buttons on kitchen appliances, the story reports, are also "germ magnets, because we touch them so frequently."

Cronin recommends "a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar to water or a 5:100 ratio of bleach to water to disinfect high-contamination zones like these."

To avoid trouble from "high-touch items that travel into the world with us" (such as a cellphone, purse, wallet, and keys), Herrada urges keeping them "in a designated spot by the door or in a closet, and avoid placing these items on kitchen tables or other eating surfaces." 

The toothbrush holder, the story says, "might be a microbiologist's worst nightmare — "because it tends to be close to the toilet." 

Since the holder's "often in the blast radius of the fecal bacteria that aerosolizes whenever you flush," the piece continues, you should "close the lid before flushing and keep the bowl clean." You might further consider storing your toothbrush in a closed drawer or medicine cabinet "where it can dry  out between uses" and not be exposed.

The toilet-flushing issue, through which the microorganisms once airborne can settle on anything nearby according to a 2021 University of Arizona study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, can also turn faucet handles and other personal-care items left on the counter into toxic problems.

Harrada's story also mentions as potential risks the disposal's black rubber drain range, the coffee maker's reservoir, and soft-sided lunchboxes.

Other ways to avoid disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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