Our experts tell you what to watch out for, and how to keep infections at bay.
Hotspot: Kitchen Mop, Wipes and Sponge
"Kitchen mops are infected with nasty bacteria," says Dr Narender Saini, India representative, Global Hygiene Council. "They expose you to diseases like diarrhoea, skin boils and UTI." In fact, Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, US, in a study found kitchen sponges to be amongst the most contaminated objects in the home.
Fix it: Wet mops and sponges provide perfect breeding places for bacteria since they thrive under damp, warm conditions. So wash the mop with a liquid detergent or bleach solution and dry it out in the sun every day. Research published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that microwaving sponge and scrub pads for a minute rid them of most germs, including tough ones like E. coli.
Hotspot: The Chopping Board
Pathogens, worms and fungi hide in the veggies and meat that you slice on your chopping board. "When transmitted, these may cause typhoid and stomach problems like amoebiasis, diarrhoea and gastroenteritis," says Saini.
Fix it: Always wash the vegetables well before cutting them. Germs make their homes in the cracks and grooves of the board. Cleaning it after each use with a dishwashing detergent under running water takes care of most germs. If you are cleaning with a potassium permanganate solution or bleach, make sure you wash it thoroughly so the chemicals or their odour don't enter the food. If the board is criss-crossed with deep gouges, buy a new one.
Hotspot: TV Remote and Keyboard
Researchers at the University of Virginia, US, found that six out of 10 remotes they tested were buzzing with the common-cold causing rhinovirus. Worse, Gerba's survey found that keyboards contain about five times more germs than a toilet seat. These devices are the breeding grounds for cold and flu viruses -- and the more the users, more the germs on them, say doctors.
Fix it: Clean keyboards, mobile phones and remotes with a surface cleaner or cleanse with a disinfectant wipe. "More importantly, wash your hands before and after using these devices, especially if you are going to eat or cook soon after," says Dr Murali Chakravarthy, director of clinical affairs and chairman, Central Infection Prevention and Control Committee at Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru.
Hotspot: Floor Carpets
Microbiologist Philip Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs, has found that carpets contain almost 2,00,000 bacteria per square inch. More than infections, carpets harbour ticks, mites and spores -- allergens that can trigger respiratory problems like wheezing and asthma as well as allergic reactions, like watery eyes.
Fix it: Ban shoes on carpets to keep them free of bugs and faecal matter. While vaccuming takes care of dust, sunning your rugs and carpets rids them of ticks and mites.
Hotspot: Door Knobs
The door handle is touched by countless people through the day and can spread cold, flu or stomach infections, says Chakravarthy.
Fix it: Since you can't disinfect the door handle with an antibacterial wipe each time you grab it, Chakravarthy advises frequent washing of hands to keep the bugs away.
Hotspot: Your handbag
A study found handbags contain three times more germs than the average toilet seat. Initial Washroom Hygiene, which conducted the study, says it's because handbags come into contact with a number of surfaces -- restaurant tables, washroom counters and floors and seats in public transport. And since we almost never clean them, there's germ build-up. Touching the contents of the bag with unclean hands contaminates them too, says the study, the dirtiest being bottles of cream.
Fix it: To reduce the risk of infection, clean the bag regularly with an antibacterial wipe and rub your hands with a sanitizer before using any cosmetic product from your bag.
Health in Your Hands
The World Health Organization recommends washing hands as the easiest way to prevent infections, since disease-spreading germs often pass from one person to another through the hands. Studies published in The Lancet have found that the simple act of washing hands can cut the risk of diarrhoea by 50 per cent, and respiratory tract infections by 45 per cent. So here's the right way to wash your hands (do it for at least 20 seconds):
1. Wet hands, apply soap. Rub palms until the soap is bubbly
2. Rub each palm over the back of the other hand
3. Rub between your fingers on each hand
4. Rub backs of fingers (interlocked)
5. Rub around each of your thumbs
6. Rub both palms with finger tips then rinse and dry your hands
Source: Global Hygiene Council