Germ Alert! Don't Skip These Commonly Missed Cleaning Spots

Are you leaving dirt and germs behind when you clean? If you're forgetting these frequently overlooked things that need to be cleaned, you might be.

Published October 31, 2023

We remember to clean our countertops and toilets every week, because these are surfaces that clearly get dirty every day. However, there are some unexpected things to clean in your house that you may be neglecting. If you want to make sure to stay as germ free as possible this cold and flu season, we detail which commonly overlooked areas need to be cleaned regularly.

Washing Machine

It literally has the word 'washing' in the title, so it's probably a place that you never realized needed cleaning. I certainly didn't! However, most manufacturers recommend that you clean these machines at least once a month!

Washing Your Washing Machine Involves a Few Steps

Newer models may come with a convenient self-clean cycle, and some even give you a monthly reminder. When it is time to clean, you push the button and let the machine do all the work.

However, for the rest of us who don't have a magical machine with these types of fancy functions, you can also buy washing machine cleaners. Yes, they actually make these products! Follow the instructions on the box, and you're good to go!

Or follow our step-by-step instructions for cleaning your washer inside and out

Fast Fact

Why would you need to clean a machine that's designed to clean? The answer is simple — soil and detergent buildup. Both of these types of debris can clog up your machine's pipes, and they can even cause mildew and mold to grow.

Kitchen Sink

We wash our hands, food, and dishes in this space, so surely it is clean, right? Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong. 

University of Arizona Professor Charles Gerba, otherwise known as "Dr. Germ", is one of the nation's foremost experts on environmental microbiology, and he notes that "most people are unaware that the kitchen sink is one of the germiest places in the house; it's even more contaminated with bacteria than the toilet bowl and garbage can."

Sinks Are Things to Clean in Your House Daily

The best practice is to simply scrub your sink with dish soap and hot water after you load your dishwasher each day. However, if you want to take things a step further, like after you prep raw chicken in the sink, you can also wipe the surface down with disinfectant wipes, or you can mix water and white vinegar at a 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle and clean it that way. If you have a stainless steel kitchen sink, follow our easy instructions to clean it

It is also important to replace your dish rags every week and your sponges every two weeks, at minimum. These items are the perfect spots for bacteria to grow, so staying on top of swapping them out can make a big difference in the cleanliness of your sink.

Jet Tubs

Forget about a relaxing soak — it turns out that whirlpool tubs have dangerous bacteria and mold lurking inside them. This is because the pipes don't always fully drain, which leads to the growth of these organisms. 

Folks who love to take regular baths should aim to deep clean their jetted tub at least once a month. If you want to make the task easier, you can fill the tub with hot water after each soak, along with half a cup of white vinegar, and run the jets for an extra 10 to 15 minutes. Then, allow the tub to drain.

Light Switches

Any high-traffic areas in the home are prone to getting dirtier than other surfaces. Sink handles immediately come to mind, but many people forget about their light switches. These fixtures should be wiped down with a disinfectant wipe once a week to cut down on the bacteria buildup. 

TV Remotes

The TV remote is another item that we all touch frequently, even when we're eating! This makes them even more important to clean. If you only use the remote before going to bed, once a month cleanings should suffice. However, if this gadget accompanies you at mealtimes, aim to clean it at least once a week. 

Door Handles

Speaking of spots that are touched regularly, another one that tops the list of things to clean in your house is your door handles. Just like with the light switches, every member of the household touches these surfaces multiple times a day.

Not only that, but you touch them after you put on your shoes, when you take out the trash, and after coming home from the grocery store, where you likely touched a dirty cart handle. Clean door handles once a week to limit the spread of germs. 

Drink Dispensers

This one is a bit startling, but your coffee maker may be another spot brimming with bacteria. Did you know that you need to actually clean the machine and not just replace the filter? 

It turns out that it's recommended you clean the water reservoir with soap and hot water at least once a week. Also, if you're a regular coffee or tea drinker, you should descale your coffee maker or Keurig every three months. You can easily do this with a water and white vinegar solution.

Need to Know

Don't forget about your stand-alone water dispenser either! Manufacturers also recommend cleaning these machines every three months. They typically include instructions in their user manual, but you can also hire a professional to do the job for you.

Sink Aerators

I know what you are thinking— what the H-E-double L is a sink aerator? My husband's grandmother once mentioned cleaning it, and I had to quickly Google what she was talking about. To clarify, this is the mesh screen disk that sits where the water comes out of the faucet.

I want to warn you, if you have never cleaned these areas of your home and you live in a part of the nation with hard water, what you are about to find is startling. White calcium deposits form on this part of your sink from just running the water. And because it's located on the underbelly of the spout, you have likely missed the buildup for a while.

White Vinegar Can Make Cleaning Your Sink Aerator Easy

Thankfully, for most people, the cleaning method is simple. Take a quart-sized zipper sealed baggie and fill it halfway up with white vinegar. Then, submerge the sink head in the vinegar and adhere the baggie to the spout using a rubber band. Let it sit for 15 minutes and watch as the calcium buildup magically melts away!

Once this is done, you can gently scrub the aerator with a toothbrush and break away the remaining deposits! For those with bigger buildup, you may need to repeat this process a few times. 

Need to Know

Vinegar should never be used on aluminum or copper. Always take the time to spot check your cleaning products on an inconspicuous part of the area that you plan to clean to determine if they are compatible before applying the product anywhere else. 


Another household item that you need to clean regularly is your pillows. Even with a pillowcase protecting it, these home accessories can be filled with sweat, skin cells, saliva, pet hair and dander, dust, mold, and many other allergens that can make you sick. By taking the time to wash your pillows at least every three months, you can breathe much easier during the night.

Quick Tip

For those sweaty sleepers and the folks who are recovering from an illness, it can be a good idea to increase the frequency of your washings. Aim for close to once a month to help keep your pillows clean!


Just like your pillows, your mattress can be a breeding ground for allergens and dust mites. Studies show that a daily vacuuming of your mattress surface can greatly reduce the instance of these critters and irritants, but who has time for that? Mattress Firm notes that while the daily cleanings are best, if you aim to do this once or twice a month, it can suffice. 

They also advise that you let direct sunlight hit your bed to help dry out the dust mites and run a dehumidifier to make this potential dust mite home less hospitable. Consider investing in a waterproof mattress cover to limit your mattress's exposure to these irritants altogether.

Bathroom Rugs

Dirt, dust, debris, and possibly urine are all lurking on your bathroom rugs. Since these bathroom accents live on the floor, they require a little extra TLC than other home accessories. Aim to wash these once a week, if possible. And don't forget other commonly overlooked spots in your bathroom, too. 

Helpful Hack

If you have the money to invest in Ruggable brand rugs, these can make regular cleanings and even quick redecorating a breeze! Peel off the top layer and toss it in the wash like you would with any other linen. 

Baby Changing Table Surfaces

For the folks who like to clean regularly, the bathroom always seems to get the most attention, but what about the "restroom" for your little one? The changing table is where dirty diapers are addressed, yet this area tends to get minimal cleaning unless a blowout happens. 

Cleaning this space is simple though — you can wipe your pad down with soap and hot water or a disinfectant wipe. This typically needs to be done every few days, unless you use a liner. Puppy pads are my favorite choice, because they make big messes easy to clean up, and they lessen the need for regular wipe downs.

Dryer Vent

Dryers are another appliance that we don't often think to clean, but this lack of TLC can have big repercussions. Even if you take the time to clean out the lint trap after every cycle, this debris can build up and can serve as the perfect kindling for a fire. 

Thankfully, cleaning a dryer vent requires minimal effort. Just grab your vacuum hose and the handy attachments that most of us never use, and use the combo to suck out the alarming number of dust bunnies that have set up shop just below where your hand can reach. 

While most folks can get away with doing this a couple times a year, if you are like me and have multiple kids and several large pets that are big shedders, you likely do a lot more laundry and have a lot more debris living in your lint trap. This can make monthly cleanings a good idea. 

Makeup Brushes

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "dirty makeup brushes can cause an infection, such as a fungal infection, E. coli, or a staph infection, which can be very serious." This is why they advise users to wash their makeup brushes every seven to 10 days. Good old soap and hot water can do the trick, but there are also natural ways to disinfect your brushes for after big breakouts or when recovering from an illness.

Pet Bowls & Toys

Our furry best friends' mouths are filled with dangerous bacteria. In fact, research shows that they are many times are housing antibiotic-resistant bacteria! That means that anything they lick or chew likely contains these same pathogens.  

The best way to limit these germs is to clean your dog bowls after every use — don't worry, this is easier than it sounds — and to wash your dog toys at leat once a month. By adding these tasks to your chore chart, you can ensure that you and your pets stay healthy.


Finding mold growing inside the machine that is putting moist air into your breathing space can be quite unsettling. It may surprise you, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises users to clean their humidifiers every three days. 

"Empty the tank and use a brush or other scrubber to clean it. Remove any scale, deposits, or film that has formed on the sides of the tank or on interior surfaces, and wipe all surfaces dry." Don't forget the base where the filter sits either. This is another spot where mold can grow!

They also recommend wiping down all the surfaces of your humidifier and changing out the water each day. 

Create a Schedule for the Things to Clean in Your House

Staying on top of all the things to clean in your house is a big task. Making a cleaning schedule can be a way to make the process easier. Also, if any of your devices have cleaning reminder options built in, make sure to set those for the appropriate time frames so you don't forget.

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Germ Alert! Don't Skip These Commonly Missed Cleaning Spots