How clean is your home?
Love it or hate it, we all need to clean our homes to keep them hygienic and looking good. Muddy shoes, pets, visitors and the general hustle and bustle of everyday life means that dirt build up is natural in heavy-traffic areas like hallways and living rooms.
While sticking to a regular cleaning routine can help you to keep on top of essentials tasks and ensure that your home remains in good condition, even after we've scoured every inch it can be tough to gauge just how clean our homes truly are.
To find out which areas tend to fly under the cleaning radar, we decided to conduct a bacteria analysis experiment which involved swabbing areas and items around the house that are usually included regular cleaning duties, such as TV remotes, light switches, and shower screens, to see how dirty they really are - even after they’ve been cleaned.
Our goal was to pinpoint the often-overlooked nooks and crannies that tend to accumulate grime and bacteria, despite our best efforts. We focused on areas that are frequently used but may not be high on the average cleaner's priority list – such as the inside of a microwave or the handle of a kettle.
Bacterial hotspots: Areas in your home with the most bacteria
To find out the dirtiest spots of all, we calculated the average number of groups of bacteria living in each location.
80% of our experiment participants said they clean their home once per week, and half said this takes them two to three hours on average. But despite this rigorous cleaning schedule, our experiment found bacteria in all areas they swabbed – with some far more germ-ridden than others.
Some of our swabs found zero groups of bacteria present, proving that a clean, bacteria-free environment is possible to achieve. Unfortunately, other swabs revealed thousands of groups of bacteria – suggesting our ‘clean’ homes aren’t always as clean as we might think.
You can find the results in the table below, ranked from most to least bacteria present.
|Rank||Location||Average amount of bacteria groups per location|
|2||Bathroom Shower Screen||1,921|
|3||Inside Washing Machine||1,281|
|5||Front Door Handle||503|
1. Bathroom Vent
Have you ever thought about the last time you cleaned your bathroom vent? If the answer is no, you might want to take note, as our experiment revealed that bathroom vents are the area with the highest amount of bacteria present.
Shockingly, we found that the average number of bacteria in bathroom vents was a very high (1,991 groups), with the maximum number found on a single swab reaching a staggering level of at least 11,500 different groups. This means that the amount of bacteria was so high, we couldn't even pinpoint an exact number. In contrast, the minimum number found on a single swab was just 10.
Bathroom vents are a haven for bacteria, providing a warm and damp environment for them to thrive. When bacterial colonies are present in vents, they can become airborne as the air circulates, which can lead to health problems if inhaled. That’s why it’s crucial to include your bathroom vent in your cleaning schedule.
To give your vents a good clean, turn off the power and remove the cover to soak it in soapy water. Dust and scrub the inside of the vent to remove any dirt, and make sure to let everything dry completely before replacing the vent cover and turning on the power again.
2. Bathroom Shower Screen
Apparently, vents aren't the only bathroom area that people tend to overlook when it comes to cleaning. Our study showed that shower screens are the second most neglected area, with the second-highest number of bacteria found there.
When asked which areas of their home they clean the most, 60% of participants said the kitchen and 30% said their living room. However, none listed the bathroom as their most frequently cleaned space, which could potentially explain why multiple spots here rank among the dirtiest.
We found an average of 1,921 groups of bacteria living on shower screens, with a maximum number of at least 11,500. This means that like bathroom vents, shower screens can also harbour a significant amount of bacteria, most likely due to the hot and humid conditions they provide. Another watch out in bathrooms is mould, which thrives in damp and humid conditions and is serious health risk, so take action as soon as you spot the first mould patches forming.
To prevent a build-up of bacteria on your shower screen (or anywhere in your bathroom), make sure to include it in your regular cleaning routine and use an antibacterial surface cleaner to eliminate unwanted germs.
3. Inside Washing Machine
You might think that cleaning inside your washing machine isn’t necessary, given the machine’s purpose – but you’d be wrong. Despite your washing machine’s duty of keeping your clothes clean and fresh, it doesn’t do such a good job of cleaning itself.
In fact, we found that the inside of a washing machine is the third most bacteria-heavy environment in the home, playing host to around 1,281 groups of bacteria on average.
Dirt and grime can build up in your washing machine over time, providing the perfect playground for bacteria. To avoid this – and to make sure your clothes stay fresh – aim to give your washing machine a deep clean at least once a month. Many modern washing machines even have a dedicated cleaning cycle you can run, to make the process easier.
Cleanest zones: Areas in your home with the least bacteria
As well as shining the spotlight on some of our home’s dirtiest nooks and crannies, our experiment also revealed which of the 10 areas analysed we do manage to keep relatively clean.
Light switches turned out to have the least bacteria of all, with an average of just 79 groups of bacteria living in this location. TV remotes came next for cleanliness, with an average of 312 groups of bacteria detected.
Microwaves followed as the third cleanest location within the experiment, hosting an average of 365 groups of bacteria.
Top tips for a clean home
While sticking to a regular cleaning routine can help you to keep on top of essentials tasks and ensure that your home remains in good condition, sometimes mishaps happen that cause mess or damage that cannot be rectified.
It’s worth considering opting for accidental damage insurance cover as part of your home insurance policy as it covers all sorts of mishaps, such as spilling red wine on the sofa. Some types of accidental damage will fall under buildings insurance, while others will come under contents insurance, so it’s always important to check what your provider covers you for.
We’ve pulled together some valuable tips to help you keep your home clean and well-maintained.
- Establish a cleaning routine: This can be as simple as setting aside a certain day each week for cleaning, or breaking down tasks by day. By creating a routine, you'll be able to stay on top of the cleaning without feeling overwhelmed.
- Focus on high-traffic areas: High-traffic areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, and living room tend to get dirty quickly, so you should focus on cleaning these areas most frequently. For example, wipe down kitchen counters and sinks after use, and vacuum or sweep the living room on a regular basis.
- Take note of frequently overlooked spots: As proven by our results, areas that we often overlook (like bathroom vents or kettle handles) can get very dirty, so it’s important to take note of these and incorporate them into your cleaning schedule. Consider writing them down on a cleaning checklist so you don’t forget.
- Use the right cleaning products: Different surfaces and materials require different cleaning products – for example, you should always use mild soap to clean hardwood floors to avoid damage. Always read the label on cleaning products to make sure they're safe to use on specific surfaces.
We asked 10 participants to swab 10 different areas in their homes for bacteria, after carrying out their usual cleaning routines. The 10 areas were:
- Bathroom Vent
- Bathroom Shower Screen
- Inside Washing Machine
- Kettle Handle
- Front Door Handle
- Oven knobs
- Window Handle
- TV Remote
- Light Switch
The swabs were then sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine how much bacteria were present in each location. Some swabs contained too many colonies to be counted exactly; in this case, an approximate number was used, e.g. "at least xxx".
We then used the results to calculate the average number of bacteria colonies present in each location and ranked them accordingly from highest to lowest amount of bacteria.