10 Household items that can make you sick

If you’re experiencing symptoms like sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches, stomach problems, or just a general sense of blah, you might be surprised to learn that the cause may not be that coughing co-worker, but the culprit might be from some everyday items around your own home. While it is helpful to stay away from people who are sick, and wash your hands frequently, sometimes you need to look closer to home. Below are a few of the most likely suspects, and what you can do to avoid getting sick from them.

1. Mold

One small stain can carry tens of thousands of spores, and they not only create a “musky” odor, but that can also lead to respiratory problems, especially in those with respiratory issues. The best way to prevent sickness from mold is to reduce the damp conditions where mold thrives, like bathroom sinks, tubs and showers, and in the kitchen. Check all your vents and pipes to make sure there’s no water leakage. Leave the exhaust fan running even after you take showers, and if the weather permits, open windows. If you live in a humid climate, try using a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels under 50%. To remove mold and mildew stains, use a product that is bleach-free, like CLR® Mold and Mildew Clear. It can be used on ceramic tile, hardwood floors, baseboards, fabrics, glass, metal (not stainless steel), brick, concrete, marble, laminated countertops, wood, grout, fiberglass and more. It has a foam sprayer that helps prevent splashback and spores from spreading in the air.

2. Sponges

You probably heard this before, but it’s worth another mention… sponges are a hotbed of bacteria! They may look harmless, but a 2017 study from Scientific Reports found 362 different species of bacteria with up to 45 billion per square centimeter. Gross! Here are a few things you can do to prevent getting sick. Wet the sponge and microwave it for 2-3 minutes every 2-3 days, or put it in your dishwasher on the hottest cycle that also dries. Replace it at least every two weeks, or sooner if it smells terrible. 

3. Toothbrush/Toothbrush Holder

Speaking of hotbeds for bacteria, while not as bad as the kitchen sponge, researchers have found the flu virus, staph bacteria, and E. coli, among other nasty things on used toothbrushes. While it’s unlikely that it will make someone with a healthy immune system sick, there are still some simple precautions you can take: Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with hot water after brushing. Store your brush where it can air dry, away from the toilet. Change your toothbrush every three months. And to prevent germs from spreading, get a separate tube of toothpaste for everyone in the household. 

4. Kitchen Sink

The kitchen sink is one of the most used areas of your home. If you or one of your loved ones experience digestive issues, the bacteria in and around your sink may be the cause. Wiping it down with that kitchen sponge can make it worse. To keep it clean, disinfect the entire inside of the sink basin at least twice a week and every time you rinse raw meat. Pour a solution of one teaspoon bleach in a quart of water once a month. 

5. Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are great for food preparation, but it one of the leading causes of cross-contamination. Wood is a popular material for cutting boards, but bacteria can hide deep inside the board with every cut. To avoid serious health consequences, they should be washed with hot, soapy water after each use and stored in an open area to air dry. To be on the safe side, many professional chefs recommend having a separate cutting board for raw meat. 

6. Stove Knobs, and Appliance Handles

People generally don’t wash their hands every time they open the refrigerator or use the microwave or stove. Contamination can leave bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, on the surfaces. Clean them with CLR® Brilliant Bath every other day, especially after you handle raw foods. Take stove knobs off at least twice a week and clean them in hot, soapy water.

7. Coffee Maker

Drinking coffee is part of the daily routine of millions of people, but what many of them don’t know is that the dark, moist environment inside coffee makers is the ideal breeding ground for calcium buildup, bacteria, and mold. Please view this video to learn how easy it is to use CLR regularly to keep your coffee maker clean. 

8. Household Cleaning Products

Keeping a clean house is healthy for you and your family. However, some ingredients in common household cleaners, such as ammonia, phosphates, and bleach, can be harmful to your family’s health if not used or stored correctly. They can irritate your throat and eyes, cause breathing problems, and headaches. One of the easiest ways to know if a product is safe is if it carries the EPA Safer Choice label. Products that carry the Safer Choice logo has been evaluated through a rigorous scientific process and has determined (as they were presented) to contain only the safest ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. The criteria are based on EPA expertise in evaluating the physical and toxicological properties of a wide range of chemicals used in cleaning products. 

9. Plastic Food Storage Containers

They are versatile, inexpensive, and great for storing leftovers. But as it turns out, some of those containers in your cabinets may contain BPA (bisphenol A), which has been found to seep into food. It can affect the brain development of fetuses, infants, and children, and is linked to high blood pressure in adults. To minimize your exposure, be sure you use BPA-free products, reduce your use of canned foods, avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers, and use alternatives like glass, porcelain, or stainless steel.  

10. Carpets & Drapes

Carpets and drapes are collectors of dust, dirt, dust mites, and even mold. Every time you walk on the carpet or open the curtains, those particles can get into the air. To make matters worse, some of the chemicals used to make and install them could be bad for you, too. If possible, consider installing blinds and hard flooring instead, or use area rugs that you can clean outside your home. If you can’t get rid of your carpet, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on it at least two times a week, and steam clean them at least once a year

11. Bonus: Radon

Radon is a gas that can seep into your home from cracks in the foundation floor or walls or around plumbing. You can’t smell or see radon, but it’s dangerous if too much is trapped in your home. Prolong exposure can damage the cells in your lungs. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. A simple home radon test kit can tell you if your home has too much. If you do, hire a professional to install a radon mitigation system. Most local government websites will provide a list of local certified contractors.