[ by Mark Healey, You Move Me ]

From our normal vantage point, most living spaces appear clean and well-maintained. As long as a surface isn’t caked with mud or isn’t displaying ever-evolving mold, we generally feel secure.

Unfortunately, this false sense of security in many cases dismisses a horrific landscape of filth. Beyond the strength of our senses—particularly vision—the microscopic world remains virtually undetectable and is home to tons of harmful bacteria. While both harmful and benign microscopic life forms exist just about everywhere, some areas of the home really encourage the buildup of germs.

Here are the six dirtiest places in your home.

1. Carpets and Rugs
Everyone is aware that carpets and rugs act like Velcro when it comes to dirt. Heavy foot traffic helps disperse dirt and pushes it deep into the fabric. Like any responsible home dweller, you usually vacuum the rug. But rarely do you go for the deep clean, therefore allowing masses of bacteria to grow in the unreachable depths of your carpet or rug.

Here’s a mind-blowing stat: It’s estimated that a clean square yard of carpet may contain 1 pound of dirt. And here’s another scary stat: 32,000 dust mites can live in 1 pound of rug dust.

Especially if you live with children or pets, the people over at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend deep-cleaning your carpets and rugs at least once every six months.

carpet cleaning

2. Switches, Knobs and Handles
Unless you live in one of those high-end, futuristic homes with “Star Trek”-like sliding doors, electric blinds, intelligent appliances, and smart LED light bulbs that can be switched on and off via your cellphone, your hands are busier than you think.

If you want to see this in action, visit your local mall on any given Saturday and ride the escalator. Then, observe the number of people who hold the moving handrail. The principle applies across the board; we’re constantly touching things even when we aren’t aware of it.

Because of our compulsion to touch, our hands inherently transport nefarious passengers. These delinquent hitchhikers then attach themselves to everything else we touch, waiting for the next unsuspecting passerby to pick them up and bring them to their next destination: light switches, cabinet knobs, drawer handles, computer keyboards, microwave-oven panels and so on. It’s a vicious epidemic.

Combat this issue by regularly cleaning commonly touched items and frequently washing your hands.

kitchen counter

3. Kitchen Counters
Your kitchen counters are household equivalents of freeways; they’re teeming with activity. You’re constantly putting things on them and taking things off them: bags, raw food, cutting boards and so forth. Now, think about all the grime from those different sources. To combat the germs, you should frequently wipe these down with (preferably) environmentally friendly cleaners.

4. Sponges
Despite being the primary cleaning tool for many households, the sponge actually is rather disgusting. Sponges absorb indiscriminately, meaning various debris and bacteria get pulled in from filthy surfaces during a good scrub-down.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Studies indicate that bacteria begin growing in roughly 70 percent of all sponges after their initial three weeks of use. To combat this, simply throw your sponge into the microwave oven or a boiling pot of water for a few minutes to kill any lurking germs.

man in recliner

5. Furniture (Sofas, Chairs and Beds)
We spend countless hours lounging in the soft comfort of our sofas, recliners and beds. But when you really think about it, aren’t those cushy surfaces just like giant sponges? A disturbing thought? Yes. A fact? Absolutely.

Our bodies carry dirt and bacteria. When we regularly deposit these bacteria into our furniture, they continue to multiply and disperse. Plus, because of the sponge-like consistency of cushions and mattresses, unsavory materials can penetrate deep into the material. Like rugs and carpets, this makes vacuuming obsolete. To counteract this, consider steam cleaning to get rid of the funk.

6. Cellphones
Technically not a stationary part of your household, but still an integral part of your life, your cellphone goes everywhere with you. So it naturally accumulates a diverse array of germs from hands, pockets, tables, desks and so on.

You should clean off your phone each day, if possible, and should wash your hands frequently.