5 second rule: How clean is your house?

Person cleaning toilet bowl with rubber gloves

Every year a large proportion of us put down spring cleaning on our to do list, designating cleaning tasks we avoid the whole year to a once-a-year mass cleaning event. But what about the rest of the year? Turns out, wiping round the surfaces and occasionally hoovering doesn’t actually constitute having a clean house. Bacteria growing in the thousands live on every surface, every piece of furniture, every available nook and cranny – not just your toilet seat.

Although some exposure to bacteria is good for us in order to build up a healthy immune resistance, this is not an excuse to never clean your home. Cleaning your house is more important than simply making you feel like you have your life together. It’s essential for having good physical and mental health.

Why should we clean?

It might be an obvious answer, but why should we clean? Well, besides keeping our homes tidy, cleaning is beneficial in lots of ways. For one, regularly cleaning your home means that you reduce the number of bacteria living on your surfaces, dust mites floating in the air, and bug skeletons and toxins being inhaled into our lungs. Yep, you read that right… bug skeletons.

Numerous studies have shown the correlation between clean homes and better physical and mental health. One study found that people who had cleaner houses were more likely to be healthier than people with houses that looked like a pigsty. Not only this, but a cluttered and unclean environment can make it harder to focus and stop you from relaxing. A chaotic, untidy home environment prevents your cortisol levels (your “stress hormone”) from going down as the day goes on, and can leave you in constant state of stress. This is not very good for us at all, risking long-term negative effects on our brain activity. In comparison, a clean, organised home makes people feel less stressed, more positive and generally more zen than their untidy counterparts.

So it’s final, you have no excuse to not get out the mop and hoover. With that settled, let’s talk about what cleaning you should be doing.

The weekly chores

There are some parts of your house that you should clean on a regular basis (a.k.a more than once a year). These are normally the areas that you use the most – your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. An obvious one is your kitchen tops and surfaces that get used daily. Most people have aced the habit of wiping down their surfaces daily (if you aren’t doing this, here’s your starting point). But just wiping down the counter tops with the same cloth you’ve had all year with some anti-bac spray won’t cut it.

As well as a daily disinfecting session, you should be swapping your kitchen sponges and washcloths every week. Try also to avoid using sponges used to clean your dishes to wipe round the surfaces – this just smears contaminated food residue around your kitchen. Nice.

Another kitchen sweet spot for growing germs is your microwave. It’s a common misconception that your microwave kills bacteria. The food that decorates the inside of your microwave is a rather tempting invite for bacteria to come and hang out inside it. To keep the bacteria to a bare minimum, keep your microwave splash-free by wiping it down at least one a week, with the added treatment of a deep clean twice a month.

Another part of your house that you might be neglecting is your keyboard. With lots of us using our keyboards on a daily basis, let alone eating, breathing, and sneezing over them, it’s unsurprising that one study found that they can have 400 times the number of bacteria found on a toilet seat. It only takes five minutes out of your week to keep the bacteria levels to a safe amount – simply wipe down the keyboard, desk, and mouse with disinfectant spray to help keep it clean.

Don’t forget to pay some attention to your bathroom. Although their close neighbour the toilet seat often gets the wrap for the breeding ground of bacteria, according to a recent study your bathtub actually harbours its fair share of micro nasties. The co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College, Dr Elizabeth Scott, found that your bathtub can actually have more bacteria than a rubbish bin! To avoid this, you need to be cleaning your bath as often as your toilet, so around once a week. Get scrubbing that tub!

The monthly round up

Certain cleaning chores you are allowed to leave to the end of the month, but are still as important as the weekly tasks. Give some cleaning love to your fridge once a month by giving it a good ol’ wash down. Studies have found that your fridge draw can contain 750 times the safe level of bacteria. And that’s where you keep your fresh food people! This is why you should be cleaning your fridge on a monthly basis, unless you want your dinner with a side order of microbes.

Here’s one that might surprise you – as well as your pillowcases, you should actually be washing your pillows around every 3 months. Yes, your actual pillows. With us resting our heads on them every night, using them as makeshift makeup removers and occasionally to wipe away any sleep dribble, thousands of bacteria end up not just on the pillowcase, but on the pillow as well. That thought alone should be making you throw all your pillows in the washing machine.

The actual spring clean

Here’s what you should to leave to your annual big deep house clean – where you put on your cleaning gear, whack on the yellow gloves and clean your entire house top-to-bottom. The reason why spring cleans are as important as your weekly house cleaning checklist is because the majority of us spend around 90% of our time indoors. Spending all this time inside means that maintaining the cleanliness of our homes is vital to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Make sure to pay some special attention to your carpets at this special time of year (we are not talking about Christmas). It may seem really unfair, but vacuuming alone doesn’t actually count as cleaning your carpet. You carpet can hold up to 200,000 bacteria per square inch. That’s an awful lot of germs wriggling between your toes. You should be committing to a professional steam of your carpet every 6 to 12 months – even more frequently if you have a pet. Otherwise, you’ll be subjecting yourself and your health to all the germs that will be living under your feet and in the air all year long. Say hello to all your new micro-roomies.

Bringing in the professionals

Cleaning our homes is not the most exciting thing in the world. Yes, some people love cleaning (apparently they find it therapeutic). But even for those of us who enjoy cleaning (imagine that), keeping our homes germ-free is time-consuming. For many, trying to balance work, family, friends, hobbies, downtime and cleaning is extremely difficult. It might be time to bring in the experts.

Admittedly, not every household can splash out on paying for a professional house cleaner. But with as many as 1 in 4 people now having professional cleaners give their homes the once over on a regular basis, it is something worth considering if you’re struggling to keep on top of household chores. What was once considered a luxury is now being considered as a necessity in order to make some time in our busy schedules for the more important things in life.

Whether you opt for bringing in a professional cleaner or just change how often you clean your house, keeping your home spick-and-span will not only help you stay clutter free, but will also contribute to improving your health and mental wellbeing.

If you are worried about how the cleanliness of your home or work environment might be affecting your health, it is a good idea to seek medical advice from a doctor. By downloading the Qured app and registering with us, in as little as two hours you can have a doctor knocking at your door or to your place of work – ready to provide you with the advice and care that you need.