This past year, we learned more than we ever cared to know about the spread of viruses and germs. Who knew we would be wearing masks in public, standing six feet away from everyone, and singing songs while washing our hands?

While you might think that the most germ and virus-laden environments we come across are in public places, there are areas and items in your house that can get pretty nasty.

Germs are a part of life, and not all of them are bad. But the ones that can possibly transmit illness–like bacteria and viruses–can hang out in your house just as easily as they can in a gas station bathroom. Here are the 12 dirtiest things in your house, plus some tips on how to keep them clean.

1. The Kitchen Sink

Laura Bennett/Oola

According to experts, the "absolute grossest place" in your kitchen is the sink. One of the biggest reasons the kitchen sink is so dirty is because of microorganisms found in contaminated food.

The National Sanitation Foundation discovered that the areas in your kitchen where food is stored and prepared have more bacteria and fecal contamination than any other place in the home.

Tips for keeping your kitchen sink and countertops clean include using disinfectant wipes, washing your hands before and after handling raw meat or unprepared food, and changing your dish towels a few times every week.

2. Your Phone

Woman's hand holding mobile phone at dirty screen.

Did you know that your phone is dirtier than a toilet seat? According to The Health Site, "studies show that 92 percent phones have bacteria on them with 16 percent containing E.coli, bacteria found in feces." To make things worse, the warm screen allows bacteria to thrive and transfer to your fingers, face, eyes, nose, ears, and lips.

Your phone harbors thousands of germs, and there isn't a foolproof way of keeping it constantly clean. The best thing to do is use a cleaning kit as often as possible, and keep the phone out of the bathroom!

3. Around Your Toilet Bowl

urine on underside of toilet bowl shown with UV light
Laura Bennett/Oola

It's no secret that the toilet is pretty much disgusting no matter how often you clean it. Get a blacklight flashlight to see exactly how much pee is ALL OVER your toilet bowl. Ew!

But the area around your toilet bowl might be even worse. Allow us to introduce you to the phrase "toilet plume" while not grossing you out. Basically, toilet plume is the phenomenon that takes place every time you flush your toilet. A fine mist shoots into the air that includes bacteria and viruses...even poop particles! It's not clear exactly how far a toilet plume travels. But, a 2005 study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found microorganisms over two feet in the air post-flush. Yay science!

4. Your Computer Keyboard

nasty keyboard
Laura Bennett/Oola

We've already told you that your phone is dirtier than a toilet seat. Well, so is your computer keyboard! In fact, a study published by CBT Nuggets showed that your computer keyboard is 20,000 times dirtier than your toilet.

For some reason, a lot of people never clean their keyboards even though they use them almost every day. Using a cleaning kit regularly on your keyboard really should be a no-brainer. The same thing can be said for your remote controls and video game controllers.

5. Sponges and Rags

Old sponge, isolated on white
Laura Bennett/Oola

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, bacteria love sponges and rags. In fact, they recommend not using sponges and cotton rags for cleaning at all because all they do is just move germs around.

The National Sanitation Foundation agrees, finding that more than 75% of dish sponges and rags had Salmonella, E. coli, and fecal matter compared to 9% on bathroom faucet handles.

When reusing a damp sponge, heat it in the microwave first for a minute to kill the bacteria. You can also soak them in a quart of warm water with a half-teaspoon of concentrated bleach.

7. Your Kids' Toys

your kids toys are one of the dozen dirtiest things in the house

Anyone with kids knows they are germ farms. This means that everything your little petri dishes touch has the potential of being covered in bacteria and viruses—including their toys.

According to the CDC, when someone who is infected with a virus like the flu touches surfaces, that virus can hang out for as long as 48 hours. Cleaning your child's toys regularly with soap, water, and disinfectant is always a good idea.

8. Pillows

Old dirty used yellow sweat stained pillow on a mattress. Condition of the pillow used for a long time.

We've made quite a few toilet references so far, and we're not done yet. When you put your face in your pillow at night, it's like sticking your head in the toilet. Your pillow is a breeding ground for "a gruesome array of pests and diseases."

Chances are, your pillow is full of dead skin, bugs, and dust mites. The good news is that most pillows are machine washable, so throw them into the wash the next time you are washing your pillowcases and sheets.

9. Cutting Boards

Dirty white plastic cutting board with dark stains, scratch, on wooden background

Just like the kitchen sink, cutting boards are a hotbed for germs because they often come in contact with raw meat. One study found that the average cutting board contains 200 times more fecal matter than—you guessed it—a toilet seat.

10. Your Toothbrush Holder

Laura Bennett/Oola

Remember how we told you about toilet plumes? Well, if your toothbrush is sitting in a holder on a bathroom vanity near your toilet, we've got some bad news. We highly recommend that you move it immediately.

What's more, if you can't remember the last time you cleaned your toothbrush holder, you should probably go do it now. A study from NSF International found that toothbrush holders contain harmful bacteria, including Coliform (Salmonella and E. coli) and mold.

11. Your Purse

Laura Bennett/Oola

We're just going to be honest here—your purse is nasty. And we're not just talking about the inside, which is probably due for a clean-out.

If you've ever sat it on the floor of a public restroom, on the table at a restaurant, or beside you while using public transportation, we promise you it's dirtier than you know what. It's always a good idea to keep your bag off the floor and to wipe it down every day.

12. Carpet

Laura Bennett/Oola

According to Reader's Digest, an average of 200,000 bacteria live in each square inch of carpeting. That's 700 times more than your toilet seat. You should be deep cleaning your carpets and rugs once a year, at least. You can also use washable throw rugs to cover dirty carpet to reduce contact with this germ factory.

There you have it. That's your home's dirty dozen. We never intended to mention toilet seats so many times, but that apparently is the gold standard when it comes to germ research. Even though toilet seats themselves didn't even make our list!

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