6 Grimy Spots Around the House You're Probably Forgetting to Clean

Starting in the kitchen.

March 21, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

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It’s officially spring cleaning season, and while you probably have “dust baseboards” and “organize the pantry” on your to-do list, there are a few extra-dirty spots around the house that often fly under the radar. Many of these locations—and items—are seemingly innocuous, but cleaning pros warn that they can harbor serious amounts of bacteria, dirt, and dust.

To find the areas most commonly overlooked during spring cleaning, we asked several cleaning experts for the dirtiest spots in the home, as well as their tips for cleaning these super-grimy spots—here’s what they said.

1. Kitchen Sponges

One of the dirtiest items in your home is your kitchen sponge, hands down. One study found 362 species of bacteria living on that tiny little surface alone (ick!). While it’s recommended to replace your kitchen sponge every week or so, our experts say you can microwave them for a short-term sanitizing solution.

“Every time you do your dishes, use two sponges,” recommends Chris Willatt, founder of Alpine Maids. “While washing with one, place the other one in the microwave for 30 seconds. This will kill bacteria that have built up. Repeat the process with the other sponge the next time you wash dishes.”

2. Phones & Other Electronics

Your smartphone is another hotspot for germs. In fact, it could be harboring 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. “Electronic devices tend to get dirtier than other items because they are used frequently and come into contact with different surfaces and environments,” says Armeka Townsend, a cleaning expert at Zep.

“It's important to use specific cleaning methods and products that are safe for electronics,” she says. “Using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials can scratch or damage the surface of the device or even cause a short circuit.” When it comes to cleaning electronic screens, your best option is screen wipes, which are designed to be gentle on the surface. For your phone, you can also opt for a UV sanitizer box, many of which double as a phone charger.

3. Pet Bowls

I’ll be the first to admit that I usually wash my dogs’ food bowls once a week, but it turns out that might not be often enough. Research has found that pet bowls can often carry harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, which could get you sick if you’re exposed to it.

To keep your pet’s bowls clean, the FDA recommends washing both the bowls and any scooping utensils with soap and hot water after every meal. You’ll also want to wash your hands before and after handling pet food.

4. Kitchen Exhaust Hood

While not necessarily a hotspot for bacteria, the exhaust hood over your kitchen stove is often forgotten while cleaning, and it can quickly become caked in a layer of grease and dust. The good news is that it’s easy to clean a dirty range hood.

“Once every six months, remove the vents and soak them in hot soapy water and wipe down,” says Willatt. “Once the vents are removed, use some soapy water and a rag to really get in and scrub under the vent hood to get rid of all that grease and grime build up.”

5. Ceiling Fans

If you’re wondering why there’s so much dust floating through your home, your ceiling fan might be the culprit. “Ceiling fans are another commonly overlooked spot—since they are often out of sight, we forget to clean them,” says Mallory Micetich, Home Expert at Angi. “Ceiling fans can collect dust, and then when turned on, spread that dust and dirt all around your home.”

“Ceiling fans should be cleaned at least monthly, but the more frequently the better,” she recommends. “All you need to do is take a cloth to wipe the dust off the blades and an all-purpose cleaner to make it spotless.” A ceiling fan duster will make this task a breeze—no pun intended.

6. HVAC Filters & Ducts

Speaking of air quality, now’s the best time to clean out your HVAC ducts and put in fresh new filters ahead of summer. “If you have an HVAC system, you’d be surprised how much filth and debris your air filters can accumulate over time,” says Micetich. “Cleaning or replacing your air filters is one of the best ways to reduce dust in your home and can make your home a safe haven for those who suffer from outdoor allergies.” She recommends replacing filters every three months, especially during high-use seasons.

“Additionally, you can clean your air ducts to keep the air pure and clean,” she says. “I recommended cleaning them at least every three to five years.” For this type of deep cleaning, you’ll want to cut power to the area then remove the vent covers. Use a vacuum to clean inside the duct, and scrub the covers themselves with soap and water.

What’s on your spring cleaning to-do list? Tell us in the comments!
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