You wash the towels, change the sheets and launder them regularly. You think you’re doing all the right things. But maybe you’re still not changing enough. The things that you use, sleep in, wear and wash with can contain dust mites, mould and pollen. It can be making you ill and you don’t even know it.
How often do you wash your bath towel? If it’s once a week, and a 60 degrees C, then you’re doing fine – as long as you don’t share it with anyone else in the house. Frequent washing is something you need to do to eradicate the staphylococcus aureus, a microbe that can be transferred from your skin to the towel. Since more than half of us have the microbe present at any time, it’s vital. Normally benign, it can cause infection if it meets a wound – and it can live on dry surfaces and cause MRSA.
Most men will use a razor blade until it’s simply not cutting the stubble any more. But that’s the wrong way to look at things. Put in a fresh blade every two to three shaves. Not doing so means the blades clog up with dead skin peeled from the face. That, in turn, can cause nicks and infection, not to mention painful ingrowing hairs. Additionally, since the face is such a sensitive area, prolonged use of a dulling blade can cause shaving rash.
Never share your toothbrush with anyone. It’s a perfect method for the transmission of Hepatitis B and C and other infections. Also, make sure you change your toothbrush every three months. After that it becomes much less effective at removing plaque, which is going to cause cavities and other dental problems.
Chopping boards are a breeding ground for salmonella, among other things. If you chop raw meat on the board, scrub if before you use it for anything else, even in the same meal. Scrub and disinfect the board after every meal – the average chopping board has about 50 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. When your board becomes grooved, replace it immediately.
You use the tea towel for everything from wiping dishes to cleaning your hands. That means it’s exposed to bacteria, bits of food, and many other things, and each time you touch it (or use it on something) you’re spreading that. Keep a stock of tea towels, change them daily, and launder them at 60 degrees C to kill off all the bacteria.
Dish cloths and sponges need to be cleaned properly after every use, and disinfected daily. Both of them can harbour millions of bacteria, just waiting to be transferred to your dishes when you do the washing up, and they multiply in the damp sponges and clothes. Throw them out regularly and use new ones. This isn’t an area where being a miser pays off.
Until it becomes difficult to sleep, you probably don’t give much thought to your mattress. But you should turn the mattress every six months, replace it every ten years – and vacuum it monthly. We all sweat during the night, excreting up to half a pint of moisture, and that goes somewhere – into the mattress, and forms an ideal environment for dust mites. Add to that the fact that we each shed skin as we sleep, around one pound per person per year, which gives the mites something to eat. The scary statistic is that an average bed is home to about 10,000 dust mites, who can cause hay fever and asthma, among other things.
That’s the mattress. Your head is in constant contact with the pillow – but do you wash or replace it regularly? You should. Either wash the pillow every three months, or replace it every six months. Otherwise, every night you’re inhaling the waste of the dust mites who live in the pillow. For much the same reason, you should wash your duvet every six months, and replace the sheets and duvet cover weekly, washing them in hot water.
A hairbrush should be as personal as a toothbrush – don’t let anyone else use it! Brushes collect hairs, which contain germs, and by letting someone else use your brush, you’re simply collecting their germs, which will end up in your hair. To stop a build up, wash the brush in hot soapy water once a week, and replace it regularly – whenever the bristles begin to look damaged.
Do you still have those old, smelly trainers? Get rid of them. Not only do they look ugly, but they carry the risk of fungal infection – and they’re probably no longer worthwhile as support. Never machine wash them, as it breaks down the inner sole. Instead, hand wash in cool water and let them dry naturally. Runners are advised to replace their shoes every 250 miles.