The 12 Dirtiest Places in the Home (and How to Clean Them)

You may be surprised by where dirt, grime, and bacteria lurk in your house. Here are the places and items that harbor gunk and how to clean them.

bathroom with toucan pattern wallpaper
Photo: Kim Cornelison

Dirt and grime can lurk in unexpected places in the home. Even if you stay on top of regular cleaning, it's easy to overlook these areas, and without proper attention, the buildup can become gross. Find out where you'll find the dirtiest places in your house—and exactly how to clean each area.

01 of 12

Coffee Maker

coffee maker behind sliding door
Beth Singer

Your coffee maker is likely one of the germiest places in the home. As you brew your daily coffee, mold, yeast, other bacteria, oily residue, and hard water deposits can build up inside the reservoir and pot. To deep-clean your coffee maker, fill the reservoir with a 50-50 solution of white distilled vinegar and water. Run a brewing cycle without any beans, stopping about halfway through to let the vinegar solution soak for at least 30 minutes. Finish the cycle, then repeat with clean water to flush away any lingering vinegar scent.

02 of 12

Your Workstation

home office in black and white with colorful rug
Laurey Glenn

If you work from home or frequently spend time on the computer, your workstation is probably a breeding ground for germs. This is because the desk surface, keyboard, and mouse are all high-touch surfaces rarely cleaned. Luckily, disinfectant wipes provide an easy way to clean each of these surfaces. Consider wringing out excess liquid from the wipe before cleaning electronic items to avoid dripping moisture into the openings. Wipe down each surface every few days to keep germs at bay.

03 of 12


double sink blue vanity bathroom mirrors above
Jim Franco

You might wipe down the handles frequently, but what about the part where the water comes out? "Chances are, if you haven't cleaned this, you will find black, mildewy grunge," says cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper. "And you're brushing your teeth with that water. Ewww!"

Smallin says every couple of months, remove the faucet aerator by twisting it counter-clockwise, then soak it in vinegar for at least 15 minutes. (The aerator is an assembly made up of a few pieces, including a screen, so take note of how they go back together.) Gently brush all parts with an old toothbrush to remove any remaining residue, then screw it back on.

04 of 12

Handles and Switches

kitchen organization pull-out refrigerator drawers
Emily Followill 

Places in the home that need more cleaning attention than they're probably getting include refrigerator door handles, light switches, and, of course, the toilet flush handle. "They're easily overlooked in cleaning because they're small, and most people focus on the big things, like floors and countertops," says Debra Johnson, a training specialist at Merry Maids. "Yet everyone touches them, so they have the most opportunity for germs." Use a microfiber cloth dampened with your favorite cleaning product to wipe down handles and switches during your regular cleaning routine.

05 of 12

Above Your Kitchen Cabinets

white kitchen island simple
Joyelle West

The space between your kitchen cabinets and the ceiling is often a case of out-of-sight and out-of-mind. "We find years' worth of dust, rodent nests and droppings, long-forgotten food, and dead plants," says household cleaning expert Derek Christian. "Very few people ever clean this area."

Break out the stepladder and your vacuum's hose attachment (or a wet/dry vac) for this chore. A small hand broom and dustpan will do the trick, too. The space will likely not accumulate enough dust to warrant a cleaning every week—once a month or so will do the trick. Do this task first so any stray dust lands on surfaces you haven't cleaned yet.

06 of 12

Your Bathtub

fresh modern master bath freestanding tub black fixtures
Edmund Barr

Any standing water that lingers after a shower or bath breeds mold, fungi, and staph bacteria, says green cleaning expert Jackie Harmon. Your tub or shower surface should be dried off after each use to reduce bacteria growth. Disinfect regularly, too: up to three times weekly for tubs used daily by multiple family members.

To do so, Harmon recommends filling a spray bottle with a product that contains at least three percent hydrogen peroxide and keeping that near the tub. Lightly mist a dry tub, and you're done. "No need to wipe it up because hydrogen peroxide evaporates quickly," Harmon says. For whirlpool tubs, cycle disinfectant through the pipes monthly according to the manufacturer's directions.

07 of 12

The Walls Around Your Toilet

bathroom with toucan pattern wallpaper
Kim Cornelison

"You think you know it's bad, but you have no idea," Christian says. "I have one of those super powerful black lights that you see on the CSI shows. See what it reveals, and it'll make you want to tear out your drywall and start over."

Christian says the best cleaners for the walls around the toilets contain enzymes to break down the organic material. Spray the walls and let sit for at least a few minutes so the enzymes can work. Then wipe down with a damp towel.

08 of 12

Under, Alongside, and Behind Your Stove

Wood kitchen stove oven
Laurie Black

"Think of all the times you've spilled something between the stove and the counter and not cleaned it up," Christian says. "Add the ambient heat from the stove to the mix, and you have the perfect place for germs to thrive."

You'll have to pull the stove away from the wall to clean this area. Make this easier and protect your flooring with furniture sliders under the feet of the stove. (A bath mat with the carpet side down works, too.) If you have a gas stove with a flexible hose, pull until the hose is almost—but not entirely—extended. (If your gas stove doesn't have a flexible hose, you'll need a pro's help.) Once the stove is pulled out, scrape off the buildup with a plastic putty knife, Christian says, then spray the sides of the oven with oven cleaner. Use a good all-purpose cleaner on the adjacent cabinets and floor.

09 of 12

Inside Your Toothbrush Cup

toothbrush holder
Adam Albright

Not only are toothbrush holders hard to clean, but also they're usually positioned next to the toilet, making them one of the places in the home most susceptible to bacteria since small amounts of fecal debris are sprayed when the toilet is flushed. There's a simple fix: Keep toothbrushes in a moveable, easy-to-clean cup. Soak the cup in warm water mixed with a little bleach for half an hour. Rinse, then soak in clean water for another 30 minutes to remove the bleach residue. Better yet, use a cup you can toss in the dishwasher.

10 of 12

Inside the Refrigerator

Refrigerator with variety of foods
Cameron Sadeghpour

Sticky takeout containers and long-forgotten leftovers mingle in a space multiple hands touch daily. Refrigerators are destined to be dirty, but this is one of the places in the home that often lands last on the must-clean list.

For best results, avoid using chemical cleaners here, Johnson says. Instead, fill your sink with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Remove items from one refrigerator shelf, then remove the shelf itself. Wash it in the sink, dry it with a microfiber cloth, and replace it in the fridge. Repeat for the remaining shelves.

11 of 12

Your Kitchen Sink

undermount kitchen sink subway tile backsplash
Robert Brinson

Thanks to all those food particles mingling in a moist environment, the kitchen sink is dirtier than your toilet post-flush, according to Charles P. Gerba, a University of Arizona professor and microbiologist known as Dr. Germ. Wash the sink with soap and water daily, and disinfect it with a kitchen cleaner once or twice a week.

12 of 12

Remote Controls

wicker basket containing remotes
Mark Lund

Hands in all states of cleanliness handle the TV remote often, yet it's rarely wiped clean, even after a sick day spent channel-surfing. "The TV remote is one of the germiest surfaces in your home," Harmon says. Use a disinfectant wipe to clean remotes often. To get in between the buttons, try a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

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