PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Now that winter is here, most of us are spending more time inside, but most of us aren’t alone.

We’re not talking about your family; we’re talking about germs that could be lurking in your home, including some places you may have never even dreamed.

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dixon says cleaning your welcome mat or rug on a regular basis is the key.

“Bacteria like warmth and they like moisture; so, if it’s warm and moist they tend to multiply,” says Dr. Dixon.

In the bathroom, Dr. Dixon says “the biggest problem people have is they use the water closet and they don’t wash their hands.”

Without ruining your dinner you can imagine what could be on your hands.

“They go out; they open the door – most doors swing in a house so you have to touch the handle to get it open,” he says. “Now you’ve contaminated the handle, now your child comes in.”

And the spreading is on.

“The next thing, the hands are in the mouth, they get an infection,” Dr. Dixon adds.

While we’re in the bathroom, Dr. Dixon says always rinse your toothbrush with hot water before putting it away; and of course, only use your own brush.

Dr. Dixon also had some tips about bath towels.

“People who use the same towel for weeks on end will get skin infections from it,” he said.

Dr. Dixon says even the cleanest people should change towels about every five days.

Also, wash down the walls of your shower with Clorox every couple of weeks to avoid mold.

“We worry about the black mold, which is the stachybotrys, that’s the one that causes a lot of allergies and illness if you get it,” Dr. Dixon said.

But, it is in the kitchen where vigilance is the most key – starting with your dish rag.

“If it’s wet that harbors bacteria,” says Dr. Dixon. “You use it to clean off your plates, you use it to clean off your utensils; it can be a source of many bacteria. You ought to wash it in some good hot soap at least every couple of days.”

Dr. Dixon is not a fan of the aerators that are standard in kitchen faucets.

His concern is legionella bacteria.

“They live in these areas around the aerator; you inhale this stuff, you make it much more likely you’ll get pneumonia,” he said. “We like to see people take the aerators off even though it makes a bigger splash.

Finally, Dr. Dixon issues a warning about garbage disposals.

He says if you don’t run the disposal long enough with sufficient water the disposal “can be a regular cesspool of bacteria.”

“It accumulates this food material – that starts to deteriorate, that starts to putrefy, and you get all kinds of bacteria there,” Dr. Dixon said.

Then, if you put food in the sink to wash it off, like produce for example, “you may get bacterial contamination inadvertently from the garbage disposal.”

So, Dr. Dixon says regular cleaning is essential.

“Maybe weekly or so, put down a cup of diluted Clorox [to] clean the thing out,” he said.

Allegheny County Health Department
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