If you’ve been avoiding giving your home a thorough once-over, you’re not alone. For many of us, the thought of steaming our carpets or cleaning out the refrigerator makes us want to crawl under the covers. Since we all can use some extra motivation to get our rubber gloves on, we’ve obtained some expert advice on how often you should clean everything and, more importantly, why.
As it turns out, your home is harboring more bacteria than a public trash can. But it’s not just your toilet seat that’s riddled with germs; experts suggest computer keyboards and microwaves are also likely culprits. Motivated yet? Take a deep breath and read on to find out how frequently you should be cleaning your house. Truth time: It’s more than once a year.
Frequency: Every week
For years, the conventional wisdom was that cooking food in a microwave oven was a great way to kill bacteria (and made it safe to eat). Although, research suggests that microwaving food doesn’t kill bacteria. That said, keeping your microwave splash-free is crucial. We recommend wiping it down once a week then do a deep clean twice a month. You can even clean it with a DIY concoction. Simply mix 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of white vinegar in a heat-safe dish, microwave it on high until the window steams up.
Finish by wiping the interior with a sponge. Easy.
Frequency: Every one to two weeks
Surprisingly, fresh findings suggest your bed linen isn’t as dirty as you might think. “We’ve done research that showed that you don’t get as much exposure to dust mites [when] in bed as we once thought,” says Euan Tovey, head of the Allergen and Upper Airways Group at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. He says you’re subjected to dust mites whenever you’re moving, not when you’re lying in bed. But before you forgo washing your sheets, take note: Results vary depending on your sleeping routine.
If you don’t shower after work or snooze in the buff, opt to wash bed linens with hot water every one to two weeks.
Frequency: Every week
The toilet has a reputation for being one of the dirtiest areas of a bathroom, but according to new research, it’s got nothing on your bathtub. Elizabeth Scott, PhD, co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston, compared the bacteria she found in tubs to trash cans. Believe us—the findings are pretty foul. Scott found a serious skin infection–causing bacteria in 26% of the tubs tested, compared to just 6% of garbage cans. So yes, your bathtub is officially grubbier than the trash.
The verdict: Clean your bathtub as often as your toilet—ideally every week.
Frequency: Every month
Brace yourselves: Scientists say salad drawers contain 750 times the safe level of bacteria, making them one of the main places to clean regularly. Don’t wait for a spring-cleaning reminder; this part of your home deserves monthly attention.
Frequency: Every week
A massive 70% of Americans eat lunch at their desk, making computer keyboards a breeding ground for bacteria. One study found that keyboards harbor five times the bacteria found on a toilet seat, but 10% of people never clean them (eek!). Set aside time every Friday to give your desk a once-over with disinfectant spray. Don’t forget to pay attention to the mouse, and use an alcohol-dipped cotton swab to clean between keys.
Frequency: Every three months
Pillowcase protectors can help shield your bed from dust mites and daily grime, but don’t forget to wash the pillow itself. In fact, Wilson tells Huffington Post that every three months is ideal. Depending on your allergies, pillows should be replaced as often as every six months, although he admits most people are fine to keep them for three years.
Frequency: Every two months
You might regularly wash your linens, but what about your mattress? Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Institute says mattress pads need to be washed every two months and that you get bonus points for cleaning your mattress while the protector is in the wash. Her cleaning hack? Sprinkle the mattress with baking soda to absorb odor, vacuum it, then spray the mattress with Lysol to kill bacteria.
Frequency: Every six to 12 months
We hate to break it to you, but vacuuming doesn’t count as carpet cleaning. If you don’t regularly steam your floors, research suggests it could be harming your health. “Indoor air quality can be eight to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality if you don’t clean your flooring, clean your drapes, and let air inside regularly,” says Robin Wilson, an interior designer who specializes in allergy-free homes. But that’s not all: Another study suggests your carpet could contain up to 200,000 bacteria per square inch.
Have we convinced you yet? Opt for a professional steam cleaning every six to 12 months, or more frequently if you have a pet.
Frequency: After every three uses
How often do you clean your bath towels? If your answer is every one to two weeks, science suggests that’s not enough. Researchers have found that washing your towel after only three uses removes millions of dead skin cells (yes, you read that right). Be sure to wash hand towels every three days to avoid that musty scent.
Frequency: Every day
If you cook regularly, chances are you already wipe down kitchen surfaces daily. That’s a great start, but there are a few key zones to focus on. According to experts, countertops are dirtiest near the sink area because people tend to use sponges contaminated with food. The bottom line is that you should wipe surfaces daily, and swap out your kitchen sponges and washcloths every week.
Pin or save this handy cheat sheet to keep your cleaning schedule on track year-round.
This post was originally published on May 6, 2018, and has since been updated.