Hidden Germs: 8 Bathroom Hygiene Mistakes You’re Making

A father helps his daughter brush her teeth

Now more than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to practice good bathroom hygiene.

But are you overlooking the little things – the ones that may inadvertently create a breeding ground for germs and bacteria? Read on to find out if you're making these eight common hygiene mistakes.

Keeping A Toothbrush Too Close To The Toilet

You should aim to store your toothbrush at least four feet away from the toilet.. What most people don't know is that you also want to avoid the sink, which can splash your brush with soap and dirty water from hand washing.

Consider mounting a toothbrush holder on your wall to let your toothbrush air out, and no matter what, make sure to close your toilet lid before every flush to avoid spraying fecal matter and toilet water into the air.

Bonus tip: Replace your toothbrush every three to four months for optimal dental hygiene.

blue infographic shows a toothbrush and explains how 100 million germs can be on your toothbrush including e.coli, staphylococcus aureus, and streptococcus

Using The Same Towel Too Often

You should wash your towel after every three to five uses, especially when hung to dry in a moist, dark place (like a bathroom). Your towel hosts a multitude of bacteria, fungi, urinary and anal secretions, along with dead skin cells. And when you're not using it, those microscopic microbes are multiplying.

Reusing The Same Loofah For Months

Many people are loofah loyalists, but these shower sponges can be a cesspool for germs.

If you use a natural loofah made from the luffa plant, make sure to switch it out every three weeks, and disinfect it weekly with a diluted bleach solution. Replace plastic loofahs every two months, and avoid storing them in the shower – it's a moist environment that's ripe for bacteria growth.

Not Washing Your Hands Long Enough

If you can't make it through the "ABCs" twice while washing your hands, you're doing it too quickly. Clean hands require at least 20 seconds of washing.

Start by wetting them under warm or cold water before applying soap. Then, lather for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Finally, rinse and be on your way.

Walking Barefoot On Bathroom Floors

Especially if you're at a gym or shared bathroom space, make sure you keep your feet covered. A pair of flip-flops can help you avoid nail fungal infections, athlete's foot, plantar warts and staph infections.

Cleaning Using Toxic Chemicals

Some chemicals in cleaning products have been linked to illnesses from asthma and allergies to birth defects and cancer. Chemicals have their place, but they require caution.

As more studies are done on these toxic chemicals, the Environmental Working Group and Environmental Protection Agency keep lists of healthier cleaning supplies based on where you're using them, such as in a home or at a business.

It's also important to note that cleaning surfaces in your bathroom — simply removing dirt and particles — is not the same thing as disinfecting them to kill viruses and bacteria. Learn more about how to clean and disinfect your home against COVID-19.

Cleaning Your Ears With Cotton Swabs

Your ears produce earwax for multiple reasons: to keep dust and dirt away from your eardrum, to provide antibacterial protection, and more.

As you chew or talk, your jaw helps move the wax away from your inner ear and outward. Hence, wax in your ear canal.

Using cotton swabs reverses that process, though, pushing wax further into the ear where it can get stuck. Instead of using cotton swabs (and risking hearing loss, pain and infection), trust your ears and let them clean themselves naturally.

Not Brushing Or Flossing Long Enough

As your dentist has probably said, you should be flossing thoroughly once a day to get rid of decay-causing bacteria where toothbrush bristles can't reach. This helps prevent cavities and gum disease.

If you're too tired to floss at the end of the day, try the morning or after lunch. Follow up by brushing at least twice a day, for 2 minutes at a time. Place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, and make sure to brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth, as well as outer and inner surfaces.

Keeping these tips in mind as you clean will help you avoid germs in your spaces and on yourself. If there's a hygiene practice you have questions about, be sure to ask your primary care physician at your next appointment.

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