When was the last time you swapped your sheets and pillow cases? What about your loofah? Come to think of it, there are probably several things in your home that need replacing but you just haven’t gotten around to it. And to be honest, the only way to know that they need to be replaced is by knowing how often to replace them.
To help you switch out some common household items that unfortunately double as breeding grounds for germs, we’ve compiled a handy list of when to change stuff, or how often to clean it for prolonged, more hygienic use.
Some of the 500 million cells we shed daily, along with our sweat, pollen, pet dander, fungi and mold, are probably going to bed with us at night. According to Good Housekeeping, bedding should be washed at least once every two weeks, but once weekly if you sweat a lot at night. And if someone has been sick or down with the flu, the sheets should be washed immediately.
This is the first thing we use in the morning and often the last thing at night — it’s a no brainer it needs to be replaced regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your toothbrush (or the brush head on your electric toothbrush) should be replaced every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles look worn out. The CDC adds that toothbrushes become contaminated over time with plaque and other soft debris from teeth, bacteria, blood, saliva and toothpaste.
That cozy feeling of landing on your fluffy pillow after a long day is hard to beat. And it’s made even better when you’re using proper hygiene to maintain your pillows, not just your pillowcase. The National Sleep Foundation suggests getting a new pillow every one to two years. Night after night of sleeping on a pillow causes it to absorb body oil, dead skin cells and hair, according to the foundation. To help prolong your pillow, wash it every six months and add a protectant case between the pillow and cover.
Likewise, one of the biggest reasons you should change your pillowcase is skin health, which can especially take a hit in the winter. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends changing your pillowcase, which can accumulate lots of dead skin cells, bacteria and dirt, two or three times a week for better, less acne-prone skin.
In a 2017 study, researchers in Germany found that bacteria that can cause foodborne disease stay on dish sponges or scrubbers even if they’ve been cleaned in the microwave or in boiling water. We should be changing our sponges every week, the researchers added. Kitchen sponges are pretty inexpensive and you should consider stocking up on them to easily swap when needed.
According to the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, once a dish towel or dishrag has been used, bacteria grows on it rapidly. ”If you have 100 cells of bacteria on your dishrag and each divides every 15 minutes, within two hours, you will have 25,600 bacteria,” wrote Alice Henneman, MS, RDN at the university. Dishrags should be changed daily.
Depending on which water filtration system you have, it usually has an established service cycle that you can use to gauge when it needs to be replaced. The CDC recommends changing filters regularly to keep yourself and your drinking water healthy.
Shower curtains and liners are things that many people don’t think to clean, but they’re almost guaranteed to host all sorts of mold and mildew, especially if not cleaned regularly. Even if you don’t replace them, shower curtains should be cleaned at least once a month.
Even if you don’t buy a new bath mat often, you can keep it germ-free by washing it regularly. Once a week is a good amount, especially if you have a few people using the same bathroom space. For getting a new one though, one to two years should suffice.
As a general rule of thumb, you should wash your bath towel or switch to a fresh one at least once a week. Good Housekeeping gets even more specific and suggests towels be washed every third use. And if you’re sick, as with bedsheets and pillowcases, throw them in the laundry immediately. As for replacing them completely, aim to do so every one to two years.
Elle magazine experts say you should be buying new makeup brushes about every three months as needed to replace worn-out ones. Signs it’s time to replace your brush include lost bristles, discoloration or unusual smells. But if you’re able to continue getting your brush squeaky clean, it can last you years.
Cutting boards are yet another breeding ground for bacteria, especially if you cook with meat often. A general rule to follow is replacing plastic cutting boards after they have cut marks or become scratched. A University of Michigan study found that more bacteria was found on plastic cutting boards than wooden boards, and once a board becomes too scratched up, it is impossible to disinfect completely. Bacteria can also transfer from the board and collect in the crevices of the knife, increasing your chance of foodborne illness.
Bath loofahs have bacteria all over them, especially when they’re kept in a warm and moist bathtub or shower. A study published in the ‘90s in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found loofahs host a wide range of bacterial species, and bacteria overgrowth can happen literally overnight. Dead skin can get trapped in the netting of loofahs, and they rarely ever dry out fully. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, if you have a natural loofah, you should swap it every three to four weeks. But if you use a plastic one, you can get two months out of it before changing. However, if you ever spot mold growing on your loofah, you should throw it away and get a new one right away.
If you practice yoga, there’s some good news for you: You don’t necessarily have to replace your mat regularly — cleaning it properly will do just fine. According to the Yoga Journal, yoga mats absorb all the sweat, oil and grime that they’re exposed to, which means they can become dirty, smelly and contaminated with germs quickly. Cleaning your mat consistently after every use by wiping it down with a disinfectant is your best bet for proper hygiene.
If you have pets, this one is especially important. Make sure you replace your vacuum filter every so often to keep it going. According to vacuum manufacturer Bissell, if you have a paper vacuum filter, it can be shaken out between uses and cleaned — you just have to replace it according to the manufacturer's recommendation. You’ll know it needs replacing if the vacuum starts to leave trails of dust and scrap behind.
One sure sign that your hair dryer needs to be retired and replaced is if it takes longer to dry your hair using a hair dryer than air-drying it with a towel. Generally, hair dryers and other hot tools should be replaced every two to seven years, depending on how often they’re used and the shape they’re in. To maintain your hair dryer, make it a habit to clean out the air vent if it’s clogged with dust.
Reusable water bottles are a great way to be environmentally friendly, but they can get grimy and dirty over prolonged use. To know when to replace your water bottle, look out for any foul smells you just can't get rid of despite excessive washing, any buildup of gunk around the mouthpiece or lid, or cracks in the plastic.
If you wear contact lenses, it’s important to practice proper sanitation to prevent infections. The American Optometric Association recommends replacing your contact lens storage case at least every three months.
Just like your toothbrush, you may use your hairbrush multiple times a day. According to Women’s Health, the general consensus on replacing your hairbrush is once every six months to a year, depending on the condition of it. Not only does dead hair build up in the bristles, but residual hair products also get left behind and can make your otherwise healthy hair look greasy and dirty.
As with plastic cutting boards, be on the lookout for scratches and cracks in your plastic food storage containers because that’s where bacteria will collect, and replace them accordingly. Instead of plastic, invest in glass or reusable bamboo containers, which are also better for the environment and an easy way to be more sustainable in your everyday life.
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