The average human hand harbors around 150 species of bacteria, most of which are healthy and natural. Germs are all around us, and homes are an ideal nesting ground for different types of germs, both the good and the bad.

Scientists agree that there are a number of places in your home that hold significantly more bacteria than others, and these places deserve extra attention. Though many bacteria are necessary and good, these places may indeed benefit from an antibacterial wipe down every now and then.

The top ten most germy places in the average home include:

Thumbnail image for home-hygiene.jpg1. TV Remotes. Many of us are guilty of grabbing an after-work snack and flipping on our DVR. Bacteria from many different sets of hands and the remnants of couch-potato snacking has probably accumulated into a ceste pool of germs.

2. Bathtub and Shower. The Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community conducted an in-home study that revealed many bathtubs contain up to 100 times the amount of bacteria found in a trash can. Experts recommend disinfecting bathtubs and showers at least once every two weeks.

3. Pet Food Dish. These food and water bowls need a good scrubbing every now and then. Dogs and cats can contract illnesses from bacteria just like humans.

4. Kitchen Sponges and Cloths. These pieces designed to clean other things may in fact be some of the most germ-infested parts of the home.  The recommendation is to run sponges through the dishwasher regularly and dish cloths through the washing machine. A recent study conducted by the Hygiene council showed that over 70 percent of kitchen sponges in U.S. homes failed a hygiene test.  WebMD reported that Cleaning cloths were the most contaminated items sampled by the Hygiene council. Thirty-one percent of cloths were contaminated with E. coli and 21 percent with Staphylococcus aureus.

5. Microwave Touch Screen. This is a place even the most germ-conscious parents often forget to wipe down. Make sure to be especially vigilant about this screen when preparing raw meat.

6. Light Switches. These are places we often touch every day, and normally forget to sanitize. If a member of your household is sick it is especially important to wipe them down.

7. Vacuum Cleaner. These marvelous contraptions are designed to clean the home, but they can also be a central source of bacteria. “We looked at 30 vacuum brushes. Fifty percent contained coliform fecal bacteria and 13 percent E. coli,” a scientist told WebMD. “There’s not much you can do about the brush,” he says. “Vacuum the cleanest areas first and the dirtiest last,” he suggests. That way, you’ll be less likely to spread around as much bacteria.

8. Kitchen and bathroom Faucets. WebMD reported that Faucets and sponges in kitchens harbor more germs than bathroom surfaces. In the Hygiene Council survey, kitchen faucet handles carried more than 13,000 bacteria per square inch and bathroom faucet handles had more than 6,000 bugs per square inch. This is higher than most other spots in the home. WebMD recommends using a disinfectant spray cleaner every night after cleaning up.

9. Shower Curtain. Does your shower curtain get a funny color after a few years use? The crud and soap scum that collects on it over time is probably Sphingomonas and Methylobacterium bacteria. These bacteria can cause problems for people with compromised immune systems, such as children and the elderly.

10. Wet Laundry. How can there be bacteria in the machine designed to clean our clothing? When clothes go into the washing machine, bacteria from one piece of clothing can easily transfer to another. Dangerous viruses like hepatitis A are also especially transferable. Using the hot cycle in a dryer has been found to kill off a lot of the remaining bacteria and is a good precaution. Bleach has been found to kill 100 percent of bacteria on clothing when paired with a hot drying cycle.

So, should we run around our homes sanitizing each and every surface? Probably not. Many germs in our homes are not dangerous. Consumers today are bombarded with cleaning products from every direction that encourage sterilizing the house and preventing illness, but in reality many of these germs are natural and good for our bodies. Children especially need to be exposed to many different types of bacteria from a young age in order to develop a strong immune system.

However, some studies show that up to 65 percent of common colds are picked up from bacteria transferred through household items. When anyone with a cold or other illness has entered the house, it may be a good idea to sanitize these ten household items in order to prevent spread of the cold or disease.

The Hygiene Council is an international body of experts that conduct a yearly study on a variety of different countries to compare and contrast hygienic practices.  According to its research, “Americans’ kitchen hygiene actually got worse in 2009, compared to 2008. Despite claims of Americans that they clean kitchen sink faucets at least once a week, 60 percent of the faucets swabbed failed the scientific group’s hygiene test, compared to only 25 percent in 2008,” WebMD reported. The UK, Germany, and Saudi Arabia all have cleaner kitchen sink faucets than the United States.

One interesting finding that the Council unearthed in the eight countries they tested, is that 19 percent of households were found to clean in order to present the image of cleanliness rather than to actually clean germs.