20 Items in Your Home Making You Sick

Dealing with an illness you can't shake? Your house might be to blame.

The average person does countless things to keep themselves safe at home on a day-to-day basis. We lock our doors, we make sure our stoves are turned off before we head out the door, and we even have professional inspectors come give the place a once-over before we get the keys. However, despite taking a laundry list of precautions against more obvious dangers, many of us are ignoring a wide variety of items in our home that could be causing us harm.

From kitchen appliances to the very items we use to clean our living spaces, these surprising items in your home could be making you sick. And when you're ready to make your home healthier, start with these 20 Genius House-Cleaning Tricks That Will Blow Your Mind!

Can Openers

Metal Opener

While you likely clean your dishes and utensils on a regular basis, few of us can remember the last time we gave our can opener a thorough scrub. Unfortunately, our neglectful behavior when it comes to this useful kitchen tool may be making us sick.

In fact, according to one study, thanks to the food particles we're being less-than-diligent about cleaning off, everything from mold to E. coli, the latter being potentially deadly, has been found on can openers.  And when you want to make your house safer, start with these 20 Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know.

Air Conditioning

air conditioner

While air conditioning may be a must-have in hot climates, those units keeping us cool might be putting our health at risk. While multiple studies confirm that mold is a regular inhabitant of our air conditioning's filters, that's not the only scary thing hiding out in our A/Cs. In fact, according to a study published in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health, air conditioning has been found to harbor a particular bacteria that actually feeds on human skin. And in larger buildings, Legionella, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire's disease, is often found in cooling units. (An air-conditioning-related Legionnaire's outbreak killed 12 people in New York City in 2015.)

Leaky Pipes

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That leaky pipe under your sink might be doing more damage than just leaving you a water-stained ceiling on the floor below. Leaky pipes are a major factor in the development of household mold, which a meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Finland reveals to be a contributing factor in the development of asthma. And when you want to make your space safer, start by protecting yourself from the 50 Deadliest Items in Your Home.

Vacuum Cleaners

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Think your vacuum cleaner is necessarily helping you reduce the number of contaminants in your house? Think again. According to a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, in addition to some bacteria staying alive for up to two months inside a vacuum cleaner bag, some had also developed antibiotic-resistant properties. And in vacuum cleaners without HEPA filters, those bacteria can be spread back into your living space, making you sick in the process.

Bed Sheets

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Research reveals that the average pillowcase has up to 12 million colony-forming units of bacteria on it after four weeks of not washing. Unfortunately, this collection of bacteria is made up of 41.45 percent gram-positive rods, which are dangerous to your health and can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Nearly a quarter of the bacteria found in bedding is of the bacilli variety, strains of which are often major contributors to food poisoning. And when you want to sleep more soundly, try out these 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better.

Kitchen Sponges


Cleaning your dishes and counters with that kitchen sponge may be doing more harm than good in the long run. According to research published in Scientific Reports, the kitchen sponges studied harbored 362 distinct bacterial species, with a shocking 45 billion bacteria per square centimeter, many of which can cause food poisoning and other illnesses. And when you want to make your kitchen cleaner, This Is the Safest Way to Clean Your Sponges.

Shower Heads

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Your shower head isn't just getting you (theoretically) clean: it could be getting you sick in the process. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, shower heads can harbor everything from Legionella, the bacteria behind Legionnaire's disease, to Nontuberculous Mycobacteria, which can cause devastating lung infections, particularly among those with already-weakened immune systems.

Door Handles

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Every time you open a door in your home, you may be opening yourself up to a wide variety of illnesses, too. According to a study published in PLoS One, the frequency with which a door knob or handle is used is directly correlated with its bacterial counts.

Scarier yet, research from the American Journal of Infection Control says that even with regular cleaning, 20 percent of hospital door handles still had significant bacterial counts. The good news? There's some evidence to suggest that fewer bacteria stick around on copper knobs and handles.

Old Windows

Painted windowframe

Virtually all American homes built prior to 1978 are likely to contain at least some lead paint, with windows being a particular culprit when it comes to lead poisoning, which can cause everything from an upset stomach to behavioral issues to brain damage.

In fact, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, windows that rubbed when opening and closing created 27 percent more lead dust than those that moved smoothly.

Refrigerator Compartments

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Just because you clean your refrigerator on a regular basis doesn't mean it's staying that way. According to research conducted by Microban Europe, veggie drawers are a particularly bad source of contaminants, hosting up to 750 times the number of bacteria generally deemed safe. Unfortunately, it's not just harmless bacteria those drawers are hosting, either; everything from listeria to salmonella to E. coli, both of which can cause serious digestive issues or even death, have been found in veggie drawers.

Cleaning Products

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The very products you use to keep your home clean could be jeopardizing your health. According to research published by the American Thoracic Society, women who regularly cleaned with household cleaning products, whether at home or in a professional capacity, had significant lung function decline when compared to their counterparts who abstained.

Bath Mats

Bath mat things that can make you sick

According to research published in PLoS One, bathroom floors are regularly contaminated with human skin, fecal bacteria, and even bacteria found in soil. When you take into account the warm and damp climate bath mats are usually kept in—and how infrequently they're washed—it's clear that they're a veritable hotbed of bacterial activity, and one that can easily make you sick.

Air Freshener

Room spray

Don't risk your health just to keep your house smelling sweet. Research conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reveals that 1,4 dichlorobenzene, a volatile organic compound found in air fresheners, is linked to reduced lung function.


Carpet cleaning

That wall-to-wall carpeting may keep your house warm and quiet, but it could be putting your health at risk. Wall-to-wall carpeting is known to contain volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde, both of which are known to contribute to reduced lung function. In fact, one study of carpet factory workers found that their occupational exposure to these substances adversely affected their lung health.

Computer Keyboards

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Clearing your browser history isn't the only kind of cleaning your computer should be getting. A study conducted at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia found significant levels of bacterial contamination on computer keyboards, with everything from staphylococcus to E.coli potentially taking up residence on them.


Dish washer with clean dishes

Just because your dishwasher it has the word "washer" in it doesn't mean it's necessarily getting things clean. According to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, dishwashers are a hotbed of bacterial and fungal contamination, with bacteria including Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, and Escherichia present in the sample.

Makeup Brushes

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Makeup brushes harbor the bacteria from both your face and cosmetics, often with disastrous results. One woman from Texas recently shared her harrowing story of developing a serious staph infection after using an unwashed makeup brush. Luckily, you can always keep yourself safer: This Is the Safest Way to Clean Your Makeup Brushes.

Refrigerator Handle

Fridge handle

Unfortunately, the crisper drawer isn't the only part of your fridge that might be harming your health. According to researchers at the University of Virginia, who presented their findings at the joint meeting of the American Society for Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, refrigerator door handles harbored bacteria that cause colds approximately 40 percent of the time.

TV Remotes

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If you aren't regularly wiping down your TV remotes, you might be playing a dangerous game with your health. According to research published by the American Society for Microbiology, TV remotes were among the most bacteria-laden items in hotel rooms. And considering how rarely most of us give our remotes a thorough cleaning, this could mean everything from staphylococcus to E. coli is lurking on them.

Washing Machines

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While your washing machine is still probably your best bet for getting your clothes clean, it might also be harboring a scary number of bacteria. According to Dr. Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona, our washing machines often have significant bacterial counts, including large numbers of fecal bacteria and E. coli, both of which can make people extremely ill.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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