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Where Germs Live: Bed And Bath

Even if you're the best housekeeper in the world, germs and bacteria are lurking in your home where you least expect it.

For the second part of the germ series, The Early Show took a trip up to Hastings N.Y., to show one homeowner that what you see is not always what you get, especially when it comes to germs.

Working mom Ramona Grey-Harris gave a rundown of what it takes to keep her spacious New York home clean. Her home appeared spotless but Joseph Schulman, a specialist in the cleaning industry found, used an ultra-violet light to find areas where germs and bacteria were lurking.

The most germ-ridden room in most homes is the kitchen, sometimes containing up to 200 times more fecal bacteria on the kitchen cutting board than on the bathroom toilet seat. At Grey-Harris' kitchen, two of the areas of contamination included the stove corner and knobs.

The key is to know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing. Dr. Philip Tierno, the director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical Center and author of "The Secret Life Of Germs," explains the difference.

"Cleaning is removing dirt," he says, "When you disinfect you are adding a chemical to kill germs that are present on a surface. When you sanitize, you only lower the level of germs."

Here is what you can do to keep your house free of germs:


Kitchen - Sponges

"The dirtiest particular item in the kitchen is the kitchen sponge or a dishrag," says Dr. Tierno to The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

Sponges, he explains, are where the organisms that you clean up after preparing a meal grow in that wet and warm environment. So sponges should be replaced at least every three weeks as long as you wash it regularly.

Solution: "Take a little bleach and water, one part bleach, nine parts water, in a little bowl," Dr. Tierno explains. "After you clean up the debris from the meat carcass, place your sponge in there for about a minute or so. That will kill all of the potential pathogens. The idea is also not to use the same sponge to do different tasks, because that causes cross contamination. Especially, if you're cleaning up like appliances, countertops, tables, et cetera. There should be different designated sponges."

Bedroom – Mattress and Pillows

Dr. Tiereno notes, "The mattress and the pillows actually become reservoirs of human cells, dust mites, bacteria, fungal spores, fungal elements, pollen, dander, and secretions and excretions of the body that accumulate over 10 years. The actual weight of a mattress doubles in ten years from all of that."

Solution: Dr. Tierno explains, "Put a (water repellent) impervious outer cover over your mattress and pillows to prevent what's in to come out and what's out to come in. Of course, washing sheets and pillowcases weekly -that would be ideal."

As for pillows, he says, "They become functionally not useful after a certain period of time, like a year or so. I think you can discard them. If you have an outer impervious cover, you can use them for a long time. "

Bathroom – Toilet

Dr. Tierno says under the toilet seat and the rim of the bowl are areas people forget to clean. You must clean up when organic material, such as urine, is spilled because it serves as food for other bacteria and germs to grow.

Solution: Weekly cleaning and closing the lid when you flush. Depending on the age of your toilet, Dr. Tierno says flushing can spread germs.

He explains, "Some of the older flushers can spread about 20 feet into the air and land on the counters, in your comb, brush and toothbrush. Do not leave toothbrushes in proxmity of toilet. A low-volume flusher can help reduce the spread of air with germs.

As for the best product to use when trying to clean hidden germs and bacteria, he says, "In reality, for most lay people disinfecting and sanitizing are good. Most products are marked anti-bacterial, disinfectant and sanitizers. All are good. Liquid soap or detergent soap and water will also eradicate the germs. But you really should use a disinfectant or sanitizers. and use hot water above 150 degrees to wash out the germs. You can also use bleach to clean (1 part bleach to 9 parts warm water)."

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