“There’s no place like home! There’s not place like home!” We love to think of our homes as our safe place, but there there are many places in your home that are not as safe as we’d like to believe! According to experts, everything you do in your daily life, from where you stand in fitness class to the place you choose to store your meds, can have a surprising effect on EVERYTHING — how much you weigh to how often you need to go to the doctor.
The Unhealthiest Place For Your Toothbrush: The Bathroom Sink
There’s nothing wrong with the sink itself, but it’s generally right next to the toilet. There are 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl, according to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona. When you flush, aerosolized toilet ickyness is propelled as far as 6 feet, settling on whatever is nearby, including the floor, the sink, and your toothbrush.
The Best Place: “Keep your toothbrush behind closed doors—in the medicine cabinet or a nearby cupboard,” Gerba says.
The Unhealthiest Place For Your Gym Shoes: The Bedroom Closet
Walking through your house in shoes you wear outside is a great way to track in allergens and contaminants. One study found that lawn chemicals were tracked inside the house for a full week after application, concentrated along the traffic route from the entryway. Shoes also carry in pollen and other allergens.
The Best Place: Reduce exposure by slipping off rough-and-tumble shoes by the door; store them in a basket or under an entryway bench. If your pumps stay off the lawn, they can make the trip to the bedroom—otherwise, carry them.
The Unhealthiest Place To Cool Leftovers: The Fridge
Placing a big pot of hot food directly into the fridge is a recipe for uneven cooling and possibly food poisoning, says O. Peter Snyder Jr., PhD, president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, MN. The reason: It can take a long time for the temperature in the middle of a big container to drop, creating a cozy environment for bacteria.
The Best Place: It’s safe to leave food to cool on the counter for up to an hour after cooking, Snyder says. Or divide the hot food into smaller containers and then refrigerate—it’ll cool faster.
The Unhealthiest Place To Set Your Handbag: The Kitchen Counter
Sorry, but that cute purse is a major tote for microbes: Gerba and his team’s swabs showed up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch on purse bottoms—and a third of the bags tested positive for fecal bacteria! A woman’s carryall gets parked in some nasty spots: on the floor of the bus, beneath the restaurant table—even on the floor of a public bathroom.
The Best Place: Put your bag in a drawer or on a chair, Gerba says—anywhere except where food is prepared or eaten.
The Unhealthiest Place To Use a Public Bathroom: The Stall In the Middle
The center stall has more bacteria than those on either end, according to unpublished data collected by Gerba. No, you won’t catch an STD from a toilet seat. But you can contract all manner of ills if you touch a germy toilet handle and then neglect to wash your hands thoroughly.
The Best Place: Pick a stall all the way left or right to minimize germ exposure.
Place For a Nighttime Reading Light: Over Your Head
These fixtures put out relatively bright light—enough to significantly delay the body’s secretion of melatonin, showed a 2000 study. That can wreck your night, since rising melatonin levels are a major cue for your body to prepare for sleep.
The Best Place: Clip a low-power light directly to your novel. It will let you read but leave the room dark enough for your brain to transition into sleep mode.
The Unhealthiest Place To Keep Medicine: The Medicine Cabinet
It’s not uncommon for the temp in a steamy bathroom to reach 100°F—well above the recommended storage temperatures for many common drugs. The cutoff for the popular cholesterol drug Lipitor, for instance, is around 77°F.
The Best Place: Somewhere cool and dry, such as the pantry.
The Unhealthiest Place To Put Fruit Before Washing It: The Kitchen Sink
Of all the household germ depots, the kitchen sink sees the most bacterial traffic—even more than the toilet, says Kelly Reynolds, PhD, a professor and environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona.
The Best Place: Keep fruit on the counter until you run it under the water. If that perfect blueberry drops while you’re washing it, pop it in the trash—not your mouth.
The Unhealthiest Place To Store Coffee Beans: The Fridge
Think that you’re preserving freshness by stashing it in the fridge? Think again. Every time you take it out of the fridge or freezer, you expose it to fluctuating temperatures, which produces condensation. “The moisture leeches out flavor—it’s like brewing a cup of coffee each time,” says John McGregor, PhD, a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Clemson University.
The Best Place: Store your beans or grounds in an opaque, airtight container kept on the counter or in the pantry.
The Unhealthiest Place To Watch TV: Wherever You’re Eating
Studies show that distraction is your waistline’s enemy—it can keep you from noticing how much you’re eating. In a 2006 study, volunteers ate faster when watching TV than while listening to music—consuming 71% more macaroni and cheese when watching a show.
If you have the tube on while cooking, turn it off before dinner at the kitchen table, and avoid being tempted into eating in front of the TV in the living room.
The Best Place: Up or down a flight of stairs or far away from the kitchen, so you have to “work” to get a snack—you’ll be much less likely to eat too much.