Real Life

The surprising way your house could be making you sick

You won't believe the common household mistakes we are all making. Here's your guide to keeping the house AND your health in tip top shape.

By Brittany Smith
We all lead such busy lives and often don't have time for anything more than a quick once-over with the vacuum and a wet cloth.
But a germ-infested house could seriously affect your health.
From toxic mould syndrome to salmonella and seasonal allergies, there are dozens of ailments that can be caused by a dirty home.
Here we give you tips on how to stay clean and improve your health.


Bed sheets:
The average human sheds about 14g of skin in just one week – skin that's often covered in sweat, oil, faecal matter and other microbes.
Since we spend so much time in bed it doesn't take long for our sheets to become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Try to wash your sheets and pillowcases once a week or fortnight and wash your doona once every six months.
Bath towels:
Most people think it's okay to wait a while before you clean your towels.
After all, you only use them when you're hopping out of the shower, nice and clean.
But that myth just isn't true.
Towels are the perfect environment for bacteria to grow as they're damp and porous.
According to Dr Charles Gerba, a renowned microbiologist, "After two days, if you dry your face on a hand towel, you're probably getting more E. coli on your face than if you stuck your head in a toilet."
To avoid this try washing your towels every two or three days with hot water.
Tea towels:
You wouldn't keep chicken in the cupboard or eat off a dirty plate.
But most people don't realise that by using a dirty tea towel they're risking food poisoning.
And if you use your tea towel to dry your hands as well as the dishes then you're putting your health at even more risk.
Enzo Palombo, a microbiology professor at Swinburne University, recommends washing tea towels every day.
To avoid spreading germs, make sure you wait until a tea towel has dried completely before you use it again.


Since they absorb the oil and dead skin cells from your head and body, they can quickly fill with dust mites and common allergens.
To keep your bed healthy, try to replace your pillows and bed sheets every two years.
Luckily, your doona should last much longer – up to 15 or even 25 years if you keep it covered in a sheet.
Bras can be expensive so we often wear the same one for a few days at a time, without washing.
This can lead to a build-up in the microorganisms that live in our underwear.
But germs aren't the only problem when it comes to our delicates.
With wear and tear, our bras can stretch, making them less supportive and more uncomfortable.
To make sure your intimates are in tip top shape, try replacing them every six months.
There's nothing more frustrating than trying to shave with a dull razor.
But not replacing your razor can lead to a lot of health problems – especially as razors are often used all over the body.
The bacteria on your razor can lead to staph infections, abscess or even impetigo, a type of crust that grows on the skin.
Throw out your razor after five uses and store it in a cupboard, not the shower since bacteria grows in moist places.


Fresh poultry, such as chicken and turkey, can last up to nine months in the freezer but just two days in the fridge.
Cooked leftovers can be kept in the fridge for three or four days and in the freezer for up to six months.
Vegetables can last three to four months in the freezer and fruit can stay fresh for eight but only last in the fridge up to a week.
Hard cheeses:
For example parmesan can last up to four months if its unopened, or six weeks if it's opened.
Soft cheeses must be used within one to two weeks.
This can be frozen but sometimes it can affect the texture.
Cheese can last in the freezer for up to two months but can be crumbly when thawed.
To avoid this, grate it before freezing.
Butter can be frozen for six to eight months if it's in a sealed plastic bag.
But don't freeze sour cream or yogurt because they separate and turn grainy in texture.


Bacteria thrive in dark and damp environments, making something as innocuous as a tube of mascara the perfect breeding ground for germs.
Since make-up is expensive, we try to use it for as long as possible to get the most bang for our buck.
But that could lead to serious eye infections, skin conditions and acne.
If you dip your fingers into your bottle of liquid foundation then throw it out after six months as your hands can spread germs.
If your foundation comes in a pump bottle then it should last a little longer – about eight months.
Eye make-up
The eyes are a very sensitive part of the body and to avoid an infection it's best to throw out liquid eyeliner and mascara within three or six months.
A powdered product, like eyeshadow, can last up to four years as long as you regularly clean and replace your make-up brushes.
Lipstick, lip gloss and lip liner should all last for two years, as long as you're not sick and coughing all over the product.
Nail polish
Unless you're suffering from a fungal infection when you use it, nail polish should last at least two years.


It's an issue that is often overlooked but poor bone health is more common than cervical and breast cancer combined.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease.
When sufferers have weak bones, a simple fall could cause a break which will mean a loss of mobility.
Experts encourage women to prioritise bone scans as highly as pap smears and mammograms.
With Mother's Day approaching, mums and daughters could make a visit to the doctor and request a bone scan together.

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