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  • Alan Henry, The New York Times

5 Things Around Your Home You Never Clean but Should

You have the basics down: doing laundry, keeping the bathroom clean, wiping the kitchen countertops — but dirt and grime have a bad habit of collecting in the strangest places, including the ones you don’t think to look. Here are some spots around your house you should consider cleaning more often, if you clean them at all, because they’re probably pretty filthy.

Right out of the gate, we should point out that you should clean these spaces not because they’ll make you sick or anything, but because they’re probably pretty gross and collect dirt and dust easily. They may accumulate bacteria as well, but there’s no reason to be a germaphobe about them.

People with immune disorders or who are prone to sickness may want to pay closer attention than others, but in many cases, your cleaning efforts are just a good way to keep them in good working order for a nice long time.

Doorknobs and handles

You probably don’t think to clean off the doorknobs and handles around your home very often, but they’re worth a quick wipe the next time you’re cleaning in the same room. When you think about how often we touch the door knobs and handles in our homes, especially with dirty hands or on the way in or out of the bathroom, you may even choose to make a habit of it.

Whether it’s the handle to a kitchen cabinet, the doorknob to the bathroom or just the front door to your home, give it a wipe down from time to time, if for no other reason than to keep them free of debris and pleasant to use.

You’ve probably heard that door handles — especially bathroom door handles — can be home to all sorts of nasty germs that can make you sick, but the risk from bacteria on doorknobs is likely heavily overstated. While it can be an issue in bathrooms that experience heavy use, the risk at home is minor, and the benefit to keeping handles clean has more to do with no one liking to touch a sticky or dirty doorknob than a health issue.

Your smartphone

For something we use for hours every day, when’s the last time you did more than just wipe off your smartphone’s screen when it was too smudged to see through? In reality, considering how often we use our phones, and where we use them (yes, that includes checking Facebook on the toilet), our phones deserve a more thorough cleaning from time to time.

Sure, a little grease from your hands isn’t the end of the world, but that array of pretty foul bacteria thriving on your phone shouldn’t make you happy. Plus, keeping your device clean works in your favor in other ways too — it keeps your screen clean and easy to read, and it keeps dust and grime out of speaker grates, away from charging ports and out of headphone jacks (if you even have one of those anymore).

If you plan to sell the phone in a few months or years to help fund the latest and greatest model, keeping yours clean now will make sure it stays free of scratches and dings for the long haul. Luckily, we have a complete guide to cleaning your phone, tablet and other gadgets to get you started.

Start with a microfiber cloth to pick up grease and dust (avoid paper towels and other materials that’ll just push it around). For those stubborn spots or anything that won’t come up, reach for some isopropyl alcohol. Mix a solution of 1 to 1 alcohol and water, then moisten a microfiber cloth and gently rub those spots and stains away. For more tips, check out this step-by-step from Greenbot.

Your computer keyboard

When you’re not using your phone, you’re probably using a desktop or laptop computer, which means your fingers are constantly in contact with your keyboard. And considering many of us snack or take lunch at our desks, drink over our computers, or even spill beverages on them, you can imagine the gross, grimy world living just below those keys.

And while there’s certainly no shortage of bombastic headlines trumpeting that your keyboard is dirtier than a toilet seat (a bit of a misconception, as toilet seats tend to be fairly clean compared to other bathroom surfaces), so-called high-touch surfaces like keyboards really can harbor and grow harmful bacteria if left uncleaned.

On the bright side, cleaning a keyboard isn’t too difficult to do, as this extremely thorough guide from tech site How-To Geek explains. You may be startled by what you find beneath those keys, if you go so far as to pull the key caps up and clean out the dirt, grime, hair and crumbs that likely lurk underneath.

Even if you don’t, flipping the keyboard upside down and shaking the debris out, then using a small hand-held vacuum cleaner or can of compressed air will do the job as well. Then a quick wipe down with cleaning wipes, cotton swabs or a microfiber cloth moistened with that same 1:1 alcohol-to-water solution we mentioned earlier will take care of the parts you actually touch.

Your remote control

Be honest: Have you ever cleaned your remote control? Whether you use the one that came with your TV or something complicated that came from your cable company, odds are you pick it up every time you flop down on the couch to Netflix and chill. But you’ve never even so much as wiped the grime and dirt from the valleys between the buttons, have you?

That grime can add up, if you think about how many times you’ve likely snacked in front of the screen. Whether your preference is popcorn, chips or full-blown meals, your remote is likely filthy — and again, while it’s unlikely you’ll get sick from that crusty, grimy thing, it certainly isn’t doing anything for the life of the gadget you rely on to relax after a long day of work.

In reality though, remote controls, especially the ones in hotel roomsthat are often used by a rotating crew of people without ever being cleaned, are pretty gross with bacteria. While we can make the case that you might use a disinfecting cleaning wipe on the one in your hotel the next time you travel, there’s no reason to wait until you leave home. Grab a wipe and give the one you use every day a good wipe down, and try to make it part of your cleaning routine. It probably won’t make you healthier, but it will prolong the life of your remote, and that’s enough for us.

Your pillows

You may not know it, but most pillows are designed to be machine washable. You’ll have to fluff them when they come out of the washer (or the dryer, if the manufacturer suggests drying them), and you don’t want to wash them too often or they’ll lose their shape.

And it’s a good thing too, considering pillows tend to be exactly where dead skin, dust, drool and in many cases, dust mites love to hang out. For most people, that’s not a huge deal, aside from the fact that they’re putting their face on a gross, dirty pillow at night to sleep. For people with compromised immune systems or who have allergies, they can be an irritant that makes for sleepless nights, skin irritation and sinus congestion.

Luckily for all of us, whether you have allergies or you just don’t like the idea of a gross pillow under your head while you sleep, the solution is easy: a trip through the washing machine on the delicate cycle, then tumble dry low or air dry. If you like, take things a step further and invest in a quality pillow protector.

While you’re at it, consider cleaning your comforters if you haven’t recently, and some other household textiles mentioned in this list of home products you probably don’t clean as often as you should, fromWirecutter, the New York Times’ product review site. Then you can breathe easy while you rest.

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