What bacteria are lurking inside your home?

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - You can't see them with the naked eye, but millions are in your home. We're talking germs, and many common places in your home are often overlooked when it comes to getting rid of them.

You expect your bathroom to have some dirty areas. The toilet probably comes to mind, but what about the light switch or your shower head?

Everyone knows the toilet and the handle are a hot spot for germs, but when is the last time you cleaned your toilet paper roll lurking just inches from the toilet? Yuck!

According to stylelist.com, spray from toilet flushes can send germs flying and no matter how clean you think you are, you can find bacteria all over the house.

Homeowner Lisa Harrison questioned if she was cleaning enough.

"I try to clean twice as much as I can, but working full time," Harrison shrugged.

Anchor/Reporter Sally Pitts wanted to know if the bacteria lurking around Harrison's home could be dangerous, so we went to the experts from Auburn University. Professors Sang-jin Suh and Scott Miller collected dozens of samples and took it back to their lab.

From the faucet, toilet, counters, and drain, to the kitchen sink, they swabbed all over the Harrison home. Within 24 hours, the Petri dishes were alive with bacteria. The team then prepared the samples for DNA sequencing to help better understand what bacteria they were dealing with.

The team found bacteria that could cause diseases on the kitchen faucet and the kitchen disposal. While these results are gross, are they anything to worry about?

"We did find some that could infect people who are immunosuppressed," Suh said. "We found enterobacter spp, the reason this is so dangerous is it takes up other genes and is resistant to antibiotics. It's multi-drug resistant."

The results also showed Staphylococcus, more commonly referred to as staph, on the kitchen counter, and master bathroom toilet seat.

We asked Lisa what she thought about the results and she said they scared her.

"Yes, it makes me want to boil my house in bleach!" Lisa said.

While it all does sound scary, Suh says the results aren't surprising and what we'd expect to find in anyone's home. Suh says it's nothing to be alarmed about.

"As long as you use good hygiene, it won't hurt you," Suh said.

Here are some tips the Centers for Disease Control recommend to help keep germs at bay.

  • Be sure to wash your hands after using the bathroom or handling raw meat.
  • When it comes to cleaning surfaces, the CDC recommends to first wash it with soap and warm, clean water to remove dirt and debris.
  • Next, sanitize surfaces with household bleach.

"Don't wipe once, give soap 30 to 60 seconds to do its job," Suh said.

Another cleaning tip, if you use one of the sponges make sure you replace it once a week. Same goes for the loofah's you use in a shower.

Speaking of the shower, Suh says the shower head is a spot he often finds bacteria. So, don't forget to clean it or you could have bacteria washing down on you in the shower. You may also want to mop the floors, and don't forget the rugs!

Suh says underneath bathroom rugs are where bacteria and microscopic mold can hideout.

Another way bacteria could get into your home is by your shoes. Sally had the team test hers and says the results may have convinced her to no longer wear shoes in the house. The team found three different bacteria, which included staph.

"I asked them to test my shoes because I have small children, including a 7-month-old who crawls all over my floors," Sally says.

According to Suh, while you should consider not wearing shoes in the house some bacteria is good, even for children. Suh says children need to be exposed to certain bacteria to help build their immune system.

As for Lisa's home, she says, "It's going to get cleaned tonight!"

While that wouldn't hurt Lisa, Suh says the bacteria probably won't either.

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