Common Household Mistakes That Could Be Making You Sick

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You might think it doesn't matter where you place your plates and cutlery, but loading the dishwasher incorrectly could be costly. Don't let your plates and spoons, well, spoon. If there isn't enough space between them, your dishes might not end up clean. Food residue and other particles could get trapped in crevices between dishes; the food might rot later or grow mold. Some experts say you shouldn't rinse your dishes before loading them, either.

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You're not cleaning your sponge

Believe it or not, the thing you use to clean your dishes might be dirtier than the dishes themselves. Your sponge is one of the most contaminated things in your kitchen - unless you clean it. When you wipe grime and leftovers off of your dishware, all that bacteria is transferred to your sponge. It's preserved there, lurking until the next time you wash the dishes. Kill all that bacteria by running your sponge through the dishwasher or, if you don't have a dishwasher, soak it in bleach. Just make sure you thoroughly rinse all the bleach off afterwards.

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You're not cleaning your reusable grocery bags

They may be eco-friendly, but reusable grocery bags can be gross if you don't take care of them. The inside of your grocery bag might not come into contact with the floor, your car seat, or wherever you choose to store them, but the outside of the bag does. When you later set the bag down on your counter, all those germs could infiltrate your kitchen. Additionally, raw meat juices, among other things, may be left behind after you unload your grocery haul. Run your cloth tote bags through a washing machine before reusing them.

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You're not changing your air filters

Most people don't even know this is necessary. But if you aren't changing your air filters, you're defeating the purpose of even having them. You want your home to be filled with clean, fresh air - not ridden with airborne irritants and allergens. Neglecting to clean your filter could result in a buildup of dirt, dust, and allergens, which could become especially problematic for people with respiratory problems or allergies.

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You lift the lid of your slow cooker before your food is done

Slow cookers are every home cook's favorite hack for cooking delicious dinners with minimal effort. You can just set it and forget it! But that's the thing - you have to actually forget it. Don't lift the lid to check on your recipe's progress or to smell what's cooking inside. Slow cookers rely on trapped heat inside the pot to cook food. If you let the heat out, it could mess with the temperature and timing of your cooking. You don't want to end up eating raw chicken! Partially uncooked meat of any kind could give you food poisoning.

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You set your refrigerator to the wrong temperature

Do you mess with the temperature dial on your fridge and freezer? Make sure you know what you're doing - setting your refrigerator to a temperature that's too high could pose a food safety risk. According to the Food and Drug Administration, you should always keep your fridge set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Your freezer should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Some foods should never go in the freezer regardless, but the ones that do could suffer poorer quality if the temperature isn't cold enough. And foods in the fridge need to be at least that cold, otherwise you're at risk for growing foodborne bacteria. Yuck!

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You use one rag to clean your whole house

When you clean with a rag, the cloth hangs on to some of the germs you scrub off the surface. When you use it on another surface, it brings the germs from the previous one with it. Don't spread germs around your home - instead, use a separate cloth for each area of your home or use paper towels. If you use multiple rags, just make sure to wash them between each use.

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You put your garlic press in the dishwasher

A garlic press can be handy for chopping up garlic into fine pieces; it's one of those life-saving kitchen gadgets that chefs never use but home cooks love. If you don't clean it out by hand, though, you're making a huge mistake. The tiny holes in the garlic press are too small for the dishwasher to effectively clean; you may end up with tiny pieces of rotting garlic left behind. Mold can grow there as a result of the leftover food particles. Clean out your garlic press thoroughly by hand instead.

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You don't wash your sink

Just think about how much food and grime runs through your sink on a daily basis. Even if you wash the dishes, the sink itself may remain dirty. Use soap to scrub the entire area of your sink and make sure to clean out your garbage disposal. Otherwise you could end up sick from bacteria left behind - or with a nasty smell coming from your drain.

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You wash your cutting board with dish soap

You probably think you only have to wash your cutting board with soap and a sponge like you would any other dish. But if you're washing your cutting board by hand, you're doing it wrong. Since you use sharp knives on it regularly, your cutting board is covered in tiny crevices where germs can hide. Bacteria from raw meat or whatever else you chop up could hide from your hand wash pretty easily. But a dishwasher won't work, either! A plastic cutting board could melt in the hot water and a wooden one could warp. Instead, soak your cutting board in bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide for a deeper clean. Rinse with water once it's done.

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You're storing your toothbrush wrong

Never toss your toothbrush into a dark, musty medicine cabinet while it's still wet. If your toothbrush can't fully dry, it could grow all kinds of nasty bacteria. Make sure it's stored in open air. Use a toothbrush holder on your bathroom counter - and keep it far, far away from your toilet. The splashing water when you flush could actually end up landing in the bristles.

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You don't wash your coffeemaker

You should really be washing all of your appliances regularly, but especially your coffeemaker. Inside of your coffeemaker, there's a reservoir where water hangs out between brews. A dark, damp, cool chamber in your kitchen is the ideal resting place for mold to fester. Once you do make a cup of coffee, the water from the chamber gets poured right into your cup. Luckily, these machines are easy to clean. Simply pour equal parts water and vinegar into the reservoir, let it sit for 30 minutes, then turn the coffee maker on and let the vinegar solution drip out. Run a cycle of plain water through before brewing another pot of coffee.

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You don't deal with water damage

A tiny leak might not seem like a big deal, but you should still take care of it immediately. You can't see everything that's going on beneath the surface, and while it may appear to be just a small patch of leaked water on your ceiling, it could still be serious. Even if only small amounts of water are leaking, a damp environment creates a tempting breeding ground for mold. Depending on the type and severity of the infestation, breathing in mold can make you and your family seriously sick.

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You store meats on the top shelf

One of the best ways to defrost frozen meat is to leave it in the refrigerator. But don't ever put it on the top shelf. If the package isn't sealed well enough, bacteria-infested juices could end up dripping to shelves below. Clean your fridge regularly and make sure you always put meat on the bottom shelf.

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You defrost food incorrectly

Believe it or not, lots of people are defrosting their food incorrectly. Though it's common practice to leave a hunk of frozen meat on your counter for a couple hours before cooking dinner, this method could put you at risk of getting food poisoning. Foodborne bacteria is more likely to grow at room temperature - ingesting it could make you sick. Really any perishable food left out on the counter for more than two hours is at risk. That's why eating pizza you left out overnight is a bad idea. So what's the safest way to defrost? Here's a guide to defrosting every type of food in your freezer.

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