12 Household Items and How Often You Should Actually Clean Them

A model kitchen in pink and green with green, red, purple, and blue plaid walls and ceiling features hooded stove, a dining surface, pink cabinets, jars of pasta and cookies, and a clock reading 7:21, 1970s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Whenever cleaning is in the news, it’s typically accompanied by some kind of shocking hyperbole — like we shower way too much or that our iPhones are filthier than toilet seats. Since cleaning is typically a pretty private affair, I’m also constantly surprised when I hear about the frequency with which other people do or don’t wash their stuff. The easiest conclusion to draw is that none of us really know what’s best and probably aren’t doing the proper research.

…Also known as Googling. Which is why below I’ve pulled together a bunch of disparate internet cleaning revelations to create a master guide of sorts. Proceed at your own risk! If you feel like a walking dust bunny/bacteria monster by the end of this, I’m sorry. Or maybe you’ll feel smug, in which case that makes one of us. See you on the other side!

How often should you…

1. Wash your sheets

I loathe a bed that doesn’t feel clean. I almost never get into it without showering first and I never sit on it in street clothes, for instance, but somehow this obsession doesn’t translate to obsessively laundering my sheets. Oops.

My guess: Every other week / My reality: Once every three or four weeks

The answer: Every week or two, per home expert Maeve Richmond. Turns out we should be thinking about our sheets the same way we think of clothes. Would you wear a T-shirt for three weeks without washing it? Yikes.

2. Wash your actual pillows (not the cases)

I am really embarrassed to say I never thought of washing my pillows until someone recommended I add them to this list. OMG AM I GROSS? I just replace my pillows every few years.

My guess: Wut / My reality: Never?

The answer: Twice a year, per Richmond again. AHHH! (Follow the instructions on the tag.)

3. Dry clean your sweaters

I wash my machine-washable sweaters every five or so wears, but if something is dry clean only I’ll put it off so much longer because that shit’s $$$$$.

My guess: Every 10 wears / My reality: Every 15-20

The answer: Every eight to 10 wears, according to Demy Lee of DEMYLEE.

4. Wash your jeans

I know I’m not supposed to wash my jeans as much as I do, but I just hate the feeling of grossly overworn jeans, plus it seems unsanitary. That said, I do not dry them. That ruins jeans so fast. I remember hearing Levi’s say you should never wash them, but that can’t be true???

My guess: Every 10 wears / My reality: Every five-10 wears

The answer: Once they start to smell, so every two to six months, according to Business Insider. Apparently the freezer is not actually cold enough nor is hand-washing intense enough to kill all bacteria.

5. Wash your underwire bras

The only bras I wear are cotton/training-style, so I launder them often and easily. But I know underwire bras are trickier, so I polled the office to see how they handle that.

My guess: Every 10 wears / Office reality: Every 10!

The answer: Every two to three wears, says Christina Remenyi, designer of Fortnight lingerie, because of the sweat/oil buildup. A gentle hand wash in the sink will do.

6. Clean your couch upholstery

Fabric couches are another thing that somehow get forgotten, but like COUCHES HAVE TO BE SO GROSS RIGHT?

My guess: Twice a year / My reality: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I vacuum it sometimes?

The answer: Vacuum every month or two, says Troy Thorpe, owner of AmeriClean Services. Allergist Jeff Wald says you should wash slip covers once a week (WHAT). Stanley Steemer says to have upholstery cleaned once every year or two.

7. Clean your computer

I remember hearing once that our phones have as many germs as a toilet seat, so I imagine our computers can’t be much better. Cleaning my computer brings me so much pleasure but I constantly forget to do it until I’ve gone way too long.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Every other month (gross)

The answer: Once or twice a month, says Logitech’s Art Gnimh.

8. Clean your makeup brushes

I remember the first time I washed my makeup brushes, I was horrified by the amount of makeup that was trapped in them. After that I had a year-long blip of washing them once a week, but when I started wearing less makeup I got out of the habit. Now I’m back to forgetting most the time.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Every three-ish months

The answer: Once a week, according to Bobbi Brown, due to germ buildup. OOPS.

How often should you…

1. Change out/clean your dish brush

I feel guilty almost every time I use my dish brush to clean dishes that I EAT OFF OF because I assume it’s teeming with bacteria. Then I rarely do anything about it.

My guess: Every other week / My reality: Every other month

The answer: According to Today, rinse thoroughly with soap once a day, sanitize by soaking in distilled white vinegar for a couple hours once per week.

2. Change out/clean your sponge

Sponges make your hands smell beyond fixing — this is why sponges, in my opinion, are a cleaning crime against humanity. Cancel sponges!

My guess: Every .0001 seconds / My reality: Sponges are evil

The answer: Clean it daily by microwaving for one minute (the USDA says this kills 99% of the germs) and change it out weekly (per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). Or just fuck sponges, because they contain tons of fecal bacteria.

3. Change your water (i.e. Brita) filter

Britas are one of those things I forget involve any sort of upkeep until it’s been like a year and someone with superior habits mentions changing the filter and I freeze in shame.

My guess: Every six weeks / My reality: I drink tap now but in the past like NEVER

The answer: says every two months (slightly less for larger ones).

4. Wash your water bottle

Around the house, I use a new one every time I get water. It’s a bad roommate trait. But my water bottle at work rarely gets washed because it never leaves my desk. Holy shit. This is bad, I know it.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Omg……….like once per month, I’m terrible

The answer: DAILY/PER USE. These things have as much bacteria as a toilet seat according to Bustle! AHHH!

How often should you…

1. Change your loofah

Loofahs are one of those things I think about replacing all the time but promptly forget as soon as I step out. I end up replacing it when I’m in a store and see loofahs and am thus reminded.

My guess: Once a month / My reality: Every other month

The answer: Ideally, you’d soak it in bleach for five minutes once a week (omg, who would do that???) and then replace it every two months if it’s plastic or every month if it’s made of natural fibers, per dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD.

2. Wash your towel

I don’t go very long with a single towel because I can visibly see it get dirty with makeup, which freaks me out. So I think I might be okay in this arena?

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Once a week (AKA every six to seven uses)

The answer: Every three to four uses, says home expert Richmond, because they’re designed for heavy use and get very wet. RATS.

3. Change your toothbrush

I use a Sonicare electric toothbrush, so replacement heads are expensive and thus I put it off. I’m pretty sure I don’t change it out NEARLY enough.

My guess: Every other month / My reality: Twice a year (am I gross?)

The answer: Every three months, according to the American Dental Association, or as soon as it appears frayed. ALSO, DON’T STORE IT NEAR A TOILET BECAUSE POO PARTICLES GET ON IT. I don’t make the rules!

4. Clean the toilet

I give my toilet a quick once-over whenever it’s visibly dirty, but an actual thorough cleaning is not happening V often!!! GAH, I don’t wanna know this one!

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Once a month

The answer: Cleaning expert Leslie Reichert says it should be thoroughly cleaned once a week, but given a once over with the toilet brush once per day for general maintenance.

Well, there you have it. I, for one, am not cleaning my stuff nearly enough. What about you?

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. Feature collage by Krista Anna Lewis, images by Hulton Archive and GraphicaArtis via Getty Images. 

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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