Is your home as healthy as you think it is?
How frequently do you change out your kitchen sponge? your pillows? your bath towels?
We’re creatures of habit, so we’re often hesitant to replace items in our house. But what if those everyday items you’ve been using for days are actually impacting your health?
We get stuck using the same toothbrush or Tupperware because we’re too lazy to change it, or we keep the same bed pillows for decades because we don’t know to change them. But keeping your household items fresh and clean is the key to health.
In fact, it’s your everyday, non-descript products that have the greatest impact on the health and quality of your home.
So what items should you be replacing frequently to keep your family safe, happy, and healthy?
1. Kitchen sponge
When to replace: Once per week
Your kitchen sponge is a breeding ground for germs. It holds on to the gunk you’ve cleaned off your plates, and it retains moisture that causes bacteria to grow at a quick pace. Using your sponge for too long can spread infectious bacteria, like E. coli and salmonella.
Although you’ll rarely get violently ill from your kitchen sponge, it can have small effects that build up over time to lead to more serious problems like stomach issues, allergies, and even respiratory problems.
Can you clean your kitchen sponge?
Sort of. After using your sponge, rinse it clean with warm water. Wring out as much of the excess water as possible to minimize the moist bacteria-breeding environment.
After a few days, rinse your sponge in warm water and wring out until damp. Place on a paper towel and microwave for 45-60 seconds. This can help kill off any bacteria that may be lurking inside your sponge.
Although this microwave method can “clean” your sponge, it’s not 100% effective. In fact, some studies show it may not be effective at all. So, even if you use this method, you still want to change your sponge weekly. You can also invest in a reusable, washable sponge like a silicone scrubber.
2. Shower loofa
When to replace: 1-2 months
The shower loofa is the bathroom equivalent of your kitchen sponge. The moist environment in your shower causes bacteria and mold to grow at a rapid pace—sometimes even faster than in the kitchen. So you end up “cleaning” your body with harmful bacteria!
Plus, after some time, your loofa starts to lose its shape. This makes it lose its exfoliating abilities, and it actually wastes soap (and money) because it can’t lather up as well.
You want to replace your synthetic loofa at least once every other month, although once a month is preferable. If you have a natural loofa material, you’ll want to replace it every 3-4 weeks.
Extend the life of your loofa by washing it in warm water after using, wringing it out, and storing in a well-ventilated area (that isn’t in your moist, humid shower).
When to replace: 3 months
You obviously want to keep your mouth clean—so what you put in your mouth should be clean as well. Toothbrushes are used to remove food and plaque from your teeth, and this gunk often gets trapped in the brush itself. Over time, the bristles also start to break down, so they can’t remove bacteria and buildup as well as they used to.
For healthy teeth and gums, you want to replace your toothbrush every three months at least. You should always replace your toothbrush immediately after being sick with a cold or flu, as the virus can stay active on your toothbrush for several days.
To extend the usefulness of your toothbrush, shake it dry after use and store in an upright position. If you find you’re wearing through bristles quickly, you might be brushing too hard; go for a hard-bristle toothbrush instead.
Pro-tip: Use a Steripod. You can buy these at most drug stores or online. They’re a toothbrush cover that actually helps sterilize your toothbrush for 1-3 months. Get different colored Steripods for you and your family so you never mix up whose toothbrush is whose!
4. Water filters
When to replace: 6 months
Water filters are used to remove any chemicals, toxins, or minerals that make your water unhealthy to drink. These filters trap the gunk—and then they get clogged up themselves. This buildup of minerals can slow down the flow of water, and it can lower the effectiveness of the filtering process.
You’ll want to replace your water filter at least every 6 months to avoid buildup and clogging. This is true for refrigerators with built-in water filters as well as any standalone water pitcher filters, like a Brita.
5. Bed pillows
When to replace: 2 years
If you’ve been suffering from allergies, persistent colds, restless nights, or insomnia, it might actually be the pillow under your head!
Your bed pillows get a lot more use than you might realize. Every night, they’re subject to dead skin, sweat, dirt, hair, and oils. Because of all this “stuff,” your pillows actually start to attract small microbes and germs. After two years of use, your pillow is actually primarily composed of dust mites!
You should wash your pillows at least every other week. After two years, you’ll want to replace your pillows with something new, soft, and fluffy.
6. Bath towels
When to replace: 2 years
How many of us are guilty of hanging on to bath towels for too long? Because we throw our towels in the wash, we don’t expect that they actually have a shelf limit. But, in fact, their frequent usage and washing can make them even more susceptible to bacteria and gunk. If your towels aren’t absorbent or they have a musty odor, it’s time to replace them. The typical lifespan of a towel is 2 years.
How often should I clean my bath towels?
Should you be replacing your bath towels every day like a hotel, or can you let it go for a few days since you’re just drying off a clean body? Studies show that three days is the magic number for washing. This ensures that you’re not letting bacteria build up while also protecting your towels from over-washing.
Psst—Don’t throw out your bath towels, which adds to the textile waste problem we have in the U.S. Instead, donate them to a local animal shelter!
7. Bath mats
When to replace: 2 years
We don’t think about the mats beneath our feet when we step out of the shower. Our feet are clean when we get out, so we wouldn’t think that our bath mats are dirty. But, the moisture and humidity from the shower can seep into the bath mat, breeding bacteria and mold. Plus, most of us step on the bathmat before getting into the shower as well, when we have gunk and grime on the bottom of our feet.
You should wash your bath mat once every other week, and every week if you have a lot of family members in the home. You should get a new bath mat after two years. Learn more about caring for your bath mat here.
Make it easy on yourself and plan to refresh your entire bathroom linen cabinet every two years.
When to replace: 12-15 months
Like your bath towels and mat, your showerheads hang out in the most humid room of your house. And like water filters, most showerheads have screens that help filter out chemicals that come in treated water. Together, this can quickly cause your showerheads to clog up or get dirty.
Sediment can start to build up in and around the showerhead. If you see white, rocky material, you have calcium buildup. If you start to see black dots, you have mold, which can be toxic and dangerous. You also know it’s time to change your showerhead if you notice changes in water pressure or there’s a leak or constant drip.
The average lifespan of a showerhead is 12-15 months. That’s right, you should be replacing your showerhead annually!
How to clean a showerhead:
To extend the life of your showerhead, you’ll want to clean it once per month.
Hydrogen peroxide is a great solution because it’s nontoxic, but it’s highly effective at killing bacteria, mold, fungi, and sediment buildup.
9. Food containers
When to replace: 3-5 years
How old are your food containers? Only recently did “BPA-free” become a label or consideration with packaging companies. BPA is a proven carcinogen, meaning that it’s a chemical that can actually cause cancer. BPA is found in plastics, especially plastics made before 2010. These chemicals can leach into your food and drinks when in storage or when heated.
So, if you’ve had food containers for at least 5 years, it’s time to replace them with fresh BPA-free holders.
Plus, food containers—especially plastic ones—start to hold on to odors and tastes after a while. The plastic grabs onto food particles, which can start to make your leftovers taste worse. If you want to avoid this, opt for glass containers.
Learn more about the difference between plastic, glass, and stainless steel containers here.
How frequently do you replace these common household items? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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