OWN

7 Germ Havens You Probably Forgot To Clean

And the fastest, most effective ways to make them sparkle.

By Lynn Andriani

  • The Seemingly No-Mess Coffeemaker
    Pod-based coffee machines, like Keurig, make it so easy to brew a cup of joe that you rarely have to think about them -- but
    Zoonar/N. Okhitin/Thinkstock
    Pod-based coffee machines, like Keurig, make it so easy to brew a cup of joe that you rarely have to think about them -- but as their owner's manuals attest, they should be cleaned of mineral deposits regularly. Many of these brands sell their own descaling kits, but Becky Rapinchuk, author of The Organically Clean Home and CleanMama.net, has a homemade solution. Every two months she fills the coffeemaker's reservoir about halfway with white vinegar, or, depending on the model, pours 10 ounces into its water chamber. She runs the machine as if she would if she were making a cup of coffee -- without inserting a pod, so only the vinegar solution goes through the machine -- then runs it a few more times using water instead of vinegar, until the vinegar smell has disappeared. (You may want to check your owner's manual to see if your model has any warnings against using vinegar before attempting this.)
  • Those Stylish Antique Brass Accents
    The patina on 2015's "it" metal for doorknobs and drawer pulls can hide smudges -- so well that you might not think of wiping
    The patina on 2015's "it" metal for doorknobs and drawer pulls can hide smudges -- so well that you might not think of wiping them down as regularly as their polished brass and brushed nickel predecessors. Dip a washcloth in warm water and a little white vinegar (about a capful for every few cups of water) and use that to remove grime, says Rebecca Napelbaum, Chief Cleaning Officer for Handy.com, a service that connects people with cleaners and home repair experts. Avoid multipurpose cleaners, which could harm the finish.
  • That Inch Between Your Faucet and the Backsplash
    One of the big problem areas Handy's cleaning pros see is a thin soapy buildup just behind people's faucets in the kitchen an
    hxdbzxy/iStock/Thinkstock
    One of the big problem areas Handy's cleaning pros see is a thin soapy buildup just behind people's faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms. Scrape off that easy-to-miss filmy layer with a used gift card or old credit card -- they're sturdy enough to swipe off the mess but shouldn't damage your countertops, Napelbaum says.
  • The Reusable Containers Storing More Than You Think
    You refill those glass and plastic dry-goods containers again and again with cereal, cookies and flour, but how often do you
    Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Thinkstock
    You refill those glass and plastic dry-goods containers again and again with cereal, cookies and flour, but how often do you wash them? It turns out they're one of the germiest items in the kitchen and can carry salmonella, yeast and mold, according to the 2013 NSF International Germ Study. Clean the container and lid after every use (especially any rubber seals), using hot water and dish soap, the NSF recommends.
  • The Area You Dread the Most
    File "cleaning behind the fridge" under Things No One Ever Wants to Do -- Ever. Thankfully, Rapinchuk has two suggestions to
    Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Thinkstock
    File "cleaning behind the fridge" under Things No One Ever Wants to Do -- Ever. Thankfully, Rapinchuk has two suggestions to make it less of a hassle: Use a long, microfiber wand -- she swears by Casabella's Microfiber Vent Brush -- to easily sweep up dust under, behind and in other hard-to-reach crannies surrounding your refrigerator. If you're in the market for a new vacuum, look for a model with a wide, flat attachment, which can provide a deeper clean.
  • The Corners of Your Front Porch
    Just like <a href="http://www.oprah.com/home/House-Cleaning-Tips-From-a-Professional" target="_blank">the baseboards in your
    Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Thinkstock
    Just like the baseboards in your home, the corners and trim surrounding your porch can become loose-dirt magnets. Instead of mopping every square inch -- and waiting for it to dry -- Rapinchuk suggests using a leaf blower to quickly blast settled dust off of those areas.
  • The Part of Your Window No One Notices
    Since the weather-stripping on many windows is black, you may not even notice the grime that accumulates there. Wipe that are
    David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock
    Since the weather-stripping on many windows is black, you may not even notice the grime that accumulates there. Wipe that area down with white vinegar twice a year to keep the tracks clean, Rapinchuk says.

    If you look at the weather-stripping and think you see mold -- which happened to Rapinchuk's friend, who thought to look for it only after seeing an allergist about her nonstop sneezing -- you may want to call a professional.

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • Why does my dishwasher smell so bad, if all it does is clean dishes?
    Your mother-in-law offers to help you load the dishwasher, pulls the door open and -- ugh, that smell. How is it possible, wh
    Getty Images
    Your mother-in-law offers to help you load the dishwasher, pulls the door open and -- ugh, that smell. How is it possible, when there's not even anything in there? There are two reasons, says Jolie Kerr, who covers all kinds of cleaning-related queries for Deadspin and Jezebel. First, water and excess soap collect in and around the gasket; together, they create a breeding ground for mold, which feeds off of soap -- and mold is what causes that mildew-y smell. Second, bits of food tend to collect in the bottom of the dishwasher over time. The fix: First, remove any food you see, and then fill the bottom of the washer with about half a gallon of white vinegar (which seems to have no bounds when it comes to amazing uses). Run the dishwasher (empty) and the smell should go away.
  • I'm about to go into a meeting and just realized I have lipstick on my shirt.
    Lipstick on teeth: no problem (provided you notice it before anyone else does). Lipstick on clothing, however, can be a bit t
    Getty Images
    Lipstick on teeth: no problem (provided you notice it before anyone else does). Lipstick on clothing, however, can be a bit trickier. While foundation, powder and liquid blusher will respond to liquid soap dabbed on with a washcloth or sponge, lipstick and mascara require a cleaner that can attack oil-based stains. Kerr suggests keeping a secret stash of a solvent, such as Shout, Lestoil or even Pine-Sol, around; though your garment will probably require a full washing once you get home, a light application of the solvent will act as a quick-fix spot treatment to remove, or at least mute, the color.
  • I can't get the back of my toilet clean -- and even though I can't see it, I know it's not pretty.
    To prepare for a big party, you've wiped down the bathroom counter, swept the hair off the floor and scrubbed the inside of t
    Shutterstock
    To prepare for a big party, you've wiped down the bathroom counter, swept the hair off the floor and scrubbed the inside of the bowl. If only cleaning behind the toilet was so easy; this area can harbor some seriously off-putting smells (especially if there's grout). To get back there, take two or three paper towels and roll them up tightly, as if you're rolling a cigar, dip them in a bucket of cleaner (like Scrubbing Bubbles). Then, while facing the toilet, place the roll of towels behind it; take one end in either hand, and "floss" the back base. Let the cleaner sit for five or ten minutes, and "floss" the base again, this time with dry paper towels, which should also remove lint.
  • How do you get car seat belts clean after someone is carsick?
    The critical thing about cleaning seat belts, Kerr says, is that you can't use typical cleaners such as white vinegar, becaus
    Shutterstock
    The critical thing about cleaning seat belts, Kerr says, is that you can't use typical cleaners such as white vinegar, because they may damage the material and make the belts less effective. Before you pull back on the road, Kerr suggests wiping belts down with baby wipes, which will remove stains and eliminate any lingering odors.
  • How do I get the funky smell out of my (just-washed) bath towels?
    Handing an overnight guest a neat stack of laundered bath towels seems like such a nice gesture -- but not if the linens give
    Shutterstock
    Handing an overnight guest a neat stack of laundered bath towels seems like such a nice gesture -- but not if the linens give off a musty smell as soon as your visitor uses them to dry off. The problem, says Kerr, is that you're using too much detergent when washing your linens, and the preset rinse cycle on your washing machine is not long enough to get all the soap out. So while your towel may smell fresh after it's washed and dried, once it gets wet again (after a shower, say) and is left in the dark bathroom, mold begins to grow. (It turns out mold likes soap.) The fix: Wash the towels with no detergent and a cup or 2 of white vinegar; this will get the soap out (and have the added bonus of cleaning your washing machine). Then, going forward, use less detergent on your towels.
  • I forgot I had stashed some plastic food containers in the oven, and then I turned the oven on and...
    <strong>... now there's melted plastic all over the oven.
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Kerr hears this sad tale all the time. But if you do make
    Getty Images
    ... now there's melted plastic all over the oven. Kerr hears this sad tale all the time. But if you do make this gaffe (and feel a little silly about it), heat the oven to a very low temperature -- 200 degrees is the lowest most ovens go -- so the plastic is pliable, and then scrape it off. (You can also use ice to freeze it, but this is trickier because the ice will start to melt, plus you'll have to disconnect the gas from the stove first.)
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