Not cleaning enough might actually make you sick. Here's what you need to know to keep your house clean and help you stay healthy.

Isadora Baum; Reviewed by Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D.
May 29, 2020
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If you're not a fan of cleaning your house, you're not alone. According to a study conducted by Clorox, 78% of people admit to hiding clutter or messes and 31% admit to never deep cleaning their home. However, if you regularly skip cleaning your home, it will not only look messy but could also put your health at risk.

Getty / Thomas Northcut

Bad cleaning habits—like ignoring your overflowing garbage can, not regularly changing your sheets or letting dust bunnies gather for too long can actually jeopardize your health. So, beyond just the perk of having a clean, fresh and organized living environment, you'll also better your wellbeing too!

Here are a few ways a filthy home can be bad for your health and longevity.

Dirty Sheets Can Cause Skin Irritations

A clean bed is super important for healthy skin. This means changing and washing your sheets frequently. "Humans shed dead skin on our sheets throughout the night, and if we have pets that we allow on the bed, they can shed dander and even dirt on our bed," says Dr. Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist and adjunct professor at Touro College.

All of this creates a petri dish for dust mites and germs. "If you don't wash your sheets frequently, the dust mites feeding on dead skin and dander will release waste and germs that cause allergies, contact dermatitis and uncomfortable skin irritations," he says.

You should wash your sheets and bedding at least once every two weeks, he recommends. "If you are in the habit of coming from the gym and lying down, or if you experience night sweats or let your pet onto your bed, you might be better off placing them in the wash at the end of each week," he says. You can set reminders for yourself on your phone's calendar until it becomes routine.

Expired Food and a Dirty Fridge Can Cause Food Poisoning

If items are spilling in the fridge or food is left to rot in the drawers, this could put your family at risk of food poisoning, as foods can develop E. coli or salmonella. "Remember to wash your vegetables and fruits before storing them. Food poisoning can cause symptoms of stomach pain, and it can range all the way to kidney troubles and nausea," he says.

Make sure you organize your food in a matter that is consistent with your fridge's coolness per area. "Milk, for example, should be placed in the coldest part of your refrigerator, if you place it on the door, it could lead it to spoil," he explains. (Psst: Here's how to store food so it lasts as long as possible!)

Make sure to also thoroughly clean spills in the fridge. "Even [clean] those up top in the freezer, as meat packages can sometimes drip blood," he says. Look up your particular fridge model for a guide on where to store foods. This will help you save money by optimally storing your items for the longest life span—and clean everything before putting in the fridge. You should also be cleaning your refrigerator thoroughly at least once every two or three months.

Polluted Air Vents Can Cause Allergic Reactions and Respiratory Issues

The air ducts in your home can be difficult to clean and check, but if you begin to get sick without any apparent reason (think: an allergic reaction, coughing and/or skin irritation), you might have a polluted air duct, or worse, mold, Sonpal says.

Make sure you're changing your filters regularly and in accordance with the product's instructions. "If your a/c is not working properly or as efficiently as it used to and you are getting sick more often, you should contact a specialist to check out your unit," he says.

Filthy Dishes Can Cause Cross-Contamination, Food Poisoning and Digestive Issues

Most people who've lived with a roommate in college know the troubles of having someone in the house who does not wash their dishes. "Washing your dishes is an important chore, not just because dirty dishes lead to flies and nasty bacteria buildup, but because dirty dishes could get you really sick," Sonpal says.

Let's say, for example, you whisked two eggs for breakfast and simply rinsed the whisking bowl before placing it in the drying rack. By not using soap, that egg's bacteria will likely stay on the bowl. "The next person who uses the bowl could find themselves sick with cross-contamination and this can lead to food poisoning and mild to severe digestive issues, among other complications," he says.

When cleaning dirty dishes, make sure to either use dish soap or place them in your dishwasher. "Another good tip would be to remember to change your sponges regularly as these hold bacteria when used for prolonged periods of time," he says.

Dirty Floors, Carpets or Bath Mats Can Cause Allergies, Skin Rashes, Fungus and Skin Infections

"Carpets can trap dust, mites, bacteria, pet dander and many other allergens, especially if you walk around the home with your outside shoes," he says. It's important to vacuum regularly and wash hard surfaces, like tile or hardwood. Try to avoid wearing outside shoes in the house as much as possible and buy yourself a pair of indoor-only slippers.

"Bath mats lock in moisture and dead skin, and these can develop mold, bad smells and fungal organisms that could infect a cut on your foot or perpetuate an athlete's foot," he explains. So, you need to wash them regularly in the washing machine to avoid any potential issues for your health.