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The Must-Clean Places in Your Home vs. the Ones It's Okay to Skip

House cleaning is one of those things that often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. With kids to chauffeur and groceries to buy, some moms do the "out of sight, out of mind" thing with the bacteria in their kitchen. Others stress if their home isn't spick-and-span.

No matter which camp you fall into, we've got good news and bad news for you: The good news is that there are places in your house that really don't have as much bacteria living in them as you might think. They're not worth stressing over cleaning when you simply don't have the time.

The bad news is the flip side of that -- there are hot spots that get really germy and are important not to miss. Some of them, you probably didn't even realize you need to clean. Don't worry -- we'll make the de-germing process as easy as possible for you.

Here's a rundown of five must-clean spots and five okay-to-skip spots.

 

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1You Really Should Clean: Salt and Pepper Shakers

We're not here to call your cooking bland, but a University of Virginia study found that during cold and flu season, salt and pepper shakers are grabbed so much that all of the shakers they tested had cold germs on them. If you can, dump the contents and run the shakers through the dishwasher every few weeks. If you have ones that aren't dishwasher safe, hand wash or disinfect them thoroughly just as often.

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2It's Okay to Skip: The Toilet

Surprise! The toilet isn't on the list of the germiest spots in the house, and things like your computer keyboard or kitchen sponge are way, way dirtier (we're talking a quarter of a million times the amount of bacteria on a toilet seat is on a sponge). Actually, the only item in your bathroom that makes the top 10 list at all is your toothbrush holder, and you can just stick that one in the dishwasher. We're not saying you should skip the toilet completely -- it can get visibly gross -- but if you don't have time this week, it's okay to do it next.

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3You Really Should Clean: Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable shopping bags are only becoming more and more popular (with good reason), but when the American Chemistry Council tested the bags, they found that more than 50 percent housed a bunch of potentially dangerous bacteria. You're probably not going to get sick from them, but throwing all your bags into your next load of laundry also isn't a terrible idea.

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4It's Okay to Skip: The Microwave

The microwave is a massive pain to clean, and it turns out it's not actually that dirty. A 2013 study from the National Sanitation Foundation found that while many people assume that their microwave keypad is the dirtiest place in the kitchen, it actually doesn't make the top 10 list at all. As for the inside: Well, every time you microwave food at full power for two minutes, you're killing 99 percent of the bacteria living in the food and in the microwave. We'll call that clean! 

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5You Really Should Clean: The Coffee Maker

Coffeemakers (and this goes for both single-serve and traditional brewers) are little germ meccas -- they're dark, they're damp, and there's often water left standing in them for hours or days. CBS swabbed coffeemakers around the country and found as many as 4.6 million colonies of nightmare-ish bacteria and mold in most brands (we're talking E.coli, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and pseudomonas aeruginosa). Unfortunately, coffeemakers can take time to clean and you should be doing it at least once a week. Your brand's website will probably have specific instructions for your machine, but running vinegar through the machine (followed by a couple brews of water to flush it out) works for just about every model.

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6It's Okay to Skip: Jewelry

While it'll need a good polish every now and then to keep it shiny, jewelry isn't actually at much of a risk for germ contamination, even if you're wearing it every day. Germs prefer soft, moist environments in general, and some metals (especially the silver in your favorite ring or necklace) can actually kill germs by themselves. Cool, huh?

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7You Really Should Clean: The Vacuum Cleaner Brush

A University of Arizona study found mold on 100 percent of vacuum cleaner brushes, plus fecal matter on 50 percent and E.coli on 13 percent. Gross, we know, but they're actually pretty easy to clean -- all you need to do is spray a healthy dose of disinfectant spray on the brush when you're done using it. Next time you're in the market for a new vacuum, stick to the bagless variety -- vacuum bags are a go-to hide out for bacteria and germs.

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8It's Okay to Skip: Doorknobs

There are exceptions, but in general, doorknobs aren't as germy as people think. Again, metal is not the best place for germs to hang out, and since many doors are left open, handles aren't touched as much as you might think. Even the bathroom doorknob in a home, though open and closed often, has less than half the amount of bacteria as your tablet or cell phone does.

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10It's Okay to Skip: Your Car

The inside of a family's car sees a lot of people and plenty of activity, but it's actually not that germy. A 2011 study from the National Sanitation Foundation tested household surfaces for potentially dangerous microorganisms, and cars (keys, steering wheels, gear shifts, and door handles) proved to be surprisingly clean by comparison. They had an average of 76 microorganisms per 10 square centimeters, whereas a kitchen sink, for example, had almost 32,000.

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