What is the dirtiest area in your home?
Have you ever asked yourself what the dirtiest part of your home is? Do you even know? After all, how are we defining dirty?
If we define dirty as being those environments where micro-organisms will flourish most aggressively, then that gives us a good starting point. We are not looking for a scuff on the carpet or a clod of dried mud that has been left on the stair in this definition. We are looking for . . . things we can't see! The things that can get inside of us and contaminate us, and make us ill (and I'm not talking about celebrity 'culture' today - gargh!)
So, where in the home would such areas be found? I have cleaned many houses in Malvern, of all hues and shapes and sizes, from detached properties to isolated farmsteads to the Victorian terraces of the quarrymen (made of that lovely Malvern stone), and I have my suspicions of where-about in your home the micro-organisms are massing in secret.
In my experience, this place is . . . near the kitchen sink! The use this household area receives must put it high up on this list: we clean our cutting boards with it after butter-flying our chicken breasts, we wash the debris from our colondars after tossing salad and fruit, and no doubt we pour all sorts of unmentionables, harvested from other parts of the house, down the sink hole in the daily course of living.
Yet this is a place that is kept apparently clean: it is exposed to hot water, it is no doubt blasted by acids and bleaches that will dissolve any cell membrane of micro-organisms and expose their innards to our weapons of mass destruction, but even so, they are hardy little blighters! They evolve! (Unless you live in some parts of America, where that belief is contested).
But even the kitchen sink isn't the main place to watch out for in your house. I have to admit to cheating here - for what I think qualifies as the most dirty is not an area, it's an item.
And that is one that is often found in your kitchen sink. It is of course the kitchen sponge. The one we all innocently use to wipe down our kitchen knives and to wipe the faces of our plates clean before consigning them to the dishwasher.
Indeed, I was talking to an acquaintance of mine about this. They work for Porton Down Laboratories - the place where they house some of the most virulent and dangerous lifeforms on the planet. And this individual, after giving it some thought, nodded their head and agreed. The conditions: warm, (occasionally hot), very damp, and with all manner of different traffic passing through, leaving its mark on the surface of the sponge, does really make it a breeding ground of micro-organisms.
And it's not just us alone in this belief either - the Daily Mail recently ran an article on it claiming that a kitchen sponge can be up to 200,000 times dirtier than the toilet seat! They even cite some facts about it (and not just alternative facts either!), drawn from a scientific study by a University of Arizona microbiologist: 10 million bacteria per square inch of sponge!
So the solution to this? Make sure you don't use your kitchen sponge to wipe away anything that you will eat off directly, and always wash your hands after using it with hot soapy water, as hands and fingers are the main routes of transmission.
But also, don't panic! We have evolved alongside bacteria for many millions of years, and we do tend to lump all bacteria under the heading 'dangerous germs' which is grotesquely unfair. I leave you with the words of Dianne Newman of Caltech, another microbiologist: "It's been estimated that out of more than 30 million microbial species, only 70 are known to be pathogens. The vast majority are actually doing remarkable things, both for the quality of our life and for the quality of the planet."