Your vacuum cleaner and dishcloth could be making you ill

Do you suffer from a runny nose even when you don’t have a cold? Do you get random bouts of sickness and ‘the runs’? Well if that’s the case it’s very likely that the cause of your ill health is a little closer to home than you’d expect…

According to research we conducted on British cleaning habits, as a nation we’re not changing or sterilising our cleaning materials anywhere near enough, and are really neglecting our bedroom hygiene. This is making us suffer with allergy symptoms, upset tummies and, in severe cases, food poisoning. 

We wanted to find out what the norm is when it comes to how Brits clean their homes, so we surveyed more than 3,000 members of the public on their cleaning habits. We then shared the results with professional cleaners to see if there were any glaring mistakes, and to say there were a few is an understatement!

The top ten most common cleaning mistakes identified by our cleaners show that members of the public aren’t:

Thoroughly cleaning the vacuum every few weeks

Only a tenth of Brits have cleaned their vacuum cleaner before and only 2% clean it every few weeks. A study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology in 2012 found that out of 21 vacuum cleaners, all different ages and brands, every single one polluted the air in the home with bacteria and dust, triggering allergies*! Considering how often a vacuum is used in the average household, that’s a lot of bacteria flying around the house on a regular basis.

Our pro-cleaners suggest cleaning the household vacuum every 2 weeks by using disinfectant spray and a cloth, paying particular attention to the foot and dust container. If the dust container can be separated, wash it in hot water and bleach, remembering to wear gloves. To clean the exterior of the vacuum use rubbing alcohol with a cloth then dry off with a clean cloth. 

Vacuuming the bed mattress once a month 

According to our survey, only 4% of the public have hoovered their mattress before, and unfortunately our cleaners say that mattresses accumulate masses of dead skin cells, which act as food for dust mites. If you regularly suffer with allergies like swollen eyes, a runny nose, skin rashes or worsening asthma, then you might have a dust mite infestation in your bed**!

The easiest way to get rid of dust mites is to clean your mattress once a month on both sides with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter, which is very important because a normal vacuum will just transfer the dust mites around. If you have a fabric mattress you can also sprinkle baking soda on to it, leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and then vacuum it up. If you have a humid bedroom, invest in a good dehumidifier because dust mites thrive in humid conditions. 

Replacing kitchen dishcloth/sponge every three days

Our research also highlighted how only 5% of homeowners change their kitchen dishcloth every few days, with almost a quarter (23%) admitting to replacing it just once a month. Our professional cleaners say that kitchen sponges and dishcloths are a breeding ground for bacteria, because they are usually used to clean everything in a kitchen, from surfaces where raw meat has been, to cooking and eating utensils. Consequently poor dishcloth hygiene can cause food poisoning through cross contamination. 

The best way of avoiding bacteria cross contamination is by replacing your dishcloth or sponge every three days. If you don’t want to change it that often, you can wash it in hot water with an anti-bacterial detergent, making sure to massage the dirt and grime out of it. Then let it sit in a sink full of very diluted hot bleach water (a gallon of water and a cap full of bleach) for an hour or so. Rinse it thoroughly with clean water. 

Washing bedding every week/10 days on 60 degree cycle

Our survey showed that just 15% of Brits wash their bedding weekly. Similar to vacuuming your mattress once a month, washing your bedding every week/10 days on a hot 60 degree cycle can ensure you’re keeping the dust mites at bay. 

Washing and disinfecting the kitchen bin weekly

It’s not hard to imagine just how much bacteria the kitchen bin has, with raw food and waste regularly contaminating it. Most kitchen bins get changed every couple of days, which means food is festering in it for a good while before it’s taken out and collected by your local council. However, only 16% of the public disinfect and clean their kitchen bin every week. 

Our professional cleaners say that bins should be washed with boiling hot water and bleach once a week, and then rinsed out with cold water. For a thorough clean, wipe the bin after it’s been rinsed out with an anti-bacterial spray and clean cloth, paying particular attention to the inside of the lid. 

Sterilising the mop head after every use

A fifth of respondents sterilise their mop head after using it, which isn’t anywhere near enough according to the professionals. Mop heads, like dish cloths, are a breeding ground for bacteria and mould because of the content they come into contact with – food and water. To ensure you’re not spreading these germs across your tiled or hardwood floors, machine wash your mop head on a gentle hot wash after every use, or if you can’t detach it, wash it in hot water mixed with 3 tablespoons of bleach and leave to soak for 20 minutes before rinsing with clean water. It’s imperative you let your mop head dry before storing it away in a cool dry place. 

Thoroughly washing chopping boards after every use

Chopping boards see the most action in a kitchen, especially when it comes to raw meat and fish. That being said, only a quarter of the public thoroughly wash their chopping boards after every use, with a third saying they simply wipe them down with a damp sponge! Raw meat and fish can spread harmful bacteria like salmonella and E.coli that can result in severe food poisoning, so even if you make sure you cook your food thoroughly, by not cleaning your chopping board properly you’re still at risk of cross contamination. 

Our cleaners say that you should wash chopping boards in hot soapy water after every use, making sure to wash the dishcloth or change it after it comes into contact with surfaces that have been in contact with raw food.  

Disinfecting door knobs and taps weekly

Just 6% of the public say they disinfect household door knobs and taps every week, and to be honest we don’t blame you, even our cleaners say it’s one of the least known hotbeds for germs. Regardless, they can still spread bacteria because of how frequently they are touched by members of the family. A quick spray of an anti-bacterial detergent and a wipe down with a clean cloth once a week is what our cleaners advise.  

Cleaning refrigerator shelves and drawers weekly  

Although more than 60% of Brits say they clean their refrigerator shelves and drawers ‘regularly’, just 19% say they do it weekly, which is what our cleaners suggest because of the risk of bacteria contamination that comes with storing raw food all in one place. Fridges regularly experience leaks and messes, but a simple wipe with a cloth isn’t enough to thoroughly clean the area of germs.

Our cleaners say to make sure you’re regularly purging the fridge of old foods, because mould spores can spread and contaminate otherwise fresh foods, and then give the fridge a thorough clean with a food-friendly anti-bacterial spray and clean cloth. Wipe up any leftover residue with a dry cloth or kitchen towel. If you don’t keep on top of your fridge hygiene, you’re just asking for a food-related illness! 

Cleaning windows with water and detergent every two weeks  

Windows can become damp and mouldy, especially in older houses that don’t have good ventilation, and in winter where the difference in temperature inside and outside is more extreme. Even drying wet clothes inside can result in mould along your windows. It’s mostly found in the rubber or silicone frame of a window and will appear black or dark grey in colour. Living with mouldy windows can have an impact on your health, including allergy symptoms such as airway inflammation, tight chest, sore throat and skin rashes.

That being said, just 14% of Brits clean their windows with water and detergent every two weeks, which cleaners recommend to keep mould at bay. They did say that in summer you can slack off a bit, and maybe do it once every 4 to 6 weeks, but in winter when more condensation is in the air, you should be cleaning them every 2 weeks. 



Four things to consider when hiring a house cleaner

It’s probably fair to say that people who enjoy cleaning – whether that’s the morning after an eventful party or simply the regular upkeep of your house – are in the minority. So for many, having a professional do the job for you is a godsend. But it’s not always as straightforward as it may seem, so to help you make an informed decision first time round, we’ve included Bark’s top tips for hiring a cleaner below.

Rubber gloves at the ready!
Rubber gloves at the ready!


Unlike hiring a plumber or hiring an electrician, who are generally brought in for one-off jobs, the majority of people looking for cleaners will want a regular service. This means it’s likely your cleaner will spend a large proportion of time alone in your home, making trust imperative. While initial contact may well take place online, don’t be afraid to ask for a face-to-face meeting to get a better feel for them.

Everyone’s favourite task!


So the meeting with the person you’re interested in hiring goes really well – but don’t take their word for the quality of the work they do. It’s important to seek out endorsements and recommendations from third party sources. Look particularly for testimonials on channels that aren’t run or owned by the cleaner – such as directories, listings, and – to get the best, impartial insight in to their standards.


Is your cleaner being vague about their fees? Then your ‘spidey senses’ should be tingling! Cleaning, as a service is largely charged by the hour and tends not to differ immensely from building to building, apart from if you’re looking for more complicated packages such as a deep clean, additional ironing services or for your cleaner to bring their own equipment. An upfront answer should therefore not be hard to come by.

Leave the equipment to the pros...
Leave the equipment to the pros…

Trial run

You may get on with your cleaner well; they may be both local and affordable but if they don’t clean your house effectively, then what’s the point? Inviting professionals for a trial session is commonplace and will help you when making your final decision. At the same time, you’ll be able to show them where things are tidied and allows time for any questions.

There’s plenty more info in our cleaning checklist. And for more tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Ultimate Cleaning Checklist: 176 Things You Should Clean at Home [Free Download]

Whether you are a mum, running around like a headless chicken tidying up after everyone, a dad with a treasure trove of tools and equipment or a student looking to move house, you will always need a hand have someone asking you to clean up!

We have spent many hours quizzing our cleaners and stay at home parents about every nook and cranny of cleaning to compile the most comprehensive checklist for you.

Which type of cleaner are you?

Do you sweep everything under the carpet with Mont Blanc piling up under the coffee table or do you prefer to tackle the dirty stuff head on?

If you have a burning desire to tackle head on, or you just wish you did, here is a powerful list for you to get stuck into.

If you wish you started doing things instead of actually doing them, you’ll already know that it’s not always easy to break out of our habits, cleaning being no exception. You have most likely mastered your muscle memory for your current routine and changing that might take a little time.

But take heart!

Our planner is a great place to start, full of golden nuggets of information to carry you on the road to clean.

Using The Cleaners Checklist

The checklist helps you break down cleaning tasks into a manageable pieces.

  • Light: 1-2 times per week
  • Medium: 1-2 time every 3 months
  • Deep: 1 time per year

You can even add family members to each task to help you out and slash cleaning times. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not give a price for each item and watch how eager the children become to earn their pocket money!

Cleaners Checklist (Excel)

House Proud?

Show us your best cleaning moments by uploading them to Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram with the hashtag #barketer. We love to see what inspires you and be house proud. If you have any extra cleaning tips, please let us know in the comments below and we may add them to the printable list.

Cleaning aficionados, do you think we have missed anything? Please let us know and we will update the list!

Download The Ultimate Cleaning Checklist (Printable)

Get the customisable Excel spreadsheet here

P.S. Did we mention it’s free to download? We’ve spent many hours creating this cleaning planner, if you have found it useful please bookmark it and share with your friends and family.

P.P.S. If you can share it by Facebook and Twitter, we may even send you a free Bark goodie bag!