Where we store and put things at home can affect our health. Read on for perfect placement…

Germs at home Top tips for preventing them

The worst place to…put your handbag

✘ The kitchen counter

Handbags collect germs from public transport, public toilets and restaurant floors. Studies indicate up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch on the bottom of bags – with a third testing positive for faecal bacteria!

‘Your handbag is definitely going to be dirty on the outside so make it a rule not to place it on any surface used for food preparation or eating,’ says Dr Lisa Ackerley, Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner (thehygienedoctor.co.uk).

✔ Best place

Put your bag on a hook or on a chair – anywhere except where food is prepared or eaten.

The worst place to… store coffee beans

✘ The refrigerator or freezer

While many people assume this is a clever way of preserving freshness, this allows moisture to get to the beans and cause them to deteriorate, warns Hope & Glory Coffee Co.

✔ Best place

Keep your coffee in an airtight container (not in a glass jar – light isn’t good for coffee beans) on the counter or in the pantry.

The worst place to… keep medicine

✘ The bathroom cabinet

‘Capsules and  tablets are prone to absorbing moisture so if you store them anywhere humid, it could affect the potency or shorten the shelf life of the medicine,’ says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers.

✔ Best place

Somewhere cool and dry, like the pantry or a cupboard, out of sight and reach of children, and away from heat and moisture. Some medicines need to be kept in the fridge. Keep medicines in their original packaging, with the instruction leaflet inside.

The worst place to…keep your toothbrush

✘ By the bathroom sink

It’s a bit too close to the toilet… And every time you flush with the lid still up, a spray of bacteria is sent into the air that can land on any nearby surface – including your toothbrush.

✔ Best place

Store in a cabinet, says Dr Ackerley. After every use, rinse bristles then shake, stand upright and air-dry. Replace toothbrushes every three months or after illness. And always flush with the toilet lid down.

The worst place to… put wet bath towels

✘ On the bathroom floor

Bath towels absorb dead skin cells and natural bacteria from our bodies and warm, damp conditions mean this bacteria thrives.

‘If a used towel stays wet and warm on the floor, bacteria and fungi will grow and the towel will become smelly,’ warns Dr Ackerley. And sharing towels can spread bacteria and viruses such as Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause skin infections), cold sores and athlete’s foot.

✔ Best place

‘A heated towel rail or radiator is the place for your wet towel,’ says Dr Ackerley.

The worst place to…keep your trainers

✘ The wardrobe

Walking through your house in outside shoes before taking them off upstairs brings in allergens and contaminants – even lawn chemicals.

✔ Best place

Slip off your trainers by the front door and keep them in a basket or on a shelf near the door.

The worst place to…keep sunscreen

✘ Anywhere hot

Heat can make your sunscreen degrade, which means you won’t get the SPF protection indicated on the label, says Anshu Bhimbat, expert pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy.

‘Store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and mark the date of opening on the bottle. All products have a symbol showing how long the product is suitable for use after opening – usually between 12-18 months.’

✔ Best place

Anywhere cool and shaded.

The worst place to…store fruit

✘ In the fridge

Watermelons have double the amount of beta-carotene and 20% more cancer-fighting lycopene if they’re stored at room temperature, according to US research. Tomatoes and bananas also get a nutrient boost – and taste better – at room temperature.

✔ Best place

Out of packaging and in a fruit bowl. But keep bananas separately from the rest of your fruit – unless you want to ripen hard pears – as bananas emit a gas that quickens the ripening process.

The worst place to…put your tea towel

✘ On your kitchen work surface

A University of Arizona study found that the sickness-causing bacteria coliform was found on 89% of tea towels and E. coli on 26%.

Bacteria grows more quickly in damp conditions so leaving wet, scrunched-up tea towels on the work surface increases the risk – especially if you dry your hands on them!

✔ Best place

Hang towels on the oven handle or a hook instead. ‘Tea towels should be changed daily and laundered at over 60°C,’ adds Dr Ackerley.

Unexpected germ spots

1. Your make-up

Swabs revealed that face and hand cream were the most bacteria ridden cosmetic items, followed by lipstick and mascara.

2. Your carpet

The average carpet harbours 200,000 bacteria per square inch, making it 4,000 times dirtier than the average toilet seat.

3. Your phone

In tests, there was up to 10 times the amount of bugs which can cause nausea and stomach problems than were present in a lavatory. (Not surprising when one in 10 of us now admits to taking the phone into the loo!)

4. Your pillow

Up to a third of the weight of your pillow could be dead skin, dust mites and their faeces – an ideal breeding ground for infections.

5. Your cash

Scientists at the University of Oxford discovered that the average banknote is home to 26,000 bacteria and that there are more germs on a £1 coin than on a toilet seat.

6. Your shopping trolley

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that trolley handles were loaded with bacteria, saliva and faecal matter. And half of all reusable shopping bags were polluted, too.

7. Your TV remote

This is one of the dirtiest items in most homes, carrying MRSA and SARS, among other bugs.

8. Your desk

The average office desk is home to 400 times more bacteria than a toilet.