12 Household Items and How Often You Should Actually Clean Them

A guilt trip may be in the cards with this one

A model kitchen in pink and green with green, red, purple, and blue plaid walls and ceiling features hooded stove, a dining surface, pink cabinets, jars of pasta and cookies, and a clock reading 7:21, 1970s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Whenever cleaning is in the news, it’s typically accompanied by some kind of shocking hyperbole — like we shower way too much or that our iPhones are filthier than toilet seats. Since cleaning is typically a pretty private affair, I’m also constantly surprised when I hear about the frequency with which other people do or don’t wash their stuff. The easiest conclusion to draw is that none of us really know what’s best and probably aren’t doing the proper research.

…Also known as Googling. Which is why below I’ve pulled together a bunch of disparate internet cleaning revelations to create a master guide of sorts. Proceed at your own risk! If you feel like a walking dust bunny/bacteria monster by the end of this, I’m sorry. Or maybe you’ll feel smug, in which case that makes one of us. See you on the other side!

How often should you…


1. Wash your sheets

I loathe a bed that doesn’t feel clean. I almost never get into it without showering first and I never sit on it in street clothes, for instance, but somehow this obsession doesn’t translate to obsessively laundering my sheets. Oops.

My guess: Every other week / My reality: Once every three or four weeks

The answer: Every week or two, per home expert Maeve Richmond. Turns out we should be thinking about our sheets the same way we think of clothes. Would you wear a T-shirt for three weeks without washing it? Yikes.

2. Wash your actual pillows (not the cases)

I am really embarrassed to say I never thought of washing my pillows until someone recommended I add them to this list. OMG AM I GROSS? I just replace my pillows every few years.

My guess: Wut / My reality: Never?

The answer: Twice a year, per Richmond again. AHHH! (Follow the instructions on the tag.)

3. Dry clean your sweaters

I wash my machine-washable sweaters every five or so wears, but if something is dry clean only I’ll put it off so much longer because that shit’s $$$$$.

My guess: Every 10 wears / My reality: Every 15-20

The answer: Every eight to 10 wears, according to Demy Lee of DEMYLEE.

4. Wash your jeans

I know I’m not supposed to wash my jeans as much as I do, but I just hate the feeling of grossly overworn jeans, plus it seems unsanitary. That said, I do not dry them. That ruins jeans so fast. I remember hearing Levi’s say you should never wash them, but that can’t be true???

My guess: Every 10 wears / My reality: Every five-10 wears

The answer: Once they start to smell, so every two to six months, according to Business Insider. Apparently the freezer is not actually cold enough nor is hand-washing intense enough to kill all bacteria.

5. Wash your underwire bras

The only bras I wear are cotton/training-style, so I launder them often and easily. But I know underwire bras are trickier, so I polled the office to see how they handle that.

My guess: Every 10 wears / Office reality: Every 10!

The answer: Every two to three wears, says Christina Remenyi, designer of Fortnight lingerie, because of the sweat/oil buildup. A gentle hand wash in the sink will do.

6. Clean your couch upholstery

Fabric couches are another thing that somehow get forgotten, but like COUCHES HAVE TO BE SO GROSS RIGHT?

My guess: Twice a year / My reality: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I vacuum it sometimes?

The answer: Vacuum every month or two, says Troy Thorpe, owner of AmeriClean Services. Allergist Jeff Wald says you should wash slip covers once a week (WHAT). Stanley Steemer says to have upholstery cleaned once every year or two.

7. Clean your computer

I remember hearing once that our phones have as many germs as a toilet seat, so I imagine our computers can’t be much better. Cleaning my computer brings me so much pleasure but I constantly forget to do it until I’ve gone way too long.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Every other month (gross)

The answer: Once or twice a month, says Logitech’s Art Gnimh.

8. Clean your makeup brushes

I remember the first time I washed my makeup brushes, I was horrified by the amount of makeup that was trapped in them. After that I had a year-long blip of washing them once a week, but when I started wearing less makeup I got out of the habit. Now I’m back to forgetting most the time.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Every three-ish months

The answer: Once a week, according to Bobbi Brown, due to germ buildup. OOPS.

How often should you…


1. Change out/clean your dish brush

I feel guilty almost every time I use my dish brush to clean dishes that I EAT OFF OF because I assume it’s teeming with bacteria. Then I rarely do anything about it.

My guess: Every other week / My reality: Every other month

The answer: According to Today, rinse thoroughly with soap once a day, sanitize by soaking in distilled white vinegar for a couple hours once per week.

2. Change out/clean your sponge

Sponges make your hands smell beyond fixing — this is why sponges, in my opinion, are a cleaning crime against humanity. Cancel sponges!

My guess: Every .0001 seconds / My reality: Sponges are evil

The answer: Clean it daily by microwaving for one minute (the USDA says this kills 99% of the germs) and change it out weekly (per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). Or just fuck sponges, because they contain tons of fecal bacteria.

3. Change your water (i.e. Brita) filter

Britas are one of those things I forget involve any sort of upkeep until it’s been like a year and someone with superior habits mentions changing the filter and I freeze in shame.

My guess: Every six weeks / My reality: I drink tap now but in the past like NEVER

The answer: Brita.com says every two months (slightly less for larger ones).

4. Wash your water bottle

Around the house, I use a new one every time I get water. It’s a bad roommate trait. But my water bottle at work rarely gets washed because it never leaves my desk. Holy shit. This is bad, I know it.

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Omg……….like once per month, I’m terrible

The answer: DAILY/PER USE. These things have as much bacteria as a toilet seat according to Bustle! AHHH!

How often should you…


1. Change your loofah

Loofahs are one of those things I think about replacing all the time but promptly forget as soon as I step out. I end up replacing it when I’m in a store and see loofahs and am thus reminded.

My guess: Once a month / My reality: Every other month

The answer: Ideally, you’d soak it in bleach for five minutes once a week (omg, who would do that???) and then replace it every two months if it’s plastic or every month if it’s made of natural fibers, per dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD.

2. Wash your towel

I don’t go very long with a single towel because I can visibly see it get dirty with makeup, which freaks me out. So I think I might be okay in this arena?

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Once a week (AKA every six to seven uses)

The answer: Every three to four uses, says home expert Richmond, because they’re designed for heavy use and get very wet. RATS.

3. Change your toothbrush

I use a Sonicare electric toothbrush, so replacement heads are expensive and thus I put it off. I’m pretty sure I don’t change it out NEARLY enough.

My guess: Every other month / My reality: Twice a year (am I gross?)

The answer: Every three months, according to the American Dental Association, or as soon as it appears frayed. ALSO, DON’T STORE IT NEAR A TOILET BECAUSE POO PARTICLES GET ON IT. I don’t make the rules!

4. Clean the toilet

I give my toilet a quick once-over whenever it’s visibly dirty, but an actual thorough cleaning is not happening V often!!! GAH, I don’t wanna know this one!

My guess: Once a week / My reality: Once a month

The answer: Cleaning expert Leslie Reichert says it should be thoroughly cleaned once a week, but given a once over with the toilet brush once per day for general maintenance.

Well, there you have it. I, for one, am not cleaning my stuff nearly enough. What about you?

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. Feature collage by Krista Anna Lewis, images by Hulton Archive and GraphicaArtis via Getty Images. 

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  • Mariana

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc081adc48ff1f710cc848bc3f83486a74c560467914493fe2bee6bc2d02c5d4.jpg BRACE YOURSELVES. Poo particles are coming!! ahaha
    Seriously, this is the shocking thing I read today (probably this week) and the next time I’m going to brush my teeth I’m gonna be a little bit alert.

  • Bee

    Oh my god, I need to wash my BKR bottle immediately.

    • Paul White

      I once had strep throat for 3 weeks. After two shots and lots of antibiotics, the pharmacist finally recommended changing my toothbrush. That was when I realized I had been using the same water bottle the whole time.

  • oye to all of this…..

  • Alanis

    Definitely needed this! I’m a little germaphobe and have researched online about these things too!! Glad you wrote this article that covers most common household objects!

  • Charlotte

    Haley! I also only recently learned that pillows are meant to be washed but I haven’t tried it because a lifetime of not doing it seems to be working…

    • Paul White

      I am spoiled and require a pillow with actual feathers. You can’t wash those suckers, so I put extra covers on it.

      • Lou Boom

        i recently learned that you can, as long as you use detergent made for wool. Other detergent usually contains enzymes that will break down (the proteins in) the feathers 🙂

    • Jeanie

      Haha, best answer to all this!

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    i think, moving forward, all measurements of cleanliness should involve a comparison to a toilet. its v powerful! gonna go sanitize myself now.

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    I am definitely disgusting when it comes to makeup brushes. Whoops.

  • Enlightening! Thank you for the actual real world useful life advice ladies!

    – Natalie

  • Julia Park

    If you want a toothbrush head that is less expensive to change every three months, try Goby (https://www.goby.co/). It’s one of those super ~~hip~~ start ups and I LOVE mine.

  • Yikes- this is making me realize exactly how gross I am.

    I am so gross.

  • Rae

    I just added basically all these things to my weekend to-do list. Oops!

  • Meg

    Buy knock off Sonicare brush heads! I got SoniShare Diamond Clean Replacement Heads (seriously) ones from Amazon that work out to be like $2.50 each depending on the number you buy at a time. My dentist asked what I changed in my routine because my gums were looking even better than usual.

  • Julia

    I’ve tried so hard to stick to only biodegradable cleaning supplies (Method is a great brand!), but last weekend I just couldnt take it and I bought clorox and soft scrub and went to freaking TOWN on every cranny of the bathroom and it’s truly a liberating, cathartic experience.

    • Stephanie Hall

      Have you heard of Norwex? You’d love it!

  • Michelle

    what about a silk pillowcase?

  • starryhye

    I have a Sonicare toothbrush too but I buy the cheapo generic replacement heads on Amazon. The poo particles are real! Another hot tip: buy those Clorox bleach tablets that go in the tank of the toilet. They last about a month and keep your toilet cleaner between scrubbings.

  • Grace B


  • My favorite part: “Sponges are evil” Agree. And great information. Thanks!

    • Paul White

      I really like dishcloths. I know they’re not “in,” but I can use a new one for each load of dishes and just wash them in the washer.

  • I feel so gross right now. My cleaning habits seem similar to yours. My weekly clean-up is vacuuming, cleaning the floors, mirrors, kitchen top, bathtub/sink, toilet, and laundry. So I miss pretty much all the things on the list.

  • Alexandra Schettini

    this article makes me feel like such a dirtbag

  • Meg S

    I really don’t like cleaning, but keep things reasonably clean. Or so I thought. I do wash my sheets once a week, but I never thought about washing the pillows. Let’s not talk about my couch. Actually let’s not talk about a lot of things…

  • Jeanie

    If you squeeeeeeze all the water out of the sponge, they don’t get stinky! I hate the office sponge because not everyone squeezes all the water out and it gets gross. I never liked the microwave trick. It always made me feel I’m just getting the nasty onto the inside of my microwave.

  • Miss J

    I guess to be able to achieve everything on the list above one must be a full-time housewife, or have full-time help. I have a cleaning lady once per week (8 hours) and can BARELY manage to keep my sh*t together. This list is hauntingly scary because no one wants to be the girl with a sweaty bra, stinky jeans and a feces bacteria covered toothbrush whose hands smell like a filthy sponge. I will start putting my loofah in bleach on a regular basis.
    I washed pillows several times in my life, and it’s a bitch to wash. Instead, I double on the pillow cases, change my bed sheets once a week, and then just wash the “under-pillow case” every month or two.
    Each month I buy a 10-pack of cheap kitchen sponges at the dollar store and just replace them every 4-7 days.
    Bathroom- twice a week. I buy the bathroom wet wipes, so I can clean my whole bathroom (minus the shower) in less than two minutes.
    I too, change my Sonicare head twice a year. I’ve never washed my 2.5 year old sofa and that fact just wants to make me throw up.
    Gotta go and clean my iPhone!

  • jess

    Never been so grateful for an en-suite bathroom, yeesh

  • tina

    Do you use Dawn dish soap? I swear that shiz will make your sponges, and anything that they touch, stank beyond belief! I ditched the blue stuff and I don’t have stinky sponges anymore.

  • Kathryn Walsh

    this really shook up my world.

    TG we did not get thorough with the implications of an unwashed pillow case, because WHO FREAKING KNEW!!

  • Polina

    Put the lid of the toilet down EVERY time you flush. Or poo particles ALL over bathroom everything. Seriously, that’s what the lids are for.

    • CM

      AGREED!!! It still blows my mind that this is not common practice for everyone?? Like what else would the lid be for?

  • ladle

    Some of these sound like overkill to me. Bacteria are a part of life, if you just make sure you keep things at a level you’re comfortable with, and clean/replace things if you got really sick, you’ll be fine.
    Seriously, how filthy does a toilet get if you have to clean it every day? Do you pee on the seat or do you need to replace the flush valve? I have a cleaning solution I put inside every few days, and then after an hour I flush the toilet. If I had to clean it with a brush every day, I’d constantly be cleaning.

  • Melissa

    I am officially grossed out by ALL THE THINGS, mainly everything in bathroom and kitchen. Also you taught me that actual pillows should be washed. I’m 28. haha

    I feel like I need to torch everything in my apartment and start over.

  • welp this makes me want to go to bed bath and beyond and start over.

    • Kirsten Heller

      Haha, *makes sweeping round motion with finger* wrap it up boys, it’s all got to go!

  • dayman

    Very interesting article, and I appreciate the reminder to clean these things, like, at least sometimes. I would consider myself pretty picky about things being clean but I do still feel like some of these are kinda over the top though. Like, how clean does your toilet bowl really need to be? You don’t touch it! As long as it looks okay that’s good enough for me. Or is that because of the particles when you flush? In my highly unscientific idea of how this works…aren’t there all kinds of particles on everything? Refusing to let the toothbrush thing freak me out until someone corrects me. And the water bottle thing…I get that they need to be cleaned more often than most of us realize, but why every use? If you use the cap is the inside really that gross that fast?

    Also this made me realize I am way overwashing my sweaters and jeans, but like…they get stuff on them? Maybe spot cleaning is the answer?

    • Kirsten Heller

      Right?? If I have stains on them (always do because I eat like someone who just discovered food was a thing) I have to wash them!!!

  • emilyisabean

    …heavily side-eyeing the hydroflask on my nightstand after this. But like, if I haven’t died yet and nothing smells weird….???!?

  • Kirsten Heller

    The makeup brushes get me, they are my enemy to clean for some reason and I just cannot bring myself to do it as often as I need to!! Argh.

  • Stephanie Hall

    I use NORWEX to clean. It’s hospital-grade microfiber with silver embedded in the cloth. Silver naturally kills bacteria, so all you need is water when using the cloth. I shit you not! No more chemicals used to clean. Faster and easier, seriously. Look into it. shall.norwex.biz

  • Stephanie Hall

    Am I the only one that hardly washes her underwire bra? Like…. hardly ever.