Here’s the First Thing You Should Clean When You Move Into a New Home

You fling open the door to your new home, and it’s just as fabulous as you imagined. The previous owner deep-cleaned the space; all it needs is your chic decor to make it feel like home.

But what about your billions of roommates? If you can’t see them, don’t turn on the light to get a better look. We’re talking bacteria, people.

Like so many other household items we come into contact with daily, light switches can get nasty—especially considering how often they get cleaned (probably somewhere between once a year and never).

You touch light switches so often you may not even realize how much bacteria you’e transferring to them with your dirty hands.

And while toilet seats have 50 bacteria per square inch, light switches boast an eye-watering 217 bacteria per square inch.

So in this installment of The Germaphobe Chronicles, we’re documenting everything you need to know about the gross factor of your light switches, from the moment you move in to how long they take to get filthy between cleanings.

Ready to shine some light on the nastiness of your home’s switches? Let’s dive in.

Why are light switches so dirty?

Three words: High-touch surfaces.

These are just what they sound like—areas you touch so often you may not even realize how much bacteria you are transferring to them with your dirty hands. Think counters, doorknobs, stair rails, faucets—and, of course, light switches.

“When you first move into your home or apartment, you might think that everything is clean and germ-free,” says cleaning expert Stephan Bucur of The Rhythm of the Home. “But in reality, there could be bacteria living on high-touch surfaces such as light switches.”

And much like door knobs and wall-mounted objects that tend to blend in, light switches are often overlooked in typical cleaning regimens.

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A bacterial hotbed

So what exactly is living on your light switches that make them so gross?

“In particular, light switches are prone to coliform and aerobic bacteria,” says Toby Schulz, CEO of Maid2Match.

(If you forgot your eighth-grade science, coliform is present in digestive tracts and feces. And some aerobic bacteria, like clostridium, cause botulism.)

“You risk transferring diseases such as the flu or E. coli if someone ill touches the light switch, then you touch it afterward,” adds Schulz.

And since light switches are non-porous surfaces, viruses can linger for longer on them than on a porous surface. In other words, your overlooked light switch might be one of the nastiest surfaces in your home, especially in high foot traffic areas already teeming with bacteria—like your kitchen or bathroom.

“We touch our light switches on average 10 to15 times a day,” says home expert Andrew Gaugler of Best of Machinery. “If not cleaned properly, the number of bacteria can double every 20 minutes.”

How to clean your light switches
White vinegar is an antibacterial household product that’s perfect for cleaning.

Despite the disturbing stats, cleaning your light switches is a fairly straightforward task.

White vinegar is an antibacterial household product that’s perfect for cleaning,” says Schulz. “You can spray a mix of vinegar and lemon juice on a clean towel, so it’s damp, not wet. Then use that to wipe down the light switches. Get into those nooks and crannies!”

Alternative cleaning solutions include household disinfectants like isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Keep in mind that most store-bought disinfectants will work just fine, too.

Just be sure you’re applying them to a towel and not directly to the switch—since spraying liquid on your light switch could cause electrical issues.

Wash your hands—like, a lot

Experts recommend regular cleanings every week to twice per week. But your hands are another often overlooked component of keeping light switches clean.

“Wash your hands frequently so that you don’t transfer bacteria and dirt onto the surfaces you touch,” says Schulz. “This goes double if anyone is ill in the house since that could transfer the illness onto contact surfaces.”

Consider hands-free light switches

For the advanced germaphobe, or anyone going through a home renovation involving new electrical, you might consider upgrading your light switches to something less hospitable to germs.

“Certain brands of light switches, such as Leviton and Schneider Electric, have created products with built-in antibacterial and antimicrobial properties,” says Schulz.

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