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"Toxic" Bad Habits You Need to Stop Now

If you do any of these things, experts warn you to stop now.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

While we all like to think that our bad health habits aren't that harmful, the truth is some behaviors are so unhealthy they're toxic. Smoking, excessive drinking and lack of exercise are all things we know that are dangerous, but there's so many more things that we don't think about that can cause serious damage. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Gabby Martin, a supervisor at Bio Recovery who revealed what habits we do at home that are toxic and ranked them in order of their toxicity.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Changing Your Dish Sponge Too Late

Woman washing dishes.

The number one thing people can do that's really toxic is reuse an old dirty sponge. Martin asks, "Did you know that microbiologists have found a sponge harbors more harmful bacteria than any other object in your home? Technically, it should be replaced once a week. Most people forget about their sponge until it gets to a serious state of disrepair (or just plain nasty). It's also very overlooked how bad sponges get, particularly because they absorb so much."


Leaving Dishes in the Sink

Soaking dishes

Martin says, "A lot of people think that letting the dishes soak actually helps clean them, but it's a misconception. It actually spreads harmful bacteria because you're letting the colonies grow. Letting the dishes soak in the sink: for a short period of time (within 15 minutes) this should be okay, but if you're in the habit of letting dishes soak in your sink for a long period of time, be twice as thorough when you go to clean them. Your sink is a harbor for harmful bacteria – potentially even more so than your toilet – so this will result in new colonies on your plates. Think E. Coli farm."


Forgetting to Clean the Remote Control

Lazy man watching television at night alone

"We usually forget the remote is there, until we have to change the volume or channel on the TV," says Martin. "We also move it around when we're cleaning, thus forgetting to clean it. Since we do use it so often, it's important to clean it when you can. When it doesn't get cleaned, it opens up a world of opportunity for harmful bacterial growth."


Reusing the Same Towel in Multiple Rooms

Woman in apron wiping her hands

According to Martin, "Another often overlooked habit, especially when we accidentally put the towel down next to the same type of towel instead of having them in separate dirty and clean bins. Reusing towels also spreads harmful bacteria. This one is #4 because it's a less common habit than the three above.  It's okay if you use the same towel, but you should be washing it in between uses. Using the same towel in one cleaning session places you at risk of not just being exposed to dangerous pathogens like E. Coli, but spreading it throughout your home as well."


Letting Mail Clutter Up

Young woman putting letter into envelope at table in cafe. Mail delivery

Martin states, "It's a bad habit, but it doesn't spread harmful bacteria cultures. Try to break the habit of dumping mail in our homes without giving much thought about it. The longer you let mail pile up, the quicker you get clutter, and the more out of control it gets, the less likely you want to deal with it. Though there's no research indicating that this leads to a hoarding disorder, it can be unsightly and undesirable."


Using Too Much Cleaning Product

woman in white shirt holding cleaning supplies with gloves and sponge on counter in foreground
Shutterstock / Wojciech Skora

"This is getting ranked last because the most annoying thing about this habit is that it can tarnish the surface or leave residue build up that is annoying and difficult to remove," Martin explains. Annoying, yes, a health hazard, no. Some cleaning products use strong detergents that are antibacterial to eliminate all common pathogens, but the chemicals are so strong that they can do more harm than good. This is why, especially if you're using a new cleaning product, you'll want to start out using as little product as possible. Too much is overkill and will result in tarnishing the surface or product build up that is extremely difficult to remove."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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