8 Housekeeping Habits That Can Affect Your Health

How big of a deal is a grungy shower or an unwashed pooch?

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1. You keep the plastic covers on your dry cleaning?

This can trap bad-for-you chemicals, which you then inhale when you wear the clothes. Most dry-cleaning solvents have potentially harmful properties that can linger on fabric, says Diana Ceballos, PhD, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Rip off the bags and hang garments in a little-used room, so chemicals dissipate before you put your duds away (or on!).

2. You sleep with the TV on?

Whether you accidentally conk out in front of Kimmel or rely on the noise to drift off, odds are the tube's waking you in the night, even if you don't know it. "We've disrupted people's sleep in studies, and some have no clue," says Kristen Knutson, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. Interruptions prevent the deep phases of slumber your body needs most. Set a timer that turns your TV off (a programming option on most).

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3. You forget to wash your dish towels?

Sponges aren't the only germy kitchen culprits. Towels you use to wipe up cooking spills and food juices — especially from meat — are riskiest, because they can breed bad bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. Wash them on a hot cycle after every use. Dish-drying towels are less of a threat but can still grab germs from your hands, so hang them up to dry, and toss in the wash every few days.

4. You (oops) leave the fridge or freezer open overnight?

That family finger-pointing may be justified: When the temp tops 41 degrees for more than four hours, bacteria can grow and stuff can start to spoil, says Ben Chapman, PhD, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. Check the thermometer and pitch whatever looks or smells funky (especially produce and meat). Food poisoning isn't worth it!

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5. You put off fixing a leak in your ceiling or wall?

Not a good strategy! Best to treat leaks the way Olivia Pope would: Deal with a small problem now in order to prevent big ones later. Steady drips cause wall erosion, ruined paint, and, worse, mold, says Janna Tuck, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Mold is a big deal, since it can trigger breathing issues and allergies. Hear or see a leak? It's time to bring in a pro to figure out the next step.

6. You let grime and slime build up in your shower?

When you go too long between scrubbings, mildew, mold, and fungi can take up residence on your grout and shower curtain or on the edges of a glass stall. That can trigger a stuffy nose, says Gregor Reid, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Western Ontario. Hair and other schmutz blocking your drain? Standing water could become a hotbed for bacteria, says Reid, although there's no big risk since you don't drink it. Still, yuck, considering it's where you go to wash up!

7. You don't clean your A/C?

A clogged filter can stop airflow, which wastes moola but won't have dire health consequences. If you're sensitive to dust, though, know that debris can shoot into the air and irritate your lungs when you turn the unit on. Vacuum the filter, then leave the room for an hour to avoid inhaling what got stirred into the air. A more urgent concern is constant water leaks or condensation on or around the unit (the air vents, for instance) since mold can grow, says Sandra Hong, MD, an allergist with the Cleveland Clinic. Wipe down trouble spots once a month with bleach; that will stop mold in its tracks.

8. Your pet misses a bath (or five)?

Imagine, for an icky minute, walking around barefoot outside and rarely showering — that's similar to a dirty dog's or cat's hygienic situation. But most of the germs that pile up on furry friends won't make you sick, says Linda Bruslind, PhD, a microbiologist at Oregon State University. A couple of things that are worth your worry: If you have allergies, extra dander can leave you sneezing; and fecal bacteria can cling to critters' coats, noses, or paws, leading to stomach trouble if you ingest it. So after you cuddle with a grubby pet, and before you touch your face or eat, be sure to wash your own paws well!

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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