Hygiene can be an interesting thing: Someone can look and smell as clean as new sneakers, yet be putting themselves at risk for infections by making common hygiene mistakes.
By the way, good hygiene isn’t necessarily about eradicating yourself of germs, and it doesn’t mean dousing yourself from head to toe with hand sanitizer every hour. In fact, your body has an interesting interaction with the world of germs, and in many ways, some germs are good for you and your health.
Instead, kicking your bad hygiene habits is more about not letting harmful bacteria fester or not taking shortcuts. If you’re looking for good health goals to try this year, here are the bad hygiene habits you should ditch:
BAD HABIT #1: Rarely washing your bed sheets
Those germy sheets need weekly washes. They contain things like sweat, dust mites, bodily fluids, bacteria, pet dander, and more. This yucky population is especially dangerous to people with allergies, asthma, or eczema. (Here are 5 ways your dirty bed sheets could harm your health.)
You probably notice they start to smell less fresh eventually, but your sheets are dangerously germy long before a smell appears, so commit to washing these fabrics (including your pillowcases) once a week.
BAD HABIT #2: Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs
You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: These little sticks actually push wax further into your ear, so they’re pretty counterproductive. Even worse, cotton swabs can puncture the eardrum, and doctors don’t recommend putting anything smaller than your elbow into your ear.
If you think that’s just your doctor being overly cautious, listen to this: An average of 34 children in the U.S. visit the emergency room daily for a cotton swab injury, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Learn more about the risk of cleaning your ears with cotton swabs here.
BAD HABIT #3: Taking long, hot showers
They feel so, so good, especially at the end of a chilly winter day. Unfortunately, these steamy showers strip away the body’s natural oils, leaving you with unpleasantly dry and itchy skin. This can be especially problematic to those with sensitive skin, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
To avoid dry skin, limit showers to five to 10 minutes, and opt for warm water instead of scalding hot.
BAD HABIT #4: Not washing your feet in the shower
Letting the soap and water “run over them” just doesn’t do the trick. The area between your toes can collect numerous pathogens during the day, and can increase your risk of infections like athlete’s foot. You really do need to scrub those crevices, as well as the bottoms of your feet, to get rid of that harmful fungi and stinky bacteria.
BAD HABIT #5: Not peeing after sex
You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: Peeing before and after sex can greatly lower your risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). It might not seem “sexy” in the moment, but you’ll be grateful later when you’re not experiencing the burning pain of a UTI. (Learn more about ways to prevent a UTI here.)
Want more tips for making new health goals?