5 Things in Your Living Room that Are Dirtier Than You Think

published Oct 21, 2019
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Credit: Julia Steele

Living rooms are the quintessence of home. They’re where we kick up our feet after a rough day, or recharge on lazy Sundays. They’re where we gather with our families for movie night and around charcuterie boards with guests. Sometimes at-home football stadiums, video game stations, or game night hubs, living rooms host so many of what become life’s memories.

All that living means lots of people touching things and possibly spilling things and, when they’re sick, sneezing on things, and well, soon the living room is dirtier than you’d care to think about.

Here are some living room items that tend to get especially grubby and, in the spirit of making our living spaces their cleanest, how to clean them:

The Remote Control

The remote control is likely the single item that receives the most concentrated touching from each member of the entire household. It’s like a nooks-and-crannies epidemic harboring every germ that comes into the house, and it should be disinfected monthly or when anyone in the household has been sick. To clean your remote control, remove the batteries and wipe each button and crevice and every other surface with a disinfecting wipe (make sure the surface stays wet for minutes!), or dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and do the same.

Video Game Controllers

Video game controllers, like remotes, are germ hubs. They, like remotes, may also harbor bacteria that feeds on the food residue any sticky, snacking hands may have left on them. Clean them much like you would remotes, first by removing the batteries or unplugging the controllers and then using as little moisture as possible to get them clean.

Before using a cleaning solution, brush any dirty cracks or crevices with a toothbrush or small cleaning brush. Next, clean the rest of the controller. A disinfecting wipe is an option, or you could use a cotton ball dipped in a mixture of vinegar and water or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Be sure to address the areas around all buttons and the buttons themselves. Wipe any excess moisture with a cloth and allow to dry thoroughly before plugging them back in.

Throw Pillows

They get spilled on, stepped on, snuggled with, and slept on, by people and pets. There is no question about their less-than-cleanliness. But throw pillows can feel tricky to clean. Even if you can zip the covers off, they often have delicate decorative components that can’t be simply tossed in the washer. Furthermore, allergens, mold, and bacteria can hide in the stuffing of the pillow insert.

Removable covers should ideally be cleaned every two to four weeks and the filling should be cleaned every other month. Once you check to make sure dry cleaning isn’t required, removable covers can be washed in a delicate cycle or by hand, using cold water. Pillow inserts (again, not dry-clean-only ones), can also be machine washed and dried.


Upholstered furniture suffers so much wear and tear, whether it’s from food and drinks being consumed on it, or just the rub-off of clothing and body oils from consistent use. Spot clean stains as soon as you can after they occur by blotting, cleaning with a solution of dish soap and water, and brushing if necessary. Vacuum your upholstery regularly (like every week). Once or twice a year, schedule a professional cleaning.

Underneath the Cushions and Couch

It’s a guilty secret I’m guessing most of us harbor: We rarely clean beneath couch and chair cushions or under other low-sitting furniture. Have you held your breath at the thought of the pile you’ll unearth when needing to move furniture unexpectedly to accommodate guests? I have. And cleaning under the cushions is basically a treasure hunt for lost pens, coins, and other surprises. Moving the furniture before getting the vacuum cleaner out is my excuse-proof way to clean beneath it and cleaning under the cushions is part of any thorough couch cleaning. You’ll need a bag for larger debris, and your vacuum cleaner to get the crumbs and dust that are left.