The surprising source of sickening germs in your own home

It just might be the dirtiest spot in your home, with more germs per square inch than anything else.

And it's NOT where you'd expect it.

It's not in your toilet. It's not under the sink. It's not in the basement, attic, or garage... and not even that weird spot in the back of the fridge.

No, this filthy piece of real estate is something you use and touch every day, and it comes in direct contact with the dishes you eat from.

It's your sponge!

Researchers squeezed out a bunch of kitchen sponges and found at least 362 different types of bacteria living inside.

Many are, of course, harmless. This is expected. We're surrounded by bacteria, and many won't hurt you.

The most common type of bacteria found on the sponges are the types that are probably crawling around on your skin right now.

But at least five types of bacteria found inside sponges aren't harmless at all.

They're what's known as "risk group 2" germs, which generally aren't deadly bugs but certainly can make you sick.

These are the germs responsible for common infections, including the kind that make you miserable enough to have to visit a doctor and get treatment.

In some cases, they even found bacteria such as the Staphylococcus responsible for "staph infections," as well as the Salmonella and Campylobacter behind many cases of food poisoning.

The research team found so many different types of germs that they called your kitchen sponges the "biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house."

That's no exaggeration: A 2013 study found the average dish sponge has a bacterial count of 775,460,560.

That's 3,000 times dirtier than number two on the list, the tap handle on your sink (which has a count of 228,854).

Your toilet seat, by contrast, has a count of just 1,200 -- in large part because people clean their toilets more often than their sinks and sponges.

But you can fix that easily enough.

One option is obvious. Don't try to squeeze extra life out of your sponges. Buy them in bulk, and make sure you replace them often.

The other is much less obvious: You can actually wash the germs right out of your sponge.

Search online and you'll find instructions for sanitizing sponges in both the microwave and dishwasher.

Obviously, they're not meant to last forever... so, even if you do clean them regularly, be sure to also replace the things often as well.