While you should always aim for a clean and germ-free home, there are certain times of the year when it becomes more important. Certainly cold and flu season is one of them, but you might also think about back to school time if you have kids.
For our home, spring and fall are allergy season, so I’m more likely to be trying to keep things extra clean around then. And if you have allergies like me (dust, mold, and pollen), I’ve got two tips for you while you’re cleaning:
- Take an antihistamine before you begin cleaning because you will be stirring up a lot of stuff.
- Wear a mask designed to filter out germs and allergens. If you don’t have one, make do with what you have, even if it’s a bandana over your mouth and nose.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten sick just from cleaning! And no, my house isn’t gross; but when I clean, I’m disturbing those allergens and ultimately breathing some in.
You can also buy special furnace filters and air filtration systems to help keep the air in your home cleaner.
Keep Germs Out
Everyone talks about things being germ-free, but that’s an almost impossible goal. Yes, they make cleaners that kill 99.9% of germs, but that’s not a one-use thing. Even cleaning with them every day wouldn’t be enough to keep your home germ-free, and you really don’t want that level of clean anyway.
One thing you can do is reduce the chances of more germs coming in. This is especially important during cold and flu season (or if you happen to have someone in your home whose immune system is compromised).
You can try to keep as many germs as possible from coming into the home to begin with by following these tips:
- Have everyone remove their shoes as soon as they come in. You might want to purchase a boot tray or other container for this purpose. Also, add small rugs at the entrances to your home.
- Enforce strict hand washing rules. Be sure everyone is washing properly after using the bathroom or using a tissue, like for a runny nose. If they are sick in bed, you can relax that a bit and maybe give them some hand sanitizer instead.
- Be sure that everyone has learned and uses the elbow method for sneezes and coughs.
- Spray backpacks and lunchboxes with a disinfectant spray when they first come into the house. You could also have your family enter through the garage and leave items there until they have been disinfected. Install some hooks for them. It’s possible to also put some backpacks and lunch bags in the washing machine.
- If your purse has been on the floor of a public place, either spray the bottom or wash it with mild soap and water. You may be able to machine wash that as well.
- Keep areas such as doorknobs, especially to outside doors and closets clean and disinfected.
Protect Yourself First
Always protect your hands while cleaning by wearing protective gloves. The disposable kind is preferable to the heavier ones they sell for dishwashing. Disposable gloves are a one-use item; any gloves you use more than once should only be used for one purpose.
Wash your hands after you have removed your gloves. Practice the safe removal of your gloves as well. Grasp the wrist of one glove and pull it towards your fingers. This should turn it partially inside out.
Now do the same with the glove on the other hand. Both gloves should still be covering your fingers. From here, it is easy to complete removal without touching the outside of the gloves.
Also, practice the clean hand/dirty hand method. One hand (dirty) does the cleaning while the other hand (clean) sprays cleaner, holds a trash bag, etc. If you’re using paper towels, for instance, the dirty hand can grab the end of the towels and rip them off while the clean one holds the roll.
A lot of people (me included) rely on white vinegar for cleaning. If you are disinfecting, however, vinegar won’t work. Stick with commercial disinfectants, bleach, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
Bleach should be diluted 50/50 with water; rubbing alcohol and peroxide can be used full strength. Be sure to test to make sure the surface will not be harmed.
Clean hard surfaces with disinfectant wipes or sprays if possible. Disinfect granite and similar surfaces with simple soap and water, or use a 50/50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water. Some sources say to leave the surface wet for at least four minutes.
Don’t forget to spray any wastebaskets, trash cans, or other similar containers with a disinfectant spray daily.
For wood surfaces, the best recommendation is wood cleaner and water. Apply with a damp cloth or mop and don’t get it too wet. A steam mop is another alternative for floors.
For extra protection on upholstered surfaces, use a disinfecting spray like Lysol. You might want to test a small area first to make sure it won’t leave a stain. You only need a light spray; there is no need to actually wet the surface.
Wash leather furniture with either soap and water and a damp cloth, or use a cleaner meant for leather.
Machine wash anything that can go in the wash.
What About Cleaning Food?
I have always rinsed my fruits and vegetables before I use them, and I used to rinse off my chicken before I cooked it. Certain vegetables, such as potatoes, got extra cleaning from a vegetable brush.
Things are different now.
I soak fruits like grapes and berries in my salad spinner with a mixture of vinegar and water. No measuring; I just fill the bowl of the spinner and add a good splash of vinegar. It keeps berries fresh longer this way. I do this as soon as I get home from the store.
For other vegetables, I wait until I am ready to use them before I wash them.
I have seen numerous recommendations to use soap and water, but that just goes against my common sense. Vinegar is a natural cleaner and disinfectant and I feel better using that. (Note: vinegar is not as effective as a disinfectant against certain germs and viruses. If in doubt, go with something else.)
I have also read that rinsing your chicken before cooking can take away some of the flavors and it makes your kitchen sink a bacteria haven. I still rinse the chicken if I think it needs it, and I always clean the kitchen sink after dinner, so I think I’m safe there.
There are suggestions to wipe off your pantry items before you put them away, especially during the flu season, but I’ve never done that. And of course, keep washing those hands!
Caring for Someone Who is Sick
Extra precautions should be taken when someone in the house is sick. Of course, they should stay in their room as much as possible. And ideally, one person should be in charge of caregiving. Guess that’s you. 😉
Here are some tips to help you stay healthy:
- Hand washing as much as possible
- Using gloves, especially when cleaning up a waste of any kind
- Use disposable plates, cups, silverware, and napkins
- Provide a wastebasket and keep it emptied and sanitized often
- Do not use the same hand towel as the person who is sick
- You may want to crack the windows a bit – even for a few minutes – once or twice a day to let fresh air in.
- Launder any items with hot water; add bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. DO NOT mix!
- Be extra careful about wiping down surfaces in the sickroom, especially doorknobs.
There are some items that you may not naturally think of when cleaning. Your phone, laptop, tablet and remote are among them. Your phone is especially likely to be carrying all sorts of nasty things around. Each of these can benefit from a disinfectant wipe.
You might want to wipe down your car keys and sunglasses, although they are less likely to be germ-ridden. The same is true of your wallet and cards.
Speaking of cards, think about the keypad you use when you pay for your purchases. Yuck. Use hand sanitizer as soon as you can afterward.
You don’t want to be living your life in fear, or be overly cautious, but you do want to be safe. Try for a happy medium.
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