Being around germs doesn’t necessarily hurt us in general, and can build some immunity so we are not always getting sick. However, even though a lot of germs are harmless, and many are even good for your health, you still need protection and awareness about those that can harm you by transferring from your hands to your eyes, nose, and mouth, and to others in your home.
Start by increasing your effectiveness and possibly even the amount of handwashing you do, especially after handling certain known heavily contaminated items and when coming home. The temperature of the water does not matter, it’s the frequency of handwashing, the amount of time you wash (sing Happy Birthday twice), and the friction used when soaping up. Hand sanitizers are an effective tool in between washings, but are not a replacement and should be washed off whenever possible.
Here are some dirty areas or things in your home and some tips on how to keep them cleaner:
Surprisingly, the kitchen is dirtier than most areas of your home. Food preparation tools and areas like cutting boards and counter tops (as well as sinks and dish rags or sponges) are usually contaminated with more bacteria and fecal matter than your bathroom! The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) ran a study that confirmed homes contained more coliform bacteria (a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli and is an indicator of potential fecal contamination) in the kitchen than in the bathroom.
For instance, only 9 percent of bathroom faucet handles and 27 percent of toothbrush holders carried this bacteria versus:
More than 75 percent of dish sponges/rags
45 percent of kitchen sinks
32 percent of counter tops
18 percent of cutting boards
Wow! And other kitchen items that were found to need more regular cleaning were the coffee maker (specifically the reservoirs) and the refrigerator (especially areas in contact with uncooked and unwashed food).
So let’s look at a few ways to keep your kitchen a bit cleaner since it may look clean, but there are some nefarious germs hanging out in there waiting to be ingested and/or passed around to the rest of the home on your hands. First, go back to that notice about handwashing! Don’t skip this step. Often we only think about handwashing after touching raw meat, but even if you’re handling vegetables that have not been washed, you are at risk, so always wash your hands before, in between food preparation steps, and then after working on food prep.
Regularly use disinfectant wipes or sprays with a towel on the faucet, refrigerator surfaces, knobs/handles, tables, and countertops. Don’t forget the salt and pepper shakers! They’re actually also well-known for contamination and largely ignored when we clean. Change out dish towels, hand towels, and dish rags several times per week. We all want to conserve water, energy, and the cost of laundry, but we need to remember bacteria is always actively growing on these things.
For those sponges, to kill the ever-growing bacteria, you can put them in the dishwasher’s utensil rack, heat damp sponges in the microwave for one minute, and/or soak them in a diluted solution of bleach and water.
Knobs, Handles, Switches, Remotes & More
We don’t always think about the little things around us that carry the most germs, but we need to. Look around you now and notice all of your personal items like your cell phone, your wallet, your tablet, your mouse, your headphones, and your keyboard. Your remote controls carry a lot of harmful bacteria too! Now search the house for small things like all of the various handles, knobs, and switches you touch throughout the day without a second thought.
When you step into your home with your contaminated gym bag or purse, having touched your contaminated steering wheel, and perhaps contaminated items in your wallet, you then touch the knob and the light switch nearby, transferring those pesky germs. You also walk on your floors with your contaminated shoes and according to Chem-Dry, those carpets may be dirtier than a city street because they hold so much dirt and dust. You may go straight from the front door into your kitchen where the handles, faucet, knobs, refrigerator door handle, and microwave handle carry a whole lot of coliform bacteria as well.
Dirtiest of all of these, the NSF study showed were bathroom light switches, refrigerator handles, stove knobs, and microwave handles. And of the 22 homes surveyed, the NSF found fecal contamination, yeast, and mold present on cell phones, keys, wallet and money, lunch boxes, and the bottom of purses. Yeast and mold are common on the computer keyboard, remote control, and video game controllers as well. Staph was also found on remotes and controllers, a dangerous bacteria we need to clean away.
You can clean these items approximately once a week with disinfecting wipes, but be sure to change out the wipe for each area. You may wish to search for electronic device safe wipes.
Bacteria thrives in moist environments, so it is a no-brainer that the germs you wash or shed from your body and clothes in the bathroom will grow quickly. Again, we like to conserve where we can, but hand towels and body towels shouldn’t languish in the bathroom for long before they’re replaced. Every 3-5 days should do it. Toothbrushes and toothbrush holders are important to pay attention to as well. Remember earlier we mentioned that 27 percent of toothbrush holders held harmful coliform bacterias, so they should be wiped clean with disinfectant every couple of days and your toothbrush replaced every two to four months or after a viral or bacterial illness such as the flu, colds, or Strep Throat.
Pay attention to the crevices around the various larger items you’ll be cleaning as well. You can use an old toothbrush for scrubbing, or another small brush. The large areas that need regular disinfecting are the shower tub, sink and faucets (drains too!), the toilet, and the floor area around the toilet.
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, we like to conserve. And the green movement and our feelings about our impact on the environment have some of us holding off on washing laundry as often. Good for us! But keep in mind where bacteria can grow the most and the fastest and come up with the plan that works best for you.
Key items that need washing are hand towels, kitchen towels and rags, and bath towels, all mentioned in the sections above. Our pillow cases need to be replaced fairly often if showering in the morning and not at night because we carry a lot of bacteria in our hair. Likewise, if you have not worn those pants that are draped over the chair in your bedroom fairly quickly, you’ll want to go ahead and have them freshly washed to prevent bacterial growth. And remember, bacteria grows best in moist environments and can begin growing almost immediately if you’ve left wet clothes in the washer.
Call Visit The Tidy Maids for more help with your house cleaning needs