Right after one child gets over the flu, another one starts sneezing and coughing! And the next thing you know, everyone at the house is sick. To avoid the pasa-pasa of colds and flu, it is wise to roll up your sleeves and do some serious hygienic house cleaning especially after someone gets sick.
1. Choose the right cleaning and disinfecting tools. Take a look at your cleaning tools. Are they clean? Germ-ridden basahans, sponges, and mops will only spread germs to other surfaces when used to clean with, says Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
When it comes to soap, sanitizers and disinfectants, ditch the bleach especially in places with children around, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Recently, bleach has been declared an asthmagen by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. An asthmagen is something that can cause asthma.”
Vinegar, tea-tree oil, and other “natural” cleaning agents are not the best option when eliminating the flu virus from your home either. They can’t kill tough bacteria and virus like norovirus and staphylococcus.
2. Clean and disinfect. Stopping sickness-causing germs is a two-step process. You must first clean and then disinfect or sanitize. Cleaning is when you remove dirt from a surface (like the table or floor) with soap and water. It doesn’t kill the germs but washes them away, removing up to 98% of bacteria and 93% of viruses, according to the EPA.
To rid your home of the remaining (tough) bacteria and germs, you need to sanitize or disinfect. Sanitizing and disinfecting effectively kills germs with the use of chemical products. They don’t, however, necessarily remove dirt and most require a clean surface to be effective at killing germs. “Cleaning should be done before sanitizing or disinfecting because germs can hide underneath dirt and debris where they escape being killed by a disinfectant,” says the EPA in this useful guide that’s especially for cleaning spaces and areas occupied by children.
The American Academy of Pediatric (APA) notes that although chemical sanitizers and disinfectants are essential to control the spread of diseases, care must be taken as they are hazardous to children. Read the product directions carefully before using and store out of reach of children. APA has more info on what parents should look for when buying sanitizers and disinfectants here.
3. Target specific areas. You’ve got an arsenal of cleaning tools. Where do you start? Yes, you need to put extra effort in the bathroom and kitchen. But your high priority is the high-touch surfaces of your home, or those that are touched several times a day (which the previously ill family member has most likely touched a lot as well). These include:
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cabinet and drawer handles
faucets (sink and shower)
buttons and handles on appliances like the microwave, refrigerator and TV
remote controls (TV, gaming console, DVD player, etc.)
Take note: only toys with hard surfaces can be sanitized or disinfected. “Toys with porous surfaces (like stuffed animals) need to be laundered,” says the EPA.
4. Have two buckets. When cleaning floors, use two buckets: one for detergent and the other for rinsing, advises the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. This way you avoid spreading dirt and germs around. Try to replace the water as often as you can, especially when your rinse bucket starts to get cloudy. And, sweep beforehand to get rid of dirt and dust.
“If soiled with vomit, urine or feces, the floor should be cleaned using a disposable cloth and warm water, then disinfected,” says the NHS. “Make sure the floor is dry before allowing children on it.” Damp surfaces are more inviting to germs and if it’s wet enough, bacteria and viruses will be able to multiply.
5. Disinfect tools after use. Don’t forget to disinfect and dry your cleaning tools after each use to prevent from germs staying on them. This way, you’ll be sure they’re ready for another round of disinfecting when the next flu season rolls in.