With flu season still going strong, you'll encounter sniffles and coughs everywhere you go. You probably take steps out in public to protect yourself, such as washing your hands and steering clear of sneezers, but your home represents a major battleground in the fight against flu. Add these cleaning tips and tricks to your arsenal in the germ war.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE HOT SPOTS
What do you touch every day? Doorknobs, faucets and toilet handles maintain germs from constant touch. Spray those spots with disinfectant and scrub them down. Also, use a disinfectant wipe to carefully disinfect any electronics-related items you handle frequently, including remote controls, light switches and video game controllers. Your mobile devices and computer keyboards play host to many household germs. Make sure they get wiped down as well.
If you use a humidifier in your home, be sure to clean it regularly. When not properly maintained, humidifiers can provide breeding grounds for bacteria.
Finally, give some attention to the bags you use regularly. Purses, backpacks, diaper bags, reusable grocery bags and similar items carry a variety of items, sometimes hold food, and get placed on the floor everywhere from the grocery store to the kitchen. Use a disinfectant wipe or your manufacturer's recommended cleaner on your bags and backpacks.
HOT WATER IS YOUR FRIEND
If your washing machine includes a sanitary cycle, that provides an excellent line of defense. Otherwise, turn your hot water setting as high as it will go. Wash your pillowcases, sheets, blankets and furniture covers at high temperatures once a week, and use your hottest dryer setting. The sanitary cycle is also excellent for cleaning reusable mop pads and dish towels.
Stay within the specs of whatever you're washing, of course. Various clothes have different needs, but cleaning supplies and towels can usually handle very hot water.
The hottest settings on your dishwasher will ensure dishes and silverware remain germ-free. You can also use the dishwasher on your kids' hard plastic toys. In the case of soft plastic and rubber toys, hand wash them regularly with soapy water and then sanitize them with a solution of rubbing alcohol and water.
USE SANITARY CLEANING PRODUCTS
You can't keep your home clean or kill germs if your cleaning materials aren't germ-free themselves. Opt for disposable cleaning products when necessary, such as paper towels and single-use mop pads. Or, for a greener solution, sanitize mop heads at very high temperatures before reusing them. Wash your dish towels regularly, and microwave a wet sponge for two minutes to kill or inactivate 99 percent of living pathogens.
KEEP UP THE REGULAR CHORES
Maintaining a regular cleaning routine minimizes the germs and other pathogens making their way around the house. Keep your non-disposable tools clean as well. You should clean brooms and scrub brushes at least once a month. Fill a bucket or sink with warm water, add half a cup of bleach, soak the broom heads and brushes for 20 minutes, rinse and allow them to dry. Take care not to soak wood handles. Also, wipe down your vacuum handle, keep the bag or chamber clean and wash hard attachments in soapy water.
Paul F.P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Stephanie Figy contributed reporting for this article. Find more at AngiesList.com.