Posted on February 4th, 2021
Though most illnesses are spread primarily through person-to-person contact, contaminated surfaces also play a significant role in transmitting the common cold, the flu, and COVID-19. Regular, thorough housecleaning is therefore crucial during cold and flu season – Along with frequent hand-washing, disinfecting high-touch surfaces is one of the best ways to stop contagious illnesses from spreading in your household. For this approach to work, however, you’ll need to understand the difference between routine cleaning and cleaning to kill viruses. You may also need to adjust how often you clean certain surfaces in your home.
In the guide below, we’ll show you how to clean and disinfect your home after someone has been ill. Alternately, if you don’t want to handle disinfectants yourself, our affordable housecleaners in Carmel, Indiana can tackle this job for you. (Check out our full list of cleaning services for details.)
How Often Should You Clean to Kill Germs?
Ideally, you should implement good hygiene habits before anyone in your family gets sick. Many cold and flu viruses become contagious before producing symptoms, so preventative measures are key to staying healthy. During cold and flu season, ask everyone in your household to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching light switches, doorknobs, taps, etc. If a family member gets sick, make sure he (or she) always coughs and sneezes directly into a tissue and disposes of the tissue immediately afterwards. As an added precaution, consider keeping disinfectant wipes near the entrance to every room in the home to make disinfecting high-touch surfaces easier.
Even with these measures in place, you’ll need to clean your home frequently to stop viruses from spreading between family members. Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, while COVID-19 can live on hard, smooth materials (like plastic and glass) for up to three days, so it’s important to sanitize your home at least once per day when someone is ill. If you have children, try to disinfect your home two to three times per day, as children are typically less diligent about hand-washing than adults.
5 Cleaning Techniques to Keep Your Home Germ-Free
1. Choose the right cleaner to kill viruses.
Warm, soapy water is often adequate for routine maintenance cleaning, but this solution isn’t a reliable disinfectant. To kill viruses and bacteria lurking in your home, you’ll need to either make your own bleach-based cleaner or purchase a commercial disinfectant, like Lysol as occasionally vacuuming your home is not enough. When buying a household disinfectant, make sure the product label clearly states that it will kill up to 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.
If you choose to clean with bleach, you’ll need to take several precautions: First, put on durable rubber gloves and open the windows for ventilation. Then, dilute pure bleach with lukewarm water to reduce its corrosiveness. A mixture of 1/3rd a cup of bleach per gallon of water is generally considered strong enough to kill viruses, but it won’t damage hard surfaces in your home. (For more tips on how to use bleach properly, check out our comprehensive guide to cleaning with bleach.)
Never mix other household cleaners with bleach or use bleach immediately after using another cleaning product. Combining bleach with other compounds (including natural compounds, like vinegar and baking soda) can produce highly toxic gases.
2. Give your disinfectant enough time to work effectively.
Even the strongest disinfectants can’t kill viruses on contact. Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in bleach, destroys viruses, bacteria, and mold cells by oxidizing molecules inside them – A process that takes three to five minutes, on average.
If you’re using bleach to sanitize a surface, apply a liberal amount of diluted bleach solution to the area you want to clean. (Always use a plain white cloth or paper towel when working with bleach , as bleach can cause colored dyes to run.) Let the solution sit for at least three minutes, then grab a fresh cloth and rinse the area thoroughly with cool water.
Commercial disinfectants typically have a longer “activation period” than bleach. If you’re using a commercial disinfectant, read the label to determine how long you should allow the cleaner to sit before rinsing.
3. Create a checklist of high-touch areas and items to clean daily.
Touching a contaminated surface just once is enough to potentially make someone ill. As such, it’s crucial to sanitize high-touch areas and items frequently when someone in your home is unwell. Try using a checklist, like the one below, to make sure you don’t forget to clean any surfaces your family regularly comes into contact with:
- Kitchen and bathroom counters
- Door handles (including handles on cupboard and cabinet doors)
- Light switches
- House keys
- Mobile phones
- Taps and faucets
- Television remotes
- Kitchen appliances
4. Wash bed linens with hot water.
Resting in bed is the best way to get over an illness quickly, but it contaminates pillow cases, bed sheets, and pajamas with germs. To stop these germs from spreading around the house – and reduce the risk of your sick family member becoming reinfected with the same virus – wash used bedding and PJs on a hot cycle. If a child in your family has been sick, wash his or her stuffed animals, too.
5. Deep clean your bathroom.
To stop illnesses from spreading, most people avoid spending time in common areas of the home (like the kitchen and living room) while they’re sick. In homes with only one bathroom, however, family members have to use the same amenities even when someone is ill – Making regular, thorough bathroom cleaning an absolute must.
As soon as someone in your family gets sick, give everyone designated face cloths and towels to use. Then, get into the habit of cleaning and sanitizing the following areas at least once a day:
- Toilet (including the handle, seat, and lid)
- Shared toiletries, such as hairbrushes and shampoo bottles
- Sink and shower handles
- Light switches
- Trash can
After your family member has recovered from his or her illness, wash the cloths and towels he or she used on a hot water cycle. If possible, wash your shower curtain and bathroom mats at the same time.
Need Help Cleaning During Flu Season? Ask the Experts at DeluxeMaid!
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of cleaning after someone in their household has been ill. If you’re concerned about handling bleach or worried about getting sick yourself, hiring professional cleaners is probably the safest and most efficient way to prevent family cold and flu outbreaks. Our experienced, bonded maids in Indianapolis have the supplies and expertise needed to quickly eliminate viruses and bacteria – So you can get back to enjoying a clean, germ-free home and spend the day relaxing in River Heritage Park.