Healthy at home: 5 tips for fighting germs around the house

Germs are lurking all over, but it’s my mission to keep them out of my house as much as possible.  I believe home is our sanctuary from all the bad out in the world, and that includes germs!

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, especially during the school year when sickness goes around among the students, then those germs travel home with the kids to our house.  But there are effective ways to control the germs.

I did some research to find the best ways for fighting germs at home.  I want to be sure I’m doing all I can to keep my family healthy!5 tips for fighting germs around the house -

5 tips for fighting germs at home

1.  Leave the shoes at the door.   When you consider all the places you go and the condition of the floors, parking lots, roads, etc. that you walk on, your shoes can pick up a lot of nastiness – dirt, chemicals, and germs.  Kicking off shoes at the door is a great way to limit the traction of the germs from the rest of your home.

ABC News reported on a 2008 study by the University of Arizona that confirmed the presence of dangerous bacteria on shoes and determined that bacteria live longer on shoes than other places.  The study found that bacteria on shoes transfer to tile floors more than 90% of the time – and that carpet can harbor bacteria.  Eek!

Knowing this, we decided to ditch the shoes in our house.  We have a bench and a basket for shoes right inside the door.  We don’t travel farther than the bench with shoes on our feet.  The most commonly used shoes stay accessible in an attractive container near the door.  For those of us with a larger variety of shoes (OK, that’s just me), shoes are carried, not worn, between the door and the closet.

Just in terms of dirt, I can see the difference the no-shoes policy has on the floors, since the rug by the door gets dirty while the other areas remain clean.  I know the germs are being limited as well and not tracked all over the house.

2.  Wash hands well and often.  Hand washing is proven to help prevent colds and flu.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it’s one of the most important things we can do to stay well.  However, we don’t all do it as often or as effectively as we should.handwashing callout

A 2013 Michigan State University study found that only 5% of people they observed in public restrooms washed their hands correctly to kill germs.  Yuck!  That means there are a lot of icky microbes being passed around!

Hands should be washed frequently throughout the day based on activity, such as preparing food, eating, using the bathroom, caring for someone who is sick, providing first aid, handling animals, and dealing with trash.  According to the CDC, the front and back of hands should be washed with soap and water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds for maximum effectiveness.  The Mayo Clinic reports that antibacterial soap is not necessary. 

In the Michigan State study, people only washed their hands for 6 seconds on average, 33% did not use soap, and 10% did not wash their hands at all.  No wonder hand-washing education is so important during cold and flu season!

With the kids exposed to so many germs at school, it’s definitely worth a few extra moments of time to make sure we’re all washing our hands well to prevent illnesses.

3.  Clean surfaces regularly.  Germs can live on surfaces for varying periods of time.  The New York Daily News reports that some bacteria can live on objects for weeks or even months.  It’s important to regularly disinfect surfaces at home to kill the germs.  Some places are obvious, like the toilet and faucet handle in the bathroom, but germs can linger in other places that may be easy to overlook, like the TV remote control, computer keyboard, doorknobs, and car steering wheel.  (OK, this last one may not technically be in the house, but it’s parked at the house, so it’s worth a mention.)

I’m thankful for the convenience of sanitizing wipes that make it easy to wipe down surfaces!  They’re a great line of defense against the germs trying to invade our home.

4.  Give the kitchen extra attention.  Even though bathrooms seem like they would be the germiest place in the house, the kitchen actually holds that title.

According to WebMD, kitchen sponges are the home’s top germ source.  Damp sponges can be zapped in the microwave for two minutes to kill bacteria.  Dish cloths should be allowed to dry between uses, washed at least weekly, and dried on high heat to kill germs.sponge callout

Kitchen surfaces like refrigerator and faucet handles, the sink and drain, trashcan lids, and phones should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant before and after use.  Cutting boards also must be disinfected – 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water.  The safest option is to use two separate cutting boards:  one for raw meats and another one for other foods like fruits and vegetables.

For food storage and preparation, separate raw meat, chicken, fish, and eggs from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.  Wash produce well using cool tap water, but raw meat doesn’t need to be washed since it could spread harmful bacterial to surrounding surfaces.  Cooking meat to the appropriate internal temperature kills those bacteria.

5.  Kill germs lurking in laundry.  Washing machines and laundry detergents have become more environmentally friendly by using cooler water and gentler cleaning agents, but those don’t kill the germs in laundry.  So you may be spreading germs among your clothing if you aren’t careful.

According to ABC News, laundry germs are killed by:

  • very hot water (at least 140-150 degrees F).
  • chemicals such as chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach with peroxide (Clorox 2).
  • UV rays from the sun when drying clothes outside.

Thus, it’s important to wash laundry carefully depending on how soiled the clothes are and to clean inside the washing machine with bleach periodically to get clothes truly clean.

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