“Wash the dishes, do the mopping! And the sweeping and the dusting!” You don’t live with your evil stepsisters, and you don’t have an army of woodland creatures to help with chores. So, when it’s time to clean, recruit your family, arm them with a spray bottle and a clean rag, and attack germs as a team. We spoke with Brandie Beuthin, RN, a regional infection prevention director at Banner Health in Arizona about the long list of household items that should be on your to-do list for cleaning. She helped explain why a few overlooked household items ought to be added to your chores.
But first, a few helpful reminders.
Cleaning vs. disinfecting
You may not know that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. When you clean something, it usually means that you are dusting, vacuuming, or wiping something down to remove visible grime. This may remove many germs and it’s enough most of the time. But, when your family is sick or immunocompromised, cleaning alone just won’t cut it. Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. You may need to leave the chemical on the surface for a certain period of time to kill the germs.
Brandie explained that while disinfecting can be part of your regular routine, it is especially important when extra germs are present. For example:
- When someone in your household is sick or immunocompromised
- When handling meat or other raw foods
- When bringing home new or previously owned toys/products
- When washing your hands
Using products safely
Many household cleaners include disinfecting chemicals. Bleach, isopropyl alcohol, some detergents, and hydrogen peroxide are among the most common disinfecting ingredients. But you should never combine bleach or other disinfectants to other products improperly. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can create a toxic gas which can even be deadly in some cases. Here are a few tips for disinfecting safely:
- Always follow the instructions on the bottle
- Disinfect with proper ventilation
- Don’t use more than the recommended amount
- When diluting, use room temperature water
- Label your bottles
- Store away from children
- Don’t mix chemicals
Household items you may be forgetting to clean or disinfect
We spend about half our lives looking at screens. Many of those are touchscreens, including phones, tablets, and gaming devices. Your tech is gathering more than just fingerprints, in fact, they are a dangerous breeding ground for cross-contamination for several contaminants including E. coli and staphylococcus. Here are a few other household devices you may be forgetting to clean:
- Charging cables – These cables usually just stay plugged in – next to the bed, behind the couch, on your desk… Don’t forget to unplug and wipe them down now and again according to the product’s instructions.
- Keyboard and mouse
- Video game controllers – It’s a miracle if they get put away when your kids are done playing. Once you’ve got that habit in place, add a weekly wipe-down to the chores.
Even if you don’t have sticky-fingered kiddos running around, it doesn’t take long for things around the house to get a bit grimy. And while wiping the counters and doing the laundry makes it onto most to-do lists, you may be forgetting a few key household objects.
- Door edges – You already know to clean the handles. Door edges can get just as much hand traffic and carry as many germs.
- Throw pillows and blankets
- Couch and chairs
- Light switches
- Workout equipment – even in your own gym, wiping down the equipment is more than just a courtesy. Use disinfectant spray to clean your benches, bars, and more.
- Appliances, like mixers, toasters and refrigerators
- Wristwatch – Your wristwatch goes most places you do. You wash your hands regularly, so it’s only right that it should be cleaned occasionally as well.
- Reusable grocery bags – Cross contamination is a risk for reusable bags. They are great for the environment. But be sure to wash them between uses. Especially when holding raw ingredients and produce.
Growing immune systems need extra support. Accounting for germy factors like day care, playdates, and shared toys, the need to clean becomes a little more urgent. Here are a few around-the-house items you may need to add to your cleaning lists, for the kids’ sake.
- Crib – Teething or not, you can rest assured, babies put their mouths on everything. As often as you do laundry, be sure to wipe down the hard surfaces of their crib.
- High-chair and/or booster
- Car seat
- Backpack and school supplies – Remember when you left that banana at the bottom of your bookbag in 1st grade and it turned to mush? Be sure to check your kids’ bags every now and then to clean out the corners. If machine washable, you can even flip the bag inside out and throw it in with a load of laundry.
- Play areas, kitchen sets, etc.
Keep it clean
The list could go on and on. But don’t feel overwhelmed. The job usually goes quickly and many hands make for light work. Do you have more questions about cleaning and protecting your family from unwelcome germs? Check out these related articles
- DIY Disinfectants: Are They Safe and Effective?
- Myths & Facts: How Coronavirus is Transmitted
- Safely Clean Your Toddler’s Room with These Tips
- How Those Grimy Earbuds Could Be Making You Sick