During cold and flu season, most of us know to swipe the kitchen counter with an antibacterial wipe and clean our faucet handles frequently. But germs lurk in some surprising places, and despite those precautions, you still might be missing a major source of viruses and bacteria that could make you sick.
If you want to reduce the chances of your family catching a cold and/or the flu this year, follow these six easy steps to germ-proof your house:
1. Change out your mops and cleaning cloths. It's good to be green and use reusable products like mops and cleaning rags instead of throwaway items. But you need to be really careful to disinfect the heads of your mops by sticking them in a bucket of disinfecting solution for 15 to 20 minutes after use, and frequently replace your cleaning cloths between rooms. Otherwise, you're just moving bacteria from room to room.
2. Disinfect your remote. Think about it: What do you do when you're sick except watch TV? Most of us probably don't even think to clean the remote, even when we have a sick kiddo clutching it. Germs can live two days on hard surfaces like that, and the easiest way to pick up germs is to touch something a sick person has touched and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
3. Zap your kitchen sponge. Sponges should be replaced every two weeks, and you should zap them in the microwave WHEN WET (this is very, very important -- otherwise you'll have a fire on your hands!) for 60 seconds to sanitize them. You can also toss them in the dishwasher.
4. Kill germs in the wash. If you're not careful, anything belonging to the infected person can spread germs all over the load of wet laundry it's washed with. To kill germs effectively, wash in hot water (at least 150 degrees) and dry for at least 45 minutes on the hot setting. Between loads, run a cycle of bleach and water.
5. Check your cleaning products. You can't go through the cleaning-products section of the store without seeing a ton of sprays, wipes, and scrubs that claim to be antibacterial. However, not all of them meet EPA standards for being true disinfectants. Check their list of 500 antimicrobial products specifically found to fight the flu, or follow the directions carefully on your favorite cleaner ... many of them require that a surface stays wet for as long as 10 minutes before it's sanitized.
6) Wash, wash, wash your hands. You don't need to hear this again, right?
How do you fight germs in your house?
Image via Christopher Sessums (cdsessums)/Flickr