Cleaning Hit List: What to Disinfect

You need to consider your home in terms of germs. Most of the time, a gentler product and a general clean will do. In other cases, and especially in more grimy areas, you will need to disinfect constantly and often. Knowing which one is which is the key.

How to Identify Hotspots

It is also helpful to understand why you would choose one method over another. Cleaning will remove dirt and dust and reduce the amount of microbes. Disinfection is a more thorough process that eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses. It is important to do this if a sick person or someone with a weak immune system is at home. This requires strong bleach or chemicals.

When they are visibly dirty, you should clean items that are not used or touched often – such as high-up areas and surfaces out of the way. You can dust ceiling fans and vacuum carpets. Wipe down floorboards and sills with soapy water when necessary. You do not have to disinfect these items every time you clean.

Alexandra Seguin is a certified infection preventionist at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. She also leads the high-consequence infectious diseases team. You can then disinfect the area thoroughly by removing the majority of contaminants.

Focus on high-touch surfaces.

However, disinfecting does not just happen when someone is sick. Seguin says that surfaces with a high level of touch should be disinfected and cleaned regularly in order to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. Doorknobs and light switches are susceptible to contamination by bacteria.

Other high-touch surfaces include

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Toilets including flush handles
  • Sinks
  • Cutting boards, trashcan lids, and spice containers are all items used for meal preparation.

Find the right products.

What is the best way to clean or disinfect? Again, it depends.

Here is an Idea:

On its website, the EPA maintains a list of all registered products. The product has been proven effective against the bacteria, viruses, and germs it claims to fight.

Saguin advises that soap and water are the first steps to cleaning surfaces like countertops and floors. This should be followed up with chemical disinfection. “Washing surfaces with soap and hot water can help remove dust, dirt, and microbes, but will not eliminate harmful bacteria or viruses.”

Read the instructions on the label to determine the best disinfectant to use for the surface you are working on. Certain products do not work in every area of the house. You can also find out how long you should leave the effect on your surface for it to work.

Make sure you are using a product that the EPA registers.

Select the Right Tools

The best approach or tool to use depends on the type of surface you are cleaning and disinfecting and the location.

You will want to use an abrasive tool, such as a mesh scrubber or brush, if you have a lot of dirt. When a surface does not require much scrubbing and is not very dirty, you can use a disposable wipe or paper towel instead of a multipurpose tool like a sponge or washcloth.

Seguin advises that if you are going to use a sponge, washcloth, or other cleaning tool again, you should clean and disinfect the item both before and after use. You can either wash it in bleach or use your washer’s “sanitizing” cycle. Note: Sanitizing is a middle ground between cleaning and disinfecting. Sanitizing reduces germs below levels that public health codes consider to be safe.

What about wipes?

Antibacterial wipes are available in many stores and can be used to disinfect your home. Seguin advises that you should use a household disinfectant that is both EPA-registered and suitable for the surface or object that you are disinfecting.

When Someone is Sick

When someone in your family is sick, you will want to disinfect more often. To reduce the spread of illness, you will disinfect the areas that are frequently used.

Seguin says that most EPA-registered home disinfectants are effective against common viral illnesses such as seasonal flu, rhinovirus, and the common cold. Check the EPA site to see if a disinfectant is effective against other pathogens, such as those that cause more serious infections.

Even though cleaning and disinfecting should be done regularly, especially when someone is sick, the most basic of cleanings, washing your hands, cannot be substituted. Seguin advises that effective handwashing using soap and water will reduce the risk of virus transmission from a person to an environment or vice versa.

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