If all the talk about a “twindemic” – the overlap between COVID-19 and flu season – has sent you on a clean-up frenzy, you are not alone. But it takes more than just a wipe of paper towels on counters and doorknobs to clean and really sanitize.
First things first: you need a quality product – ideally one that is openly labeled as a disinfectant, like 3M TB Quat Disinfectant Ready-to-Use Disinfectant Cleaner. If you’re not sure, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on the label, says Carolyn Forte, director of the cleaning lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Then type that number into the agency’s database to get details about the type of bacteria and viruses it is effective against.
Correct use is also extremely important. This is a common misconception that you can just spray on and wipe off. The truth: good disinfection takes time. Check the product’s directions for how long hard, non-porous surfaces need to stay wet to kill germs most effectively, says Forte. When cleaning a surface with 3M TB Quat Disinfectant Ready-to-Use Disinfectant Cleaner, for example, a hard, non-porous surface should be left wet with the cleaning solution and intact for one minute in order to kill the virus that causes the COVID-19 **(** Coronavirus 2 linked to SARS). But even the most premium cleansers won’t do much if you don’t know which areas to target.
To help you protect your home – and its occupants! – we asked a cleaning expert where germs gather, then how to tackle these important points.
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Hit high touch surfaces
You definitely want to target areas that are hit often, like counters and doorknobs, but here’s one important area that could be overlooked: appliance handles. The refrigerator, dishwasher, oven door handles, microwave touchpad, coffeemaker and stove knobs also need to be sanitized frequently, Forte says.
To clean, use a scouring sponge and soapy water to wipe any grease or dirt from the handles, then wipe with fresh water and pat dry. Finally, use a disinfectant spray to kill bacteria and viral germs.
Regularly clean your towels
If you hang your towels on a towel rack and let them dry well after each use, they can be used about three times before tossing them in the laundry. But hand towels are another story, says Forte. Towels get dirty faster, so they should be changed every day (at most every other day), depending on use. And if anyone in your home is sick, towels should not be shared and should be washed after each use.
To clean, throw white towels in a hot water cycle with regular bleach. Colored towels can usually contain a color-safe bleach and stain remover, but check the label to be sure. For a boost against bacteria, add a laundry disinfectant.
Change your sheets more
While you’re doing the laundry, add your sheets to the mix. Although bed sheets are used a lot, most people skip this task – despite the fact that experts recommend washing them at least once a week (and even more frequently if someone is sick).
To smother germs and mites, send your sheets for a spin in a hot water cycle. And don’t forget your pillows and duvet, which should be washed at least twice a year.
To help these items dry more efficiently – it’s important to keep excess moisture at bay to avoid mold and mildew issues – decouple leaves, cases, and covers, then shake each item before adding them to the dryer drum. You can also add dryer balls (or even clean tennis balls!) To separate laundry and allow air to circulate through the dryer, speeding up drying time.
Scrub the bathroom
You probably already know that your toilet is one of the dirtiest things in your house and therefore should be cleaned every week. The fastest way to tackle the job: Pour 1/3 cup of bleach into the bowl, then brush it around the sides and under the rim, says Forte. Then let it sit for five minutes while you move on to another task, like sanitizing the surfaces of the room. To complete the task, simply rinse off the bleach after the timer has elapsed.
If you leave the lid on when you rinse off, germ particles can spray up to six feet across the room, Forte says. (Yuck!) Don’t skip this part – even if your meters don’t look dirty. Use a disinfectant to banish germs and consider instituting a new rule to help stop the spread: cover before rinsing.
Finally, pay some attention to your tub and shower. These humid, warm places produce mold and scum, but weekly cleaning and disinfection can help these surfaces resist stains and bacteria. To make this easier, run a squeegee over the surfaces after washing.
Wipe the electronics
Wipe down your personal devices – laptops and cellphones, for example – but pay special attention to shared technologies, like home remotes. They are passed from person to person and are seldom cleaned, if at all, says Forte.
To clean, disconnect or remove the batteries (replace the cover), then dampen a cloth with disinfectant. Wipe over the item with the cloth, paying special attention to the spaces between the keys or buttons. (A cotton swab can help you get into any of these narrow areas and grooves.) Wait a few minutes for the cleaning solution to start to evaporate, then dry with a lint-free cloth and reconnect or reinstall the batteries.
Don’t forget your desk
It’s not just the electronics on the desk that need disinfection. Your desk itself is 100 times dirtier than the average toilet seat (!). To banish germs, hit this spot at least once a week. Eliminate any surface clutter and proceed as you would when cleaning your counters: Spray with disinfectant, let sit for the required amount of time indicated on the package, then wipe dry.
Attack children’s toys
Since children tend to get close to their beloved toys, it is important to thoroughly clean all washable items often. Always check the care label, as some delicate toys are safe to clean, but generally strong plastic toys are dishwasher safe. Make sure that hollow toys with holes in the bottom, especially bath toys, drain and dry completely – water or moisture left inside can promote mold growth.
To clean plush toys, place them in a pillowcase, tie the top, and, if safe, wash and dry them on a gentle low heat cycle. If the toy is durable enough, cycles of steaming or sanitizing will provide a more thorough cleaning. You can also try steaming plush toys with a garment steamer, spraying them with a fabric-safe sanitizer, or leaving the toys in direct sunlight for a few hours to let the UV rays take hold. work for you.
Scrub the kitchen sink
Just because you use it to clean dishes doesn’t mean the kitchen sink is germ-free. In a study conducted by NSF International, the kitchen sink contained higher concentrations of bacteria than almost any other household item tested.
To disinfect this place in a flash, you need to clean it first. Use a sponge and all-purpose cleaner to remove dirt and grime, then rinse and dry. Then use a disinfectant spray or wipe to rewet the surfaces of the sink and faucet, keeping them moist for the time required on the label and allowing them to air dry.
Take a deep dive on the mats
That plush rug might look nice underfoot, but all that traffic brings an alarming amount of bacteria – 4,000 times more bacteria than your toilet seat, to be exact. Vacuum carpets and rugs at least once a week, and for an extra punch, spray with a carpet sanitizer first. You can also use a steam cleaner for deep cleaning.
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