When the sniffles, the stomach bug, or any other cold or virus sneaks into your home, it’s only natural to want to minimize the spread. And good news: By taking the right precautions — including isolating the affected individual and ramping up your cleaning habits — it’s quite possible to stop the illness in its tracks.
When someone in your household is sick, clean surfaces and surroundings daily using a product, like 3M’s EPA-approved TB Quat Disinfectant Ready-to-Use Cleaner, that is clearly labeled as a disinfectant that kills 99.9% of germs and household bacteria — this will most effectively eradicate germs, says Carolyn Forte, Cleaning Lab Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. And don’t forget to read the label, which will tell you how long hard, non-porous surfaces must stay wet for the most effective germ killing: For example, when cleaning a surface with 3M TB Quat Disinfectant, a hard non-porous surface needs to remain wet with the cleaning solution and untouched for one minute in order to kill the virus that causes Covid-19*. Other products may require surfaces to stay wet for longer, and you may need to reapply the product or give it another wipe so it stays wet for the required time on the label.
It’s also good practice to wear rubber gloves (disposable ones are ideal, so you can be sure to keep gloves used for sanitizing and doing dishes separate) to protect your hands from both germs and drying chemicals, says Forte. And keep a plentiful stack of cleaning wipes or microfiber clothes on hand, so as not to transfer germs from surface to surface. Finally, don’t forget a simple step that tends to get overlooked in the comfort of your own home: washing your hands per the recommended CDC method.
Ready to give your house a deeper, more thorough clean? Here’s what you need to get the job done.
When cleaning up after someone has been sick, frequently-touched household surfaces like doorknobs and faucet handles should be top of mind. But don’t forget other oft-touched and forgotten areas, like appliance handles (particularly the microwave handle and touchpad, refrigerator, dishwasher, oven door handles, the coffeemaker, and stove knobs) and light switches, says Forte.
To clean, use soapy water to wipe away any grease or grime from handles first, then wipe down and dry. To bust bacteria and virus germs, finish with a disinfectant spray, letting it sit for the recommended time before wiping dry. When tackling anything with crevices, like light switches, exercise a bit more caution. Use a damp cloth to clean off dust and grime, being careful not to let any liquid seep inside. Then, use a disinfecting wipe or a cotton ball dampened with 70% isopropyl alcohol to swab all sides and let air dry.
Shared electronics — like remote controls — are considered one of the germiest items in a hotel room, says Forte, so don’t think your own household remote is any different. (It does, after all, get passed from person to person regularly.)
After a sick person has been cozying up on the couch binge-watching their sniffles away, make sure to give the device a thorough wipe down. Remove the batteries and replace the cover, and then dampen a cloth with 70% isopropyl alcohol or grab a disinfecting wipe. Go over the remote, paying close attention to the spaces between the buttons. Next, dip a cotton swab in alcohol, squeeze out the excess, and use it to clean the narrow areas and grooves. Remove any nitty-gritty grime from button crevices with a toothpick, then dry the remote with a lint-free cloth and reinstall the batteries.
Of course, your toilet needs a thorough clean, but this is one room you definitely don’t want to skimp on. After all, toilet plume can shoot upwards of 15 feet when you flush.
Hit the sink, plus faucet handles and countertop, with a disinfectant bathroom cleaner and wipe with a cloth or sponge once the solution sits for the amount of time recommended on the bottle.
And after you’re done scrubbing the toilet bowl, the toilet brush needs cleaning, too. After use, let the toilet brush dry out of the caddy and spray with disinfectant. You can wedge the handle between the toilet and its seat, so any water drips right back into the bowl.
While you’re in the bathroom, toss and replace any toothbrushes after someone has recovered from the cold in your house (or every three months)— and clean the area around your toothbrush too. To clean the holder, remove the top — if your holder has one — and wash both pieces in warm soapy water, then rinse and dry. (You can also wash it in the top rack of your dishwasher, for convenience.) If your toothbrush holder is wall-mounted, use a disinfecting wipe on all sides, keeping the surface wet for the recommended time.
Linens and Towels
When the road to recovery consists of plenty of rest, there will be an abundance of soft surfaces to clean, too. Launder bed sheets, pillowcases, and towels in hot water, drying them using the sanitize cycle or the hottest temperature your dryer offers. Add blankets, throws, and bathrobes to your list, too. These items should all be washed according to label directions. For any non-washable items — like throw pillows and mattresses — use a fabric-safe spray to kill bacteria.
When you’re done, give your cleaning tools a once-over, so you don’t risk transferring germs to anything that’s been freshly laundered. Wash your hands and run an empty hot wash cycle through the washing machine with a dose of bleach, says Forte.
When the trash is brimming with dirty tissues and other remnants from a sick person, it becomes a breeding ground for germs, says Forte. Once you’ve emptied the contents — do so frequently! — be sure to give the basket itself a douse of disinfectant.
First, clean the can and any removable plastic liner with warm soapy water, and rinse and dry it with a paper towel. Once it’s dry, spray all sides of the can with a disinfecting spray, allowing it to dry for the required time. If they fit, you can even put smaller bathroom and bedroom receptacles in the dishwasher. After everything’s nice and clean, keep odors at bay by tossing in a deodorizer before putting in a clean liner.
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