As mothers, we want to assure the cleanest and healthiest environments for our children. This is especially true in light of the recent swine influenza (flu) outbreak, which is making parents take a second look at not only their personal infection control habits but also the infection control methods used in their homes.
While most people right now fear the human-to-human transmission of swine flu, research proves that there are other, less direct modes of disease transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu virus not only survives on everyday surfaces but has the potential to infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after landing on that surface.
That means that you may be exposed to a person’s germs without even being in the room with them at the same time! While this sounds frightening, be assured that there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of viral or bacterial transmission in your home.
Clean Does Not Equal Disinfected
The bad news? Your humble abode, no matter how neat and tidy, is home to millions of microscopic organisms that carry the potential to infect your family and cause illness. The good news? You can obliterate up to 99% of these organisms with the proper disinfecting techniques. The first thing you’ll need to do is gather your supplies: bleach, clean rags, Lysol or other disinfecting spray, disinfecting wipes or other cleaner (read product labels to find out for which organisms the cleaner is effective), and gloves. Now, it’s time to get down and dirty.
Leave No Germs Behind
Take a look around your home right now. Which surfaces are you most likely to assume are the most germ-infested? If you thought kitchen and bathroom, you are absolutely correct, but you shouldn’t overlook other areas where microbes like to hide. Imagine you are your child, exploring the world that is your home, touching everything and tasting everything. Suddenly your perspective is a little different, isn’t it? Suddenly there are quite a few more areas where germs may lie, and it is imperative that you disinfect as many of those surfaces as you can.
- Kitchen – Using either disinfectant wipes/spray or bleach water (dilute 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water) and your rags, wipe down all surfaces including sinks, faucets, counter tops, and cabinets. (Wear your gloves when doing this to protect your skin from germs and from the harshness of the solution.) Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes, then rinse with a clean rag if necessary. Do the same with exteriors of appliances and the interior of your refrigerator. You’ll also want to toss those faithful sponges you’ve been holding onto and be sure to change your hand towel daily.
- Bathroom – Perform the same steps as you did in the kitchen for sinks, faucets, counter tops, and cabinets. You’ll need to do this as well in the shower and/or bathtub, as these are areas where mold and mildew like to proliferate. You’ll also need to face the demon that is the toilet and scrub the interior of the bowl with either a bleach or disinfecting solution made specifically for toilet bowls. Wipe down the exterior in the same fashion as the counter tops (save this step for last and retire your rag to the laundry room). As in the kitchen, hang a fresh hand towel daily.
- Laundry – Launder all linens in the warmest water possible for the fabric, using bleach if able in the wash cycle. Bed linens and towels should be washed in hot water if at all possible – wash these weekly if not more often. You’ll also want to occasionally run your washer with a hot water and bleach cycle to disinfect the wash tub.
- Kid Zone – Wipe down toys with disinfecting wipes or wash in hot water using a diluted bleach and dish soap solution. For those toys that are able to be laundered, wash in warmest water possible and tumble or air dry. A daily sanitizing or disinfectant spray may also be used on toys to prevent germ build-up. Check your labels to make certain the product is safe to use around children.
- Around-the-House – While it’s important to cover all the above-mentioned areas, let’s not forget all of the other places where those little fingers linger. Clean your hard flooring with a diluted bleach mixture as for the kitchen and bathroom areas. If you don’t want to use bleach on your floors, you can substitute with a disinfectant spray made for floors that you spread with a clean dust mop.
You’ll also want to wipe down walls, doors, door and cabinet handles, windowsills, light switches, telephones, and remote controls with either your bleach solution or disinfectant wipes. These are all the little places you touch many times throughout the day where microbes flourish.
An ounce of prevention, in this case, is worth more than a cure. Make certain there is soap near every sink and encourage good hand hygiene habits for your children and yourself. Making hand-washing a habit now will make it become a natural part of every one’s routine. In addition to this, daily or weekly disinfecting and sanitizing, as well as regular cleaning of your home will hopefully lead to a household with less illness.
One of the most important duties we have as mothers is to protect our children, and this responsibility does not end at looking both ways before crossing the street or saying no to strangers. It also includes the health and well-being of our children, and by giving them a clean environment to grow up in and by teaching them healthy habits, we can rest easy knowing we have put up the best front against illness for them.
While we can not safeguard our children from everything and while the future no doubt holds the promise of even scarier epidemics to come, it’s nice to know that we are doing what we can to prevent transmission of illness in our homes. It’s nice to know that, at the end of your efforts, 99% of those germs are gone. And as for the other 1%?
They should be afraid… very afraid.
Rhonda dreams of writing full-time while paying the bills as a registered nurse. She blogs about her life with her dreamboat hubby and two chickies here.