Charles Gerba, Ph.D. is a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona and a member of the American Academy of Microbiology. I was recently reading a health magazine and a few of his quotes jumped off the page and caused me to make a face like I’d just drank sauerkraut juice.
“We are exposed to millions of germs a day. It’s always a gamble. You never know when you’re going to touch the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
I’m not a germiphobe – that’d be far, far too time consuming for someone licensed to fly by the seat of her pants. Granted, in cold and flu season, I do carry antibacterial hand gel in my purse and use it often when I’m out and about. Sure, I’m a free spirit, but I don’t like to be a sick one any more than I have to be.
The quotes made me think more about something I think a lot about: Home Sweet Home. I love my home! I love everything about it. Yesterday, I heard one of the bathroom doors squeak and one of my girls mentioned that their dad needed to “oil it.”
I love that bathroom door. There are three young girls in this house who use this particular bathroom the most. The door’s flat worn out! It’s a wonder it hasn’t just jumped out of its frame and begged for me to make it into toothpicks or something.
I have an Office Supply blog called Office Freaks because I’m a total freak for office supplies and get the happy shakes when I go into Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, or even the school and office supplies in Target or Wally World (a.k.a. Wal-Mart). Well, I’m also a Cleaning Freak. I LOVE cleaning supplies – spray bottles, cleaning rags, dusting spray, spot removers, vacuum cleaners, and… fair warning… never get between me and my Swiffer.
I even checked the availability of Cleaning Freaks.com one time! The domain’s taken but nothing’s there. They cleaned so much, they apparently wiped themselves out. I did come across a website called Clean Freaks.com with lots of vacuum cleaners and janitorial supplies. There was a carpet steamer that I shot eye love on for a few minutes before moving on to my e-mail.
Anyhoos (my spell checker LOVED that one), I’ve been thinking about germs and cleaning since reading the quotes. I’ve been researching germs in the house as well as the newest philosophies for keeping our homes as clean as we want them to be. Below is the fruit of my research:
How Clean is Our Laundry Room?
This quote also brought about the sauerkraut juice face: “Bacteria thrives in warm, moist places like the washing machine. Be sure to dry your clothes quickly to avoid bacteria formation.” According the the man who was quoted, Thomas Weida, M.D., this means that the system most of us have in place (washing the clothes, then putting them into the dryer when we’re good and ready), is creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
Who knew?! Wouldn’t you think the washing machine would be one of the cleanest places in the house? It smells so clean and looks so shiny. I have a big family, so we have laundry going day and night. I admit it, I don’t jump and throw things into the dryer as soon as they finish drying. Or, I should say, I didn’t jump. I do now.
Weida also recommends washing whites in hot water, using bleach, and to always wash underwear separately from the rest of your clothes. Reasons, apparent.
How Clean is Our Kitchen?
An unclean kitchen is where a lot of illnesses begin. The cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods, meats not being fully cooked, spoiled food, expired food, etc. These can all lead to big problems.
Always be certain that anything that touches raw meat is sanitized and kept from touching anything else. Salmonella and other bacteria that cause illnesses are rampant in meat. So, wash your hands thoroughly after handling meat of any kind. Weida (you remember him from the Laundry room) suggests using a bleach cleaner to clean and disinfect your kitchen – the sinks, stove, counter tops, cutting boards, etc.
How Clean are Our Computers, Remote Controls, and Televisions?
Think of the places in your home where fingertips and hands run amok. The computer, laptop, phones, remote controls, televisions – these are all places that automatically come to mind. Multiple germs throw parties in these places. I’m not suggesting that any of our family members are dirty or germy, but think about this. Anything that any of us go out and touch (on grocery carts, store scanners, door handles, public restroom doors, etc) come home with us on our fingertips and hands. THEN, we give them safe passage to things inside our home.
The surfaces of these gadgets and gizmos need to be wiped down at least a few times each week. You can find buckets of these at Staples, Best Buy, Target, etc. They’re in tubs that you’d swear were baby wipes.
How Clean are Our Bathrooms?
Staphylococcus aureus is bacteria that causes skin infections. It thrives in moist, warm areas like bathtubs, sinks, and showers.This is another area that can trip you up because the mind THINKS of these places as the cleanest places in the house. After all, soap hangs out there, right?
After cleaning ourselves, we need to clean where we were with bleach-based cleaners and then, very importantly, wipe it dry. Bacteria, it would appear, don’t like dry places.
Another place of emphasis, of course, would be the toilet. Did you know that when we flush a toilet, we cause the germs inside the bowl to become airborne?! Keep that lid shut when you flush.
Be sure to clean and disinfect all areas of the toilet – handle, surface, bowl – and frequently wash any rungs and lid covers you have around “Johnny.” A final word – experts recommend keeping your toothbrushes as far from the toilet as possible.
How Clean are Our Cleaning Supplies?
I don’t even want to think about the bacteria that calls a sponge home. Our cleaning supplies often just move dirt and germs around. This notion is what caused me to fall hard for Swiffer wipes. I know that economically and environmentally they aren’t as sound as the traditional method – and, generally, I’m very good about these sorts of things. But the convenience and tidiness of cleaning an area then tossing what I just cleaned it with floats my boat.
I would consider a mop with a mop head that could be thrown into the washer, but even then, it’s just more work and more washing. And I’m not THAT wild about the mop swishing around where my clothes will be. Rational? Not even close – but it’s a hang up I can’t take off the hook.
How Clean are Our Hands?
When your mom told you to wash your hands, she wasn’t just getting in her required number of Mom-isms for the day. As a mom with ‘ims out the wazoo, I can tell you, we always have a reason.
Did you know that the average adult puts his or her hands in or on their nose and mouth about 18 times an hour. Those of us with allergies, no doubt, do this twice as much. The average child touches their nose and mouth as much as 50 times an hour. Each touch increases our chances of becoming sick.
The remedy is as easy as eating chocolate. Wash your hands frequently. Long ago, I found the trick to making my girls want to wash their hands – Bath and Body Works. They make soaps and anti-bacterial hand gels that smell like Heaven, itself.
One of the best places to buy cleaning supplies is actually an unexpected place: Lowe’s. I love Lowe’s for a lot of things (bedding plants, light fixtures, birdseed, bird houses, etc) but cleaning supplies are at the top of the list. They have everything you could possibly need to clean like a germiphobe.
In fact, the tips below are courtesy of a recent Lowe’s circular:
Tips for a Healthy Home:
- Dust with a damp cloth or mop to reduce dust mites and allergens.
- Change air filters as recommended.
- Vacuum regularly with a model with a HEPA filter (The Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum Cleaner has an AireTight HEPA filtration system that purifies the air as you vacuum.)
- Clean and disinfect germ-prone areas frequently.
- Properly ventilate damp and humid areas to avoid mold and mildew buildup.