This time of year has everyone stocking up on vitamin C, cold medicine, chicken noodle soup, and anything else to help ease any potential sickness, and now specifically the Coronavirus. While you may keep your home squeaky clean, it is all too easy to bring germs back into your home from the outside world, and there are dozens of nooks and crannies where said germs can hideout. Unexpected areas and objects such as your television remote, towels, your computer keyboard, and even your faucet are a favorite refuge for a variety of germs.
As Google searches indicate, the keyword Coronavirus has skyrocketed in the past several weeks as citizens prepare for the pandemic and research the best ways to stay protected. However, medical care professionals agree that simple precautions taken continuously can drastically help combat the Coronavirus, as well as any germs in general. Aside from getting a yearly flu shot and washing your hands, various medical reports and health care professionals have shared the easiest ways to fight off the common flu as well as COVID-19.
Here are the top 10 easiest ways to keep your family and yourself happy and healthy not just through the height of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic, but also throughout the whole year.
Carefully read cleaning product claims
Shopping for cleaning products can be overwhelming. With shelves jam-packed with a variety of options, it’s tough to find the right product for you and your home. Many products proudly exclaim they are “anti-bacterial”, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they disinfect surfaces properly. The EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — has compiled a list of 500 products that they guarantee will disinfect all areas against viruses such as the Coronavirus. When stocking up on cleaning supplies, look for labels that the EPA has tested and approved with words “disinfect” and “sanitize.” If you prefer to steer clear of chemicals, there are an abundance of all-natural products that kill microbes, such as tea tree oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. While these products will certainly help eliminate germs from your home, they work much slower than their chemical counterparts. Microbiologist Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona explains that these options kill fewer microorganisms than those that have been approved by the EPA.
Increasing the humidity in your home can not only help you breathe with more ease during the harsher winter months, but it can also make it more difficult for bacteria and COVID-19 to grow and develop. Creating an environment that doesn’t allow germs to thrive will create a safer home for yourself and protect you from the dreadful Coronavirus. Humidifiers can also aid symptoms if you’ve unfortunately already been hit with a cold or COVID-19. With that being said, it’s also very important to keep your humidifier clean. This is one household item that is often overlooked once cleaning day comes around. As humidifiers add moisture to the air, they can also quickly generate bacteria. The president of Building Wellness Consultancy, Barney Burroughs, advises residents to regularly clean individual humidifiers and the whole house system should be serviced once a year, preferably when they aren’t in use in the warmer seasons.
Replace your sponges
As NPR says, sponges are a “bacteria hotbed”. Regularly replacing your sponges is a small task that goes a long way. Kitchen sponges hold a tremendous amount of bacteria, although it’s easy to let that slip your mind as you’re constantly using a sponge with soap and hot water. Every couple of weeks, be sure to replace your sponge to ensure no bacteria is lingering around your sink and dishes.
If you’re short on cash, an alternative option is to toss your sponge in the dishwasher or microwave it for one minute. These two options will certainly reduce the bacteria living in your sponge and heat targets the most dangerous bacteria, although it cannot kill all of the billions of types of bacteria hiding in your sponge. As a food microbiologist at Drexel University, Jennifer Quinlan explains, “It doesn’t sterilize the sponge…but remember, the bacteria we want to kill are the ones that will make you sick.”
Don’t just push germs around, eliminate them
Many cleaning tools give the impression that they are killing germs and cleaning your home when in reality they are simply spreading germs to other more hidden areas of your home. The only way to avoid this is by sanitizing these cleaning tools, such as mops, dusters, and dishrags between uses or they will continue to spread bacteria around your house. This issue often goes unnoticed, as some of the most sparkling clean homes can be saturated with bacteria while other untidier homes are tested low for germs because said germs sit still rather than spreading from wall to wall. Dishrags and other non-disposable towels are an excellent environmentally conscious tool as opposed to paper towels, but only if they are continuously washed at high temperatures to kill pesky germs. The co-author of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, Charles Gerba, expresses, “It’s a free ride for the virus.”
Sanitize surfaces that are touched on the regular
When relaxing at home, there are a handful of surfaces you touch constantly, such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, fridge handles and more. Flu viruses can live for two to eight hours on these hard surfaces, so it’s crucial for your health to frequently disinfect these areas. Any cleaning wipes or products that say “sanitizing” on the label will work fine to catch those vexatious germs.
Stock up on tissues
For many people, tissues aren’t a go-to purchase at the market unless you’ve been hit with a cold that has left your nose craving some comfort. With the flu season upon us and the fear of the Coronavirus, stocking up on tissues is a great idea for not only contentment but to keep your home germ-free. One sneeze can spray an assortment of germs up to 6 feet, which is likely to linger in your home for hours if not days after. Research from the University of Bristol shows that the “average sneeze or cough can send around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.” Using a handy tissue to sneeze or blow your nose will confine your germs and keep them where they belong — in the trash.
Wash your linens
Sure, you likely wash your towels, sheets, and dish rags every now and then, but our guess is: not often enough. As soon as you step out of the shower and dry off with your towel, you’re spreading thousands of germs and bacteria onto yourself. While your towel hangs in your bathroom, persistent germs latch onto your linens and grow — even droplets from your toilet. Gulp. While these microbes aren’t guaranteed to get you sick, they rapidly multiply. NYU School of Medicine microbiologist, Philip Tierno claims explains that a damp towel has growing bacteria and “Wherever there is odor, there are microbes growing, so it should be washed.”
Not only are your bath towels a breeding ground for germs, but your bedsheets are as well, and may even be worse. From lint to skin cells, your sheets are covered in a variety of germs and allergens that can negatively impact your health. Tierno recommends washing your bed sheets at least once a week to avoid the growth of these microbes.
Stop abiding by the “3-second rule”
We all remember the socially acceptable rule we learned in elementary school — the “3-second rule” — that made everyone feel better about eating food off the floor. Not too much of a surprise here, but the floor is swarming with viruses and bacteria and you should not eat anything that touches it. As microbiologist Tierno puts it, “If you drop some foodstuff there [on the floor], don’t eat it… a lot of people do stupid stuff, and they have the three-second rule, which is nonsense.” Unless you’re sanitizing your floor every few minutes, eating any food that has touched it is clearly a bad idea. When you pick a chip up off the floor, for example, you may believe you’re only taking in your own germs and will probably think something along the lines of, I just mopped the other day, my floors are clean. Although, anything that has hit the floor will become covered in germs that have been tracked in from the outside world. Another important factor to remember: just because you don’t see germs, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Deep clean your floors and carpets regularly
It’s rather easy to center your deep cleaning around times when things become visibly dirty, but by putting that cleaning off you’re allowing germs to multiply. Rather than waiting until a big spill hits your hardwood floor, practice steaming your wooden floors and deep cleaning your rugs/carpets about every month. Hardwood floors harbor any bacteria from outside which idle until the area is properly disinfected. Floors in or near your kitchen are especially important to focus on, as germs from food (raw chicken is the #1 worst culprit) are dangerous.
As studies from Clemson University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition have found, hazardous pathogens that have the potential to cause severe internal infections such as E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella can survive on hard surfaces for days, so better safe than sorry. As for rugs and carpets, they should be cleaned regularly as they attract and hold a great deal of detritus. Carpets can contain up to 200,000 bacteria for every square inch, making it “4,000 times grosser than your toilet,” as writer Heather Barnett states.
Splurge on germ-fighting appliances
If you’ve been in the market for a new dishwasher or washing machine, take some time to research appliances that have been cited by The Public Health and Safety Organization, NSF. This organization has certified a great number of appliances that focus on fighting germs and keeping your home healthy and safe. Their Home Product Certification Program aids consumers in identifying the safest products for their homes. NSF’s extensive testing is specific to home use and balances the product’s performance, quality, and food contact material regulations.
Germs are all around us, and they’re certainly not going anywhere, so it’s important to protect ourselves as much as possible. Then again, being too clean isn’t going to be anyone’s saving grace. Not all germs are harmful, so there is no need to turn into a full-blown germaphobe.
By taking simple actions to keep yourself healthy and happy, you’ll likely never cross paths with the COVID-19, or even the common flu again. These methods to stay Coronavirus-free this season are very effective and will barely alter your day to day lifestyle. As Tierno says,
“You’ve just got to be wise, be aware, and understand your surroundings. It’s not brain surgery.”