Germ-Proof Your Home
Someone’s sick? Don’t panic. Here’s how to help your household get well — fast.
Tools You’ll Use
- Disinfecting spray
- Rubbing alcohol, cotton balls
- Washer, dryer
- Dirty doorknobs and touch points
- Germy linens, couch pillows, and throws
- Used dishes, toothbrushes, and tissues
Get a grip on handles
Some of the germiest places in the house are the hot spots everyone touches: doorknobs, faucet levers, appliance handles, etc. Bacteria and viruses can live on these for up to 48 hours. Zap them with surface-disinfecting sprays that are EPA-registered (check the label) — products that kill the influenza A virus on hard surfaces will also be effective against the H1N1 flu strain. But note: The area should be clean of visible dirt or gunk and needs to stay wet with the disinfectant for the length of time listed on the label — if it dries too quickly, do a second pass. Germs are killed during evaporation, so let air-dry. For no-wet items, like remote controls, light switches, or phones, saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol; squeeze out and swab surfaces carefully so no liquid gets inside.
Do a bed check
While plenty of rest helps cure a cold, it also leaves bedding and sofa accessories in need of a good washing. Scoop up sheets and pillowcases, as well as bathroom towels, and launder them in hot water. To dry, choose the antibacterial cycle, if your dryer has one; otherwise, use the highest temperature setting. For sofa throws, pillows, and covers, launder according to label directions (for nonwashable fabrics, spritz with a fabric-safe disinfectant spray, but test in a hidden spot first). Wash your hands after touching soiled linens. Because bacteria can remain in the washer, it’s a good idea to de-bug the machine by running a normal hot-water cycle (minus clothes) with a dose of bleach added.
Tackle the other ickies
Your instinct might be to meticulously clean the dishes, but the CDC says you don’t need to: Just wash them as usual in the dishwasher, or in the sink with hot water and dish soap. It’s smart to get the sick person a new toothbrush (which should be replaced every three months anyway). The bigger concern: dirty tissues. Empty wastebaskets and go over the bins with disinfecting wipes or spray, or run small plastic ones through a dishwasher cycle.