Five household hotspots for germs
Although a little dirt generally never harmed anyone, you only need to look at outbreaks of E.coli Salmonella and Campylobacter and the impact they have to realise how harmful germs can be…data also suggest some benefit in exposure to non-harmful microbes. Therefore, it is important to focus our anti-germ warfare at specifically targeted high- risk points.
Nowadays we rarely have the time to do a deep-clean every 24 hours, but bacteria can breed by the million on a daily basis. So where should we target our regular efforts to zap those nasties?
Germ hotspots in your home
The dishcloth or sponge is the perfect environment to encourage the growth of harmful bacteria - it is moist, warm, and has a ready nutrient source ideal for growing bacteria. When you wipe surfaces with it you then spread those germs onto the surfaces you wipe, and but you are also contaminate your hand. Apply some antibacterial dishwash liquid (like Fairy) to your cloth or sponge after every use, and it will stop those germs or soak them in dilute bleach after every use. Putting it in the dishwasher also works as the temperature kills the bacteria.
Hands are the major source of germ transfer, especially when handling raw food, looking after ill individuals, and shaking hands. The importance of hand washing cannot be overemphasised. Just plain soap and hot water is all that is needed or, if away from a sink, hand cleansers or antimicrobial hand foam (like Vicks First Defense). Encourage hand washing after different tasks around the home, making sure your children use hot (not dangerously so) water and soap, and that they dry their hands properly. Buy some gorgeous-smelling liquid soaps to keep by all the taps so that hand-washing becomes a treat, not a chore. And don’t forget to wash hands every time you stroke your pets – you love them, but they carry some pretty horrible germs around!
Chopping boards are another potential source of contamination. Germs come from raw vegetables from the soil they are grown in, they also can come in on raw meat. The ideal is to have separate chopping boards for raw meat and fish, raw vegetables and cooked foods. However, if not make sure you disinfect your chopping boards between uses. Some people avoid wooden boards. This isn’t really necessary so long as you clean them thoroughly after each use. Some wooden boards have natural antibacterial properties - but don’t rely on this. Also, when your board has lots of cuts in which bacteria can grow, discard it.
Laundry is the one place where your hands touch faecally contaminated objects. Yes, it is at a low level, but even small amounts contain millions of potentially harmful bacteria. Indeed, we should ask why washing machines are often in kitchens. The temperature at which we wash clothes nowadays to protect the fabric, or help the environment, is too low to kill bacteria. Therefore, our “clean” washed clothes straight out of the washing machine have just come out of a dilute faecal soup. Think about that and make sure you wash your hands. Drying clothes however, is a sure way to kill bacteria. If someone in the home is ill, try using a hot wash (60-70 C).
Kitchen sink and taps – the sink itself is used to wash our hands, crockery, pots, pans, vegetables, etc... all of which bring germs to the sink. When you put away the washing up, clean and then rinse down the draining board. Also, use washing-up liquid or kitchen cleaner to regularly wash around the basin, digging into the crevices of the plug hole, and wash the underneath of the washing bowl, which can get very greasy. Also wipe the taps.
Bathroom handles - the water that flows into your loo is fresh, but the handles you use to flush with, and the taps you turn to clean your hands afterwards, are covered in nasties. On a daily basis clean these with an anti-bacterial wipe, and don’t forget the door handles too. And keep toothbrushes as far away from your loo as possible .
The remote control – a much neglected item, handled by all. Wipe the remote with an antibacterial wipe every now and again.
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