Cleaning the Home After Illness

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

Winter is prime time for viruses to come in the house and take up residence. It’s up to you to clean them away as best you can. Of course, you’re not going to be able to fight off every single bit of bacteria and viruses that are in your house- but you can clean and sanitize many “hot spots” in your home. You definitely want to hit several areas to make sure you’re doing your best to keep the nasties away.

Disinfectants are products that kill microorganisms on surfaces such as countertops. Bleach, alcohol, quaternary ammonium chlorides, phenolic compounds, pine oil, and hydrogen peroxide can be used as disinfectants. Findings from a study conducted by the University of Minnesota indicated that the most effective cleaners for reducing microbial contamination in the bathroom and kitchen were chlorine-based cleaner, vinegar and pine disinfectant cleaner. Use any of these products to disinfect after an illness. A spray bottle filled with white vinegar is one of the more environmentally friendly and economical disinfectants.

In your living room, great room, and all other areas frequented by the sick person, keep in mind places your hands touch- doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, and computer keypads. For items that are less likely to be harmed by getting a little wet, spray on a fine mist of disinfectant and leave it without wiping. For more sensitive electronic items, spray disinfectant on a cloth and wipe.
In the kitchen think about areas hands touch. Again, clean the light switches, doorknobs, the refrigerator door handle, and all other places of hand contact. Don’t forget the coffee maker and the buttons on your microwave. Make sure all dishes are thoroughly dry before putting them away after washing either in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.

Change the sheets often when someone is ill, and wash them with hot water. If you’re going through a particularly ugly round of sickness and you feel too weak to change sheets, changing the pillowcases is a good temporary solution until you feel well enough to go all out and change everything. Thoroughly dust and vacuum (this goes for every room of the house). Remember that many viruses are airborne. Leave your pillows in the sun for natural disinfecting when the weather is sunny and dry.

All clothes, bed linens and towels from the sick person should be washed separately from other family members’ with the hottest water possible. If there have been diarrhea or vomiting issues, be sure to wash those items separately with bleach, if the items can be bleached, or with non-chlorine bleach. Non-chlorine bleach, containing hydrogen peroxide will also kill bacteria in the laundry. Dry on the hottest possible setting as well.

Remember that handwashing is the best preventative measure to fighting the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently. Protective gloves can also be used in the home to avoid transferring germs.

Resource: University of GA Cooperative Extension