With flu season upon us, symptoms such as fevers, aches, sluggishness and coughing could be in your near future. Make your home a safe haven from seasonal sickness (including swine flu) with 10 tips to keep it germ-free.
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Yes, flu season is here. No matter where you go it seems somebody's coughing and sneezing and spreading germs. Your children might bring it home from school or you could pick it up at work. Either way, avoiding the flu can be quite tricky this time of year. Further complicating matters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts it is likely the H1N1 virus (commonly known as swine flu) will continue to spread again along with seasonal viruses
So how do you protect yourself? Of course there are time-honored strategies such as getting your flu vaccine. But you can step up your guard even more by creating a flu-free zone. Here are 10 ways to flu-proof your home and keep germs and bacteria at bay.
1. Keep a Clean Mop
Photo: KCanard, Flickr
Gone ages without really cleaning your mop? You may think dipping it in soapy water will do the trick, but that's far from being the case. Unless you sanitize between uses
, you're just spreading germs around the house -- not killing them. Instead opt for disposable mop pads, which is a preferred and easy method to achieve truly germ-free floors. If this goes against your eco-conscience and frugal ways, make sure to sanitize your reusable mop at a very high temperature after each use. It is also recommended that you have separate mops for each area of the home. This will help prevent the spread of germs from one room to another.
2. Stock the Bathroom
Be prepared for flu season with a fully stocked bathroom. Make sure that extra soap, tissues, and an abundance of disposable hand towels are readily available. If you prefer to use cloth instead of paper towels, take care to wash towels frequently to keep germs at bay. Also, bathroom soap should be within reach so that children don't take shortcuts when it comes to hand washing.
3. Check Your Cleaning Products
Choosing the right cleaning products has become an overwhelming exercise for many of us. We're constantly balancing our "green" intentions, the health of our families and the need for a good deep clean. But if you have an affinity for natural cleaning solutions, it's important to note that they may not work as effectively. According to University of Arizona, microbiologist CharIes Gerba, these natural alternatives often work slower and kill fewer germs
than products that have passed muster with the Environmental Protection Agency. For your reference, the EPA has a list of 500 antimicrobial products
that disinfect surfaces against the flu, including common household cleaners such as Clorox and Lysol. Be on the lookout for the word "disinfect" or "sanitize" on the label, as this is an indication that the product has been tested and officially approved as a germ killer.
4. Sanitize Your Sponges
Photo: Horia Varlan, Flickr
Sponges harbor some nasty germs -- even if you regularly rinse them after each use. Ideally you should replace your sponge every couple of weeks. For a more budget-friendly approach, throw it in the microwave. Sanitizing in the microwave
for two minutes will kill 99 percent of all the living germs and the bacteria in sponges and scrubbing pads. Before you zap your sponge or scrubber in the microwave, make sure it is wet and does not contain steel or other metals. Alternatively, you can also run it in the dishwasher to eradicate germs.
5. Choose Copper
Photo: Nelson Minar, Flickr
If your house is up for a makeover, opt for a vintage look by adding a touch of copper, bronze or brass to your home. Not only trendy
, copper and copper alloys are also natural bacteria killers. If a sink replacement is not in your future budget, opting for affordable copper door knobs or switch plates can help ward off the flu bug as well.
6. Clean Your Desk
Photo: William Hook, Flickr
Desktop surfaces have 400 times more bacteria than a toilet
. That's some pretty gross stuff. Disinfecting your desk weekly can reduce your exposure to cold and flu bugs by 50 percent. Your computer keyboard is a magnet for grime and bacteria, so disinfecting your keyboard
is crucial in maintaining a flu-free home this season.
7. Sanitize your phone and remote control
Similar to the computer keyboard, remote controls and telephones are hotbeds for germs
. Since viruses spread quickly via people coming into contact with items a sick person has touched, cleaning off items your hands frequently touch is vital. You can even go high-tech and use the UV Cell Phone Sanitizer
(VIOlight, $50), which employs the power of UV light to wipe your device clean
of 99.9% of germs and bacteria on cell phones, and other small electronic devices in three minutes.
8. Handle Your Laundry With Care
According to Health.com
, a load of wet laundry is covered in potentially harmful bacteria. Just one soiled undergarment can spread E. coli on your hands and to the entire load. To reduce the risk, especially if someone is sick in your home, run your washer at 150 degrees and dry for at least 45 minutes in the dryer. After washing any soiled item (or anything belonging to the infected person) run a cycle of bleach and water in between loads.
9. Humidify Your Home
Promote a flu-free environment by using a humidifier
. "It seems that [the influenza virus's] ability to survive and be transmitted person-to-person is greatly affected by how dry or wet the air is," says Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, of Oregon State University in Corvallis. While increasing the humidity level will make it harder for viruses to thrive and multiply, make sure you clean humidifiers
regularly. Otherwise you'll have another breeding ground for bacteria on your hands.
10. Preach About Washing Your Hands
It's an oldie but a goodie: regularly washing your hands is the best protection against the flu. Take the time to teach young children about the importance of proper handwashing
, including when to wash frequently
, how long and the health benefits of clean hands.
Things You Can Put in the Dishwasher
Swine Flu Proof Your Home