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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.

flu season, flu symptoms, flu proof your homePhoto: Getty Images

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.

Photo: KCanard, Flickr

1. Keep a Clean Mop

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.

Photo: Horia Varlan, Flickr

4. Sanitize Your Sponges
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.

Photo: Nelson Minar, Flickr

5. Choose Copper
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.

Photo: William Hook, Flickr

6. Clean Your Desk
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, 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 (ShelterPop)

  • Donna

    It's good to clean, but don't you think this is a little overboard! Our bodies have to build immunities up and how can they do this if everything sanitized all the time. I think that is why some people get sick, because they think by killing all the bacteria, they'll be safe. They have built no resistance up to them.

  • Angela Howard

    Although our bodies need some exposure to germs to build up antibodies - they'll get 'em. The trick is avoiding as many flu-bugs as you can.

    The desk thing always gags me thinking that a toilet seat is cleaner. That is just SO nasty! Don't forget about your computer mouse and your cellphone. Also germ magnets. Use something like a Clorox wipe on both and it's a great way to clean them up. You'll be surprised how gross they are when you look at the dirty wipe.

    Try Airborne or Emergen-C too. (I keep packets in my desk to add to my water.) You can get FREE SAMPLES to try from Http:// and their Free Stuff pages.

    The other thing people need to do better is hand washing. Studies have been done that show the majority of people are leaving the restroom, starting to cook meals or whatever the next activity is without a proper scrub, rise AND DRY. I was shocked at the statistics - Http:// - and am now washing much more thoroughly. Soap's not that expensive and it certainly is cheaper than a missed week of work and a Dr's visit!

  • Pat

    These are all low cost Http:// items to help protect from sickness.

  • Tony


  • Andy

    Yes, flu shots have been found to have mercury in them...what else is new!

  • mxd

    I work in an emergency room and have never had a flu shot or the flu.... I do not recommend them to anyone who is under 70, healthy, without any autoimmune disease. Diet, exercise, and staying away from crouds of people is the best prevention. Also, google information about "ONIONS and preventing the flu" you'll be amazed, we have done this for years in my household. also check out a great fun website -

  • Miche

    How about the pigs who don't wash their hands in the bathroom and walk out and touch the door handles?

    I go into a stall.. used Toilet paper to shut and lock the door.. squat... use my foot to flush get a paper towel with my clean hand... wash my hands.. turn the water off with the paper towel and then open the door with it.. if there is no trashcan on the floor I am and toss it.. they should be smart enough to have a trash can by the door....

    Yes I feel like some kind of circus performer..yes I may be a little OCD. but people are disgusting.. the lady at the grocery store licks her fingers to open bags.. hello.. that is disgusting..
    if I see a store employee doing so, I complain..

    People can put point a nd b together.. like if you rub your nose with your hand and touch someone's cup you are spreading germs... don't touch your face..if you do sanitize.

  • someone

  • barblc210

    Never use the same sponge for dishes that you use to clean the counter tops and stove. If you do you are spreading the germs from the countertops onto the dishes. I always zap my sponges every other day in the micro to get rid of the germs. And NEVER cook, eat or do anything in the kitchen without first washing your hands thoroughly.

  • barb

    Never use the same sponge for dishes that you use to clean the counter tops and stove. If you do you are spreading the germs from the countertops onto the dishes. I always zap my sponges every other day in the micro to get rid of the germs. And NEVER cook, eat or do anything in the kitchen without first washing your hands thoroughly.

  • Karen

    Also, use Lysol or Clorox wipes on your remote control and video game controls, door knobs, light switches, faucets, etc.



  • Coop

    Insanity. I may die at the hands of some bizarre flesh-eating virus, but I will not spend what life I have left like Howard Hughes - afraid to touch anything without using a tissue or to breathe normal air without a mask on my face. The germs have always been here. You just didn't know it until you started reading all this crap on the Internet. Some of you are like the little wusses that will stomp all over a little spider in the house because the sight of a spider freaks you out. But, you fail to realize that every little spider kills off dozens of other bugs. Just because you've seen pictures of germs under a microscope and they aren't cute or pretty doesn't mean you need to try to kill them all. Sure, wash your hands after you go to the bathroom, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and generally try to stay clean. But, good grief. If you feel the need to carry hand sanitizer around with you everywhere you go, you should probably just go ahead and dig a hole and jump in.

  • 13 Comments / 1 Pages

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