Cleaning Your House after the Flu
by Jennifer Sonntag
A-Choo! It’s here…you couldn’t escape the flu. Despite your efforts to prevent it, you’ve found yourself down and out. Although we can’t wave a magic wand to get you back to 100 percent, we can offer some tips about how to clean your house to get rid of the germs and keep others from getting sick, too.
It’s OK to stay away
In fact, physicians recommend it. The flu can spread when a sick person sneezes, coughs or even talks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Viruses are also spread on hard surfaces, if possible, try to keep the sick person in one room and in one bathroom.
Also, try to use paper cups and paper towels in the bathroom, or use antimicrobial towels (but make sure to wash them daily).
Time to disinfect
When you’re preparing to tackle the infected areas, here are some steps to follow:
- Crack a window (even if it’s just a quarter inch) to let some fresh air in.
- Get the “sick” laundry in the wash (bedding, pillows, clothing) and make sure to wash it in hot water. Try not to hug the laundry when taking it to the laundry room. Instead, place laundry a plastic container that you can wipe down or spray with a disinfectant. Then, make sure to wash your hands after touching everything.
- Let your mattress air out a little bit (lightly spray with a disinfectant or essential oils/water mix).
- Bathroom: deep clean the sink, toilet and faucets. According to physicians from Clorox, it’s important to wipe surfaces so they are visibly wet for four minutes and then dry. If you’re using reusable cleaning cloths, don’t use them in another room and make sure to wash them immediately.
- Other surfaces: think TV remotes, door knobs, fridge handles, light switches, table tops, countertops, other electronics like computers or laptops (phew!). The flu viruses can live on these surfaces for up to 24 hours.
- Wastebaskets: These were most likely the home to many tissues throughout the illness time period. A good rule of thumb is to empty each day and line the basket with a plastic grocery bag and replace the bag each time. Then, remember to disinfect the wastebasket, too.
If you have an inexpensive toothbrush, consider throwing it away and getting a new one. If it’s an expensive toothbrush, look online for ways to disinfect your toothbrush by soaking it in water/hydrogen peroxide mixtures for at least 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
Use disposable towels or try to change towels out daily in the bathroom and kitchen to try to limit the spread of germs. It’s a good idea to continue to do this up to a week after the last person was sick.
If your kids have been sick, consider washing their stuffed animals (or steaming with a steamer if they seem too delicate) and sanitizing plastic toys on the top rack of your dishwasher (to save you some time).
And finally, clean hands are right up there with having a clean house. According to the Centers for Disease Control, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands.