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Ways to Keep Your Home Germ Free

Common Illnesses Are Within Your Control
As seasons change, you'll likely be enjoying more time indoors with family, friends, and colleagues. Regrettably, this also means sharing more time with household germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites). Most germs won't hurt you, but how can you get rid of the germs that do make you sick? By following this general advice for each room of your house you can play a role in keeping nasty colds, flus and other common ailments out of your house and away from your children.

Plan Your Entry
It takes a high degree of discipline and some organizational skills, but the families who enter their home on guard against the spread of germs from outside can experience a healthier lifestyle.

Shoes - Take shoes off at the door. This practice is especially important in homes with children who play on the floor or in homes where someone likes sitting or lounging on the floor.

Hands - Wash your hands with warm, soapy water every time you enter your home.

Things - Make the kitchen a "stuff-free" zone. Germs may be clinging to your mail, your purse, and your kids' backpacks. Some homes have the luxury of a mudroom where things from outside can be kept separate from the main family living space. More likely, everyone walks through the door and drops the day's burdens on the kitchen table. Work out a routine that limits where outside things can be kept, and separates the germs from the kitchen.

Identify the Trouble Spots
Shared items - Light switches, remotes, knobs, handles, the microwave, keyboards, salt and pepper shakers... purposefully walk around your home and make a written or mental list of the things that are frequently touched. Those shared items need extra attention.

Bathroom - Bathrooms are still the number one hotspot for bacteria in the home. That includes the bathtub which likely has bits of fecal matter.

Kitchen - For many families, the kitchen is the center of life. It's where you talk, play, do crafts, and tackle homework. That means the kitchen can collect viruses from human contact and bacteria from raw foods. Even with a strict "wash hands in the bathroom" standard, germs may adhere to the sink and bacteria may breed in the moisture. The trash can, the counters, the floor-germs love them all.

Linens - Bed linens and towels can harbor germs. Bathroom hand towels may need changed daily. WebMD lists kitchen sponges and counter-wiping clothes as the number three spot for bacteria. Thoroughly wash and dry sponges and cleaning clothes after each use.

Choose the Right Products
Soap and water - Handwashing is the first and best line of defense for keeping yourself and your home germ free. Hand sanitizers help with germ control when you're out, but soap and water are still preferred to wash germs away. Soap and water won't be enough to kill some germs on surfaces in your home.

Disinfectant wipes - These wipes provide a quick solution to surface problems.

Cleaners/Disinfectants - The manufactured bathroom and kitchen cleaners that entered the market decades ago have made house cleaning easier. Bleach, ammonia, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are inexpensive, readily available germ killers. Do not mix cleaning products. Be smart. Be cautious. Some products can discolor fabric or surfaces. Bleach is still a favorite product to clean drains. These common cleaners can kill germs that may survive a wipe down with some of the flashier products.

Green choices - Biodegradable, phosphate-free, plant-based products and washable clothes give you a safe way to keep your home germ free without exposing your family or environment to chemicals.

Do the Work
Prioritize - To stay germ free, you'll need to do routine daily cleaning and weekly deeper cleaning. Speed cleaning to disinfect those shared items in the high traffic daily areas will make a difference. The two hours it takes weekly to scrub the kitchen and bathroom is worth it. Sickness is miserable and time consuming. It's worthwhile to do the work to keep the home as germ free as possible.

Bathroom tips - The toilet is bacteria's favorite hangout. You can use a cleaning block in the back of the toilet to save time. Other than that, there's no shortcut to scrubbing and wiping down seat, handle, bowl, and tank. A seasonal soak of the showerhead in a solution of vinegar water can keep bacteria from building up and flowing out on you. Taps should be wiped after use.

Kitchen tips - Disinfect surface areas. Bacteria loves granite counter tops. The moisture and food particles of the kitchen sink can be a breeding ground for bacteria. It must be wiped daily with the disinfecting agent of your choice. Replace sponges regularly. Don't forget the coffee machine. The reservoirs stay dark and damp-ideal for mildew. Handles, knobs, taps, and switches need wiped to avoid transferring germs from one hand to the next.

Remember the Sources
Germs are relentless at finding ways to enter your home, and they resist your efforts to destroy them. Consider the most common sources.

Contact with sick people - You may have contact with scores of people throughout your day. Likely some of those will be coming down with a cold or in the process of recovering and think they no longer need to stay isolated. Whatever the stage, they still carry the germs that can make you sick.

Contact with dirty surfaces - Harmful germs can survive on most surfaces. Mildew can thrive in any moist, dark pocket. Additionally, bathrooms and kitchens carry their own set of issues.

Contact with pets - Because your pet doesn't run a fever or wipe his nose, you may forget that this beloved friend also carries germs.

You may feel that clutter, lifestyle, and germs have joined forces and are waging a battle against you. Plan your strategy from the front door through the traffic areas and back to the dark turns of damp pipes. Keeping a germ-free home requires diligence and sacrifice, but the benefits are life-changing.