Some germs can survive for several days on household surfaces like kitchen work surfaces and sinks, and frequently touched surfaces like telephone handsets, door handles and light switches. It is important that you remove germs from these areas so they do not act as a source of contamination.
Cleaning Versus Disinfection
Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning means using detergent and water to remove dirt and some of the germs, whereas disinfecting means actually destroying the germs.
In some situations, (e.g. for small items such as cutlery and crockery), cleaning with detergent and water can remove sufficient germs, provided you can thoroughly clean all the surfaces and then rinse them with clean (preferably hot) running water, and then dry them properly. However, where proper rinsing is not possible (e.g. for large or fixed surfaces such as kitchen worktops, taps, toilet flush handles and door handles) it is important that you use a disinfectant or antibacterial multipurpose cleaner or cleanser to kill the germs, especially after handling raw food and when someone in your home is ill.
Top Dirty Sites in the Home
The following areas are those in your home where it is particularly important to clean frequently.
- Sponge or dishcloth.
- Kitchen sink and drain area.
- Chopping boards.
- Refrigerator handle.
- Kitchen work surfaces and table tops.
- Bath and sink drains.
- Toilet flush handle.
- Shower drain area.
- Toilet bowl (under the rim).
- Toilet floor.
- Toilet seat.
- TV remote controls.
- Light switches.
- Door handles.
Try to make cleaning and disinfection of the germ hotspots part of your daily routine.
Hand washing Advice
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Every time you touch a dirty or potentially contaminated surface, you can transfer germs to and from your hands – but proper and thorough hand washing helps to remove the germs from your hands. Hand washing is important, but antibacterial soaps and hand washes provide extra protection against bacteria that cause many common illnesses such as food poisoning. If you feel you require this additional protection, you may choose to use an antibacterial soap or handwash.
When to Wash
- Before handling food or eating.
- Before preparing a baby’s feed or handling sterilised equipment.
- Before applying contact lenses.
- Immediately after handling raw foods, such as poultry.
- After visiting the toilet or changing a nappy.
- After touching animals or their toys or equipment.
- After contact with blood or body fluids (like vomit, nasal secretions, saliva).
- After touching a contaminated area (e.g. cleaning cloth, drain, soil).
- Before and after dressing a wound, giving medicine, or applying a medical device (e.g. catheter).
- More often when someone in your home is sick.
- Whenever hands look dirty.
How to Wash
- Wet your hands with warm water and apply a small amount of liquid soap.
- Rub your palms together vigorously (away from the water) to make a lather.
- Rub every part of your hands including the backs of your hands, your thumbs, between your fingers, and under and around your nails.
- Continue for at least 20 seconds. It takes that long for the soap and scrubbing action to dislodge and remove the germs.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a clean dry towel.
When Soap and Water Aren't Available
You can still keep your hands clean even if water isn't available. Hand sanitisers are designed to kill germs on hands that are not visibly dirty, without the need for water or towels.
Your Guide to Maintaining a Hygienic and Healthy Home
Keeping your home hygienic and healthy doesn’t mean spending cleaning hours every day. By targeting the germ ‘hot spots’, where there are known risks, you can effectively keep the threat from germs under control. However, occasionally many of us like to tackle the areas in our home that largely go untouched, as they represent a lower risk. Wiping down walls and skirting boards, shampooing carpets, sorting through packets and jars of food to check for use-by dates, and clearing out the clutter collected over the past year all help to give us a feeling of confidence and pride in our home.
Quick General Cleaning Tips
On an ongoing basis:
- Regularly clean and disinfect the surfaces in your home that you often touch with your hands, such as the fridge door handle, cupboard handles, taps, waste bin, toilet seat and door handles, including hand-contact surfaces such as television remote controls, light switches and telephones.
- Kill germs and prevent cross-contamination by cleaning up food spills, or a spill of blood or body fluids such as vomit or faeces as soon as they happen. Disinfecting these areas not only prevents germ growth, it keeps these germs from spreading to other food, hands, and kitchen surfaces.
- Throw away germs! If possible, use paper towels and disposable wipes instead of sponges and kitchen cloths that can harbour germs and provide a moist place for them to grow.
- Vacuum carpets and soft furnishings regularly to prevent dust and other debris building up.
- Clean hard surface flooring regularly to remove dust, dirt, and visible mould growth.
- Keep your home smelling clean and fresh by regularly opening the windows, using a sanitising spray to eliminate airborne odours, and keeping surfaces dry to prevent the growth of mould and mildew.
- Always remember to wash your hands after cleaning.
Why is Good Hygiene Important?
Whether it’s a part of your daily routine, or a one-off thorough clean, good hygiene practice helps prevent the spread of germs and the risk of illness spreading within your family. Generally keeping your home clean helps maintain your well-being.
What You Should Know
Cleaning means using detergent and water to remove dirt and some of the germs present, whereas disinfecting means actually destroying the germs.
As part of your daily routine, concentrate your efforts on the areas that you touch most frequently in your home. These are floors, taps, handles (door and toilet), work surfaces, toilet bowl and seat, and hand-contact surfaces such as light switches and remote controls. Where these can not be rinsed thoroughly after cleaning, you should use an appropriate antibacterial or disinfectant product to kill the germs that may remain.
When spring cleaning, you can also focus cleaning on hard-to-reach areas such as the back of cupboards, on top of the wardrobe, behind the fridge, dishwasher and cooker, skirting boards, ceiling rails and the ‘junk’ cupboard or room. Cleaning alone can still be part of good hygiene, providing you can rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any dirt and germs.
How Good Hygiene Can Help
Focus on the germ hotspots on a regular basis. In the kitchen, to reduce the spread of germs, clean and thoroughly rinse work surfaces, taps and handles. If they can ‘t be rinsed, use antibacterial surface cleaning wipes, or a clean cloth and an antibacterial surface cleanser. Always check product labels to make sure products are suitable for a surface before use.
When ‘spring cleaning’, focus your attention on cleaning the smaller items in your cupboards such as crockery, cutlery and pans, by washing them thoroughly in hot water and detergent, and then rinsing them with clean, running water (or using a dishwasher).
It’s a good idea to pull out your refrigerator and/or freezer from its usual place, and thoroughly clean behind it. Make sure first that the appliance is switched off and allow it to settle before turning back on the power after cleaning. On a daily basis you should already be preventing cross-contamination inside the refrigerator/freezer by wiping up any spills promptly, then cleaning and disinfecting any contaminated surfaces. This should also include the fridge handle and door seals. Check the manufacturer’s manual for advice on cleaning.
Regular vacuuming of carpets and soft furnishings will prevent day-to-day dust and other debris building up. However when spring cleaning, you may also want to shampoo your carpets, wash your curtains, or dust and wipe clean any horizontal and vertical blinds. Always make sure that you thoroughly dry any of these surfaces afterwards, to help prevent the growth of mould. Spring is also a great time to inspect and clean your entire window area – dust down the window casing, wash window sills, and clean any window hardware. Clean your skirting boards and dry them thoroughly afterwards.
Dust tends to accumulate in those hard-to-reach places such as the tops of wardrobes, picture frames, kitchen cupboards, under the beds and behind the sofa. You may not want to include removing dust from these areas as part of your normal cleaning routine, but vacuuming and damp-wiping these areas a few times a year will reduce the accumulation of dust mites and therefore the level of allergens in your home. Even with mattress covers and bedding, mattresses occasionally need to be inspected and cleaned, and in some cases flipped over. Use this time to inspect your mattress pads, pillow covers, and all bedding for needed replacement or repairs.
Once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to pack away the clothes that you won’t need to use for the next few months. Make sure that you clean them first so that germs aren’t multiplying during their time in storage, then use suitable containers such as a suitcase or a purpose-fit plastic bag. Traditionally, moth balls or cedar blocks are used in the storage of clothes to keep insects away – they can be effective, but neither is a guarantee against attack. Store clothes away from extreme temperatures, excessive light, and damp conditions.
Most of us check use-by dates on our perishable foods before eating them, but we often forget to check packets and jars in our cupboards. During your spring clean, take out every food item in your cupboards, check the date on it (throwing away anything not in date), and wipe it clean. Clean the shelves in the cupboards before placing the items back. Store newer items towards the back and older items at the front, to ensure they get used first.
We may focus most of our attention on the inside of our homes, but occasionally the outside needs some consideration too. Clean barbeques, patio furniture and gutters during your spring clean. Wipe down the outside of your exterior doors to remove months’ worth of dirt. This periodic cleaning will keep your entrances looking fresh and clean, and prevent permanent staining on your doors.
Always remember to wash your hands after cleaning.