Disinfect unlikely areas for less disease and healthier kids

Even if you clean your house regularly, germs like Staphylococcus, E. coli, and cold and flu viruses can be present unless you are disinfecting regularly. You know about getting high-risk areas like the changing table and toilet handles, but what about hidden hot spots like your TV remote or washing machine? Don’t panic. With the right plan, you can keep your homes most commonly contaminated areas free of bacteria and viruses and help keep your child’s world healthier.

Cell phones

Because your mobile phone spends much of its time near your mouth or in your hand, it can harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat. However, alcohol and ammonia-based disinfectants can damage touch screens. Look for one of several touch-screen-safe cleaners on the market, put a little on a clean, soft antimicrobial cloth, and wipe down your phone’s screen, buttons and back, taking care to avoid getting any liquid in the phones openings.

Sinks

Your kitchen sink contains about 1,000 times more bacteria than the average toilet. But your kitchen and bathroom basins aren’t the only places that need cleaning the damp pipes and surfaces under them can breed mold. Wipe kitchen and bathroom sinks regularly with disinfecting wipes* to help kill bacteria and viruses, and open under-sink cabinet doors periodically. The light and air will help prevent mold growth.

Washing machine

In a study of 100 homes, 33 percent of washing machines tested positive for E. coli. Wash underwear separately using bleach, which acts as mouthwash for the machine. Allowing your machine to dry between cycles or rinsing the drum weekly with added bleach will also keep E. coli counts to a minimum.

Dish-cloths

In one study, 10 percent of household dish-cloths contained salmonella; 32 percent contained E. coli. During flu season, 60 percent are positive for influenza. Launder dish-cloths after every use.

*When using disinfecting wipes, avoid prolonged contact with skin.

By the numbers

2448 hours

The time a disease-causing microorganism typically survives on a hard surface. However, this can vary widely. In dry environments with high UV light, viruses might last only four hours.

23 times

The minimum number of times per week that kitchens, bathrooms and other high-traffic spaces should be disinfected in order to keep homes free of disease-causing germs and viruses.

410 minutes

The time it takes a disinfecting agent to kill pathogens. Don’t worry about creating resistant super-bacteria; resistance only occurs with products that delay growth, not ones that kill.

Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., is a microbiologist at the University of Arizona Zuckerman College of Public Health.