Winter in Chicago and the Midwest means cold and flu season is upon us.  Despite diligent efforts of homeowners and businesses alike, it can be difficult to control and remove the viruses and germs that are infectious to adults and kids during the flu season.  Germs and viruses are not just found in visible dirt, and they can be hiding in dust, debris, dirty laundry awaiting a wash, or anywhere our hands can touch after being contaminated.  Fresh Tech Maids, one of the house cleaning services Chicago, understands the importance of doing all we can to eliminate germs from homes and offers 16 easy and effective ways to sanitize and disinfect your home to prevent your family from getting sick when pesky germs are brought in from stores, school, work, and any anywhere else they may be lurking.

 

  1. Refresh and “clean” the indoor air for oxygen rich healthy breathing!

Colds and flu are spread via air and personal interaction, so naturally fresh air will flush out the airborne pathogens and enhance the human immune system so that we can resist coming down with the ailments of a cold or the flu.

Here’s how! The flu season tends to be the coldest season of the year in many parts of the US, so bundle up, turn off the heat for a while, and open windows (at least one window in each side of the room, if any) for at least 5 to 10 min.  If your home has multiple floors, open windows at the same time for all floors to maximize air flow.  Even in just 5 minutes, your room now filled with fresh air and oxygen. Enjoy the fresh air prior to even after turning the heat on and warming back up.

  1. Change your vacuum bag after each cleaning to minimize the risk of air contamination.

When a vacuum works, air flows through the dirt, allowing the opportunity to blow airborne pathogens in the air.  The more dirt in the vacuum bag, the more likely this will happen.

Here’s how! A quick solution is just simply cleaning out your vacuum bag. Take your vacuum outside of your home or to the garage and open the vacuum‘s storage unit for the vacuum bag.  Take out the used vacuum bag and securely put it into a new garbage bag.  After you dispose of the old bag, install the new vacuum bag and close the vacuum’s storage unit for the bag. Bring the vacuum back indoors and plug in the electrical cord to ensure the vacuum is working properly.  This will help your air quality remain high even when dust and debris is collected in the vacuum bag.

  1. # 1 germ busting method is handwashing – it is not the soap, but the way how you wash your hand!

Handwashing is about more than just soap! A study published in 2004 by the Annals of Internal Medicine showed those who use anti-bacterial soap had the same number of colds and flu than people who used regular soap.  What matters more is how to wash hands and for how long.  William Schaffner, MD, Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine in Nashville, said “Time and thoroughness are what matters when it comes to washing your hands.”

Here’s how! While it may seem simple, a surprising share of the population does not wash their hands as recommended by doctors.  Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.  Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 10 seconds.  Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end once.  Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.  Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.  The best way to treat cold and flu germs is to prevent them from being transferred from our hands to the inside of our bodies!

  1. Replacing your air filters in your home to avoid recirculating germs.

If the air filters in your furnace are dirty, it encourages the circulation of germs through the air.

Here’s how! Simply increasing the frequency of the air filter change during the flu season to once every two to four weeks can greatly help reduce the spread of germs in your home.  Increasing the grade of air filter during flu season can also be very effective.  With a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 14 to 16, the High Efficiency Air Filters are great choices.

  1. Empty trash cans to remove the headquarters of germs.

While we know garbage is a haven for germs and odors, most of us don’t take the trash out until it is full.  The trash should be emptied frequently to reduce the risk of cross contamination, especially during cold and fly season.

Here’s how! Make sure you have the correct size bags handy – you can buy garbage bags from a store specifically fitted for almost any size trash container.  Remove and replace the bag.  Slide in the new bag, and fold the top of the sides over the lid of the bin to hold it in place. Replace any covering you may have on top of the bin.  Repeat these steps on any other garbage cans you may have in your house.  Take all the old bags out to your garbage can outside of the home.

  1. Sterilize sponges, the biggest spreader of germs in a home.

Sponges are designed to retain soil during cleaning.  As a result, it is a perfect place for germs to thrive and multiply. Using a sponge to clean often means to spread contaminants.  It is vital to ensure sponges are sterilized frequently.  While sponges should be replaced regularly, one of the best ways to sanitize sponges between replacements is to boil the sponge.

Here’s how! Put sponge in an empty pot and cover with about 1 to 2 inches of water.  Cover the pot and heat to a boil for at least 3 minutes.  Pour cold water into the pot until cool.

  1. Sanitize inside of microwave, another germ haven, to stop the spread of germs.

The inside of the microwave is not just a germ haven, it also a base to contaminate plates and bowls when we use the microwave.

Here’s how! To quickly and easily sanitize the microwave, fill a microwaveable bowl with 1-2 cups of water and place into the center of the microwave.  Microwave the water for 5 minutes.  When you open the door, be careful pulling the bowl out – it will be very hot! Remove the turntable tray (carefully, as it will be hot as well) and wash it in the sink.  Take a clean cloth or sponge and wipe down the inside of the microwave. The dirt and food will come right off and your microwave will be sanitized without the use of harsh chemicals!  The inside of the microwave should be sanitized frequently.  This how this house cleaning service Chicago cleans inside of microwave for our clients!

  1. Use a laundry hamper to transport dirty laundry. Stop “hugging” dirty laundry to keep yourself away from source of contamination.

We should not “hug” the dirty laundry, which contain many germs and virus.  While it may seem easy to grab laundry from the hamper and carry it in our arms around our home to the washing machine, we must transport dirty laundry in a healthy way.

Here’s how! Always transport dirty laundry with a clean plastic laundry basket by holding the basket handles.  Don’t forget to regularly sanitize the laundry basket with alcohol-based sanitizer.

  1. Sanitize your cleaning equipment such as microfiber rags and cloths – clean, not spread!

Do not make the cleaning process counterproductive as a contamination process by using contaminated rags and cloths.  Ensure all rags and cleaning cloths are properly sanitized.

Here’s how! Sort your microfiber cleaning cloths into their own load of laundry. Hair, dirt, dust, and lint will be attracted to the microfiber cloths.  If you care about stains on your cleaning cloths, now is the time to pre-treat them. You can use whatever stain remover you rely on for laundry, or just add a little laundry detergent to the cloths and rinse them out.  Wash cleaning cloths in hot water with scent-free detergent, and dry your microfiber cloths separately to prevent hair and lint attraction.

  1. Dishes, the hottest germ carriers, deserve to be treated with the hottest sanitize cycle from the dishwasher.

Dishes naturally have the highest germ count in the kitchen, but sanitizing them is also one of the easiest processes.

Here’s how! Load up your dishwasher, logically.  All dishwashers are different, and every person has a different method of loading theirs. Establish a routine, and stick with it for most loads – don’t crowd the dishes. Fill your dishwasher until it’s full, but not crammed. You’ll maximize the cleaning capacity of your dishwasher and minimize excessive water usage.  Add detergent, run an effective wash cycle, and dry the dishes. You can use a heated dry (but be careful of plastic dishes or containers) or use air dry.

  1. Clean up the most commonly infected areas: handles, switches, and knobs, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.

We walk into a room by grabbing a doorknob and flipping on a light switch with our hands.  Understandably, these surfaces are very common to hold and transfer germs and viruses.  Flu viruses can survive in hard surface for up to 24 hours.  So, it is essential to sanitize these areas that have the most frequent contacts with hands.  Microfiber cloth with a household sanitizer would be very effective in sanitizing these areas.

Here’s how! Visually review these areas to see if there is any dry food spot on the surfaces.  If needed, use your hand to feel through the surface.  Spray sanitizer on the knob or handle surface to soak for a few seconds and wipe with a microfiber cloth.  If needed, use a scraper to remove any dry food.  For switches, clean carefully due to electricity.  Do not spray sanitizer directly onto a switch.  Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe all surfaces.

  1. Thoroughly and safely clean commonly used electronics such as remotes and stereo buttons.

Microfiber cloth with a household sanitizer would be very effective in sanitizing these commonly overlooked, but frequently used areas.  Safety, however, is first, as we want to avoid electrical shock when executing the cleaning.

Here’s how! Wipe the remote control over gently with a damp cloth that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. Make sure the cloth is completely wrung out before using.  Use the cloth to remove any stubborn built-up stains.  Use a cotton swab to carefully clean around the buttons: Dip the cotton swab into the rubbing alcohol slightly without totally soaking the cotton swab and wipe gently to avoid any potential for knocking them out of place. Wipe over the entire surface with a dry, lint-free cloth to remove any final specks and to dry off the remote.

  1. Cell phones, tablets, and iPads: the most frequently touched areas must be cleaned most frequently!

Nowadays, cell phones, tablets, and iPads are highly likely to have the most contact with hands.  As a result, they are the crucial points that need to be sanitized regularly, carefully, and thoroughly.

Here’s how! For cell phones: Turn your phone off and remove the battery and faceplate.  Wet a Q-tip with the isopropyl alcohol and apply it to the surfaces of each of your phone parts, one at a time.  Using a microfiber cloth, wipe clean your phone and put it back together. Not only will your phone be looking great, it will now be bacteria-free!

For tablets and iPads:  Turn off the device and choose a microfiber cloth.  Give the screen a once over by brushing it with the microfiber in small circles.  If needed, moisten a cotton cloth, even the corner of your cotton shirt, and repeat the small circular motions. Brush again with a dry microfiber cloth to finish off.

  1. Laptops and keyboards – remove the hidden germs and viruses.

Many laptops and desktop keyboards are visibly dirty and even more so from the micro level, presenting a risk to the health of users.

Here’s how! To effectively clean these items, gather the following tools: microfiber cloth for the screen, a bowl, cotton swabs, a can of compressed air, and some isopropyl alcohol.

For a laptop: Turn off the laptop and remove the battery.  Tilt the compressed air bottle and spray. If you are having trouble spraying you can always tilt your laptop, just try not to damage it in the process. Continue spraying until you have removed as much debris as you can.

For the screen: After ensuring that the laptop is off, choose a microfiber cloth.  Give the screen a once over by brushing it with the microfiber in small circles.  If needed, moisten a cotton cloth, even the corner of your cotton shirt, and repeat the small circular motions.  Brush again with a dry microfiber cloth to finish off.

For the keyboard:  Make sure the computer is off and keyboard is ideally unplugged from the unit and any power source.  Wipe the keyboard over gently with a damp cloth that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. Make sure the cloth is completely wrung out before using.  Use the cloth to remove any stubborn build-up stains.  Use a cotton swab to carefully clean around the buttons: Dip the cotton swab into the rubbing alcohol slightly without totally soaking the cotton swab and wipe gently to avoid any potential for knocking them out of place.  Wipe over with a dry, lint-free cloth to remove any final specks and to dry off the key board.

  1. Kitchen and bathroom counters – clean thoroughly and often!

The highest germ-count areas of the home, kitchen and bathroom counters, need to be cleaned thoroughly and often.  Fresh Tech Maids’ own testing has repeatedly shown that kitchen and bathroom counters have the highest bacteria count in the entire home.  With microfiber cloth and a sanitizer, we can ensure these surfaces are safe and healthy for adults and kids.

Here’s how! Use a whisk broom to remove all food debris from the counter to the floor.  Spray sanitizer to the surface and lightly soak the surface for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Use a scraper to remove sticky foods and other dry food spots from the surface.  Wipe the counter with microfiber cloth and wash the cloth.

  1. The sun: the best, greenest, and healthiest disinfectant for pillows and bedding.

The sun can be the best and “greenest” disinfectant.  The smell the pillows or bedding sheets after drying or disinfecting from sunlight can be invigorating.

Here’s how! To disinfect using the sun, make sure to have a suitable place to do so.  In some places, clotheslines outside are forbidden, from balconies to backyards.  If so, an indoor place close to window would be a solution.  Install a retractable clotheslines or freestanding-frame rotary (umbrella) clotheslines and have clothespins handy.  Secure pillow and bedding sheets on clothelines for maximum sun light exposure.  Once dry or refreshed, remove and fold them.

These 16 strategies can truly help in maintaining a germ-free, healthy place for your family, today.  Most of these can simply be implemented using items already in your home and putting a bit of thought into where germs may thrive.  Pick one or two strategies to start implementing today and add two more per week.  By sanitizing your home base, your family will be in a great position to overcome the threat of cold and flu this season. Start today!

If you need further help, check out our Flu Buster house cleaning program, the only one in Chicago and Northwest Suburbs.  Call this house cleaning service Chicago at 847.392.0888!  We would love to help!