How to clean up your home after illness

Doctor says it's important to clean thoroughly after house infected with bug

Colds, the flu, viruses -- no one wants to answer the door when they come knocking, but sometimes they sneak into our homes despite our best efforts.

According to Dan Allan, M.D., once a household has been infected with a bug, it’s best to break out the cleaning gloves and bleach.

“I would definitely recommend a bleach-based cleaner,” he said. “There are certain infections, like norovirus, which are not killed by normal mechanisms -- even hand sanitizer will not work on that particular illness.” 

Dr. Allan said that it’s important to clean thoroughly after everyone in the house is healthy.

He recommends starting with things that are frequently touched, like counters, doorknobs, refrigerator handles, remote controls and especially cellphones.

“Cellphones can have more germs than a toilet seat. It’s amazing what is on a cellphone. You definitely want to clean those routinely,” said Allan.

Pay close attention to the kitchen, not only because it’s a place where many people gather and touch things, but also because it’s where food and drink are being prepared.

Allan said bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for a while - sometimes days or even weeks.

He also recommends washing bedding and stuffed animals in hot water and wiping down other objects that can’t be easily washed using a bleach-based cleaner, if possible.

Allan said one way to try to stop the spread of illness is to change our habits, as difficult as that may be.

“One of the key things that’s hard for people is to not touch their face,” he said. “We touch our faces so many times a day, and half of the time we don’t even realize it.  You rub your eye, your nose, scratch your face, lean on your hand -- and this is probably one of the biggest habits to stop doing to prevent sickness.”

Allan also said it’s important for those who come down with a contagious illness to stay home from work and school until they are starting to improve to help prevent illness from spreading to other households.