Proper Cleaning for Flu Season

November 2010

Cold and flu season is now upon us!  This is the time of year when most of us are concerned about keeping ourselves and our families "germ-free".

We already know the precautions about covering our coughs and sneezes, washing our hands frequently, keeping our hands and fingers away from our faces, and keeping a distance from infectious people...

...but what if the infectious person is someone you live with or work with?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a virus can live on a surface for two to eight hours.  Flu viruses, including H1N1, can survive between eight and twelve hours on paper or cloth, and twenty-four to forty-eight hours on non-porous surfaces, like doorknobs or desks.  A virus can even last up to seventy-two hours on wet surfaces.

Keeping your home clean is one place where you can stop the spread of germs that cause cold and flu viruses.  Step one is to do a good cleaning of the potentially infectious area, which means more than just wiping the dust away.  Step two is keeping those areas clean with repeated disinfection.

Cleaning with products containing toxic chemicals like ammonia or chlorine can do more harm than good.  Bleach, ammonia, and fragrance products are known triggers for allergy and asthma attacks.  Bleach and ammonia are corrosive to the lungs.  Fragrance products containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which cause the scents to diffuse and linger, are air pollutants, and also asthma and allergy triggers.  

The main ingredient used to make a product antibacterial is triclosan.  The EPA has registered triclosan as a pesticide.  Antibacterial wipes, liquid soaps and bar soaps all contain triclosan.  Triclosan has been linked to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity.  Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps are not more effective at combating germs than regular soaps.

Clean and disinfect your home with homemade cleaning solutions that are healthier for your family and safer for the environment.  For an all-purpose disinfectant, try using one part vinegar to two parts water solution.  Another useful disinfectant can be made by mixing two cups of distilled water with one and a half  to three teaspoons of liquid castille soap and one teaspoon of tea tree oil.  To disinfect larger areas in your home, mix one half cup of borax with one gallon of hot water.  Adding hydrogen peroxide (3%) solution is also a great way to disinfectant.

Cleaning your home the proper way will remove unwanted contaminants and pollutants.  When done frequently, the risk of transmitting infectious agents is reduced considerably.  Regular effective cleaning will also help ensure your health through the chilly fall and winter months.

For more information on colds, viruses, and cleaning for flu season, please log on to

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