How to Clean Your House After Someone Has Been Sick

How to Clean Your House After Someone Has Been Sick

By Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, MD

 

With new viruses, the resurgence of diseases like measles, and just regular old flu and cold season, someone in your home will likely become ill. And even after they recover, those germs are often still alive. So how exactly do you clean your house to keep them from spreading? 

 

Identify the Illness

Viruses, bacteria, and yeasts can live outside the body on various inanimate or dry surfaces. But certain bugs last longer than others. For instance, while respiratory viruses such as the flu hang around for 24–72 hours, gastrointestinal viruses like rota and norovirus are particularly resilient. The National Institute of Health warns that they can live for two months, as can staph and strep. Meanwhile, spore-forming bacteria and yeasts that cause fungal infections have a wide range, lasting outside of the body from 14 days to five months.

 

Use the Right Products

Reading labels is important. Make sure that the products for cold and flu viruses say disinfectant. For more stubborn viruses and bacteria, the Cleveland Clinic says bleach-based disinfectants are absolutely necessary.

 

Pre-moistened wipes are a better option than reusable sponges or dry paper towels. Sponges spread bacteria around, while paper towels lift off the disinfectant as soon as you spray it. But wipes leave the cleaning product behind to dry, allowing the product to have more contact with dangerous organisms.

 

If you don't have wipes and have run out of paper towels, a microfiber cloth is the next best thing. But make sure to use one per room, or you'll drag germs from one place to another. 

 

Immediate Cleansing

If the sick person vomits or has diarrhea, those areas that come into contact with such fluids need disinfecting right away. Otherwise, the contamination will spread. Use water-diluted bleach (two cups of bleach to a gallon of hot water) or a bleach-based cleanser to wash everything from toilets to sheets. A thorough cleaning is mandatory after every member of the family has recovered. Otherwise, the bug will recycle itself and likely infect others. 

 

Targeted Cleaning

You don't have to go overboard. While you should wash the sheets, towels, and clothing of the person who was sick, you're wasting your time cleaning the entire house. Instead, focus on the following high-use items to stop the transmission of germs, including:

 

- Cell phones

- Faucets

- Door knobs

- Refrigerator handles

- Kitchen counters

- Remote controls

- Computer keyboards and tablets

- Stuffed animals

 

Wear Gloves

Finally, use disposable gloves while you clean. They will protect your hands from harsher products and keep you from accidentally coming into contact with germs. Because we tend to touch our faces unthinkingly all the time, it's very easy to infect ourselves even as we're cleaning. 

 

After you throw away the gloves, wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. In fact, washing your hands frequently during cold and flu season will help prevent getting sick in the first place.

 

If you or your family member is sick, stop by your nearest CityMD to get the proper treatment.

 

Author Bio:

Dr. Janette Nesheiwat is a top Family and Emergency Medicine doctor. As a Medical Director at CityMD and a nationwide medical news correspondent, Dr. Nesheiwat’s mission is not only to save lives—but to change them, by giving real people the treatment and the expertise they need. She also completed the US Army ROTC Advanced Officer Training in Ft. Lewis, Washington prior to becoming a Family and Emergency Physician. She has led medical relief missions around the globe.