Advice from a Germ Expert: Dont Overdo Spring Cleaning

Advice from a Saint LouisUniversity germ expert is music to the ears of those who dread the annual tradition of spring cleaning. Dont go overboard, cautions Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint LouisUniversitys Doisy College of Health Sciences. Ask yourself the question: How contaminated is my house? Duberg says. If it is just everyday dirt, then simply dust, vacuum and wipe off surfaces with hot soapy water, which can kill some germs. Its always important to get the dirt off first. Then move onto those specific areas of the house like the kitchen counters and bathroom sinks that may need a diluted bleach solution to kill off pesky bacteria such as salmonella and staphylococcus. Other than that, wash your hands often and just relax.

Duberg says you actually can make yourself sick from cleaning by being too vigilant.

People think if some is good, more is better, Duberg says. Thats not always true.

For instance, instead of using bleach straight from the bottle, dilute it to a concentration of one part bleach in nine parts of water for a 10 percent solution. Pour that mixture in a spray bottle and spritz off germ-friendly places like the kitchen counter or bathtub. Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes and then wipe clean.

Youre not necessarily being extra sanitary by combining different cleansing agents. You may be mixing up a recipe for disaster.

Some people scrub their toilet bowl with a product that contains ammonia to remove rust stains, then follow up by pouring down a shot of bleach. They think that extra little bit of effort will kill germs. Actually, theyre making chlorine gas, a caustic mixture that actually was used as a weapon during World War I, Duberg says.

While it sounds like a no-brainer, she says its important to follow the label directions in using cleaning products. For instance, instructions on a can of mold and mildew remover will tell you to work in a well ventilated area with an open window because of fumes that can damage your lungs, eye and skin.

Duberg also suggests:

* Considering green cleaners that are environmentally friendly. With its high acetic content, white distilled vinegar is a gentle and effective fighter against many types of bacteria, she says.

* Whipping out the vacuum cleaner to suck up dust bunnies.

* Thinking about hiring an expert to clean your air conditioner before you turn it to prevent bacteria and molds that may be living in the unit from being sent circulating throughout your house.

* Remembering to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and keep them from becoming chapped.

* Keeping cleaning products in their original containers and out of reach of young children.

A little elbow grease goes a long way. Resist the temptation to over-clean. After all, how many times do you need to kill the same germ, Duberg says.

Source: Saint Louis University

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