You take a bottle of hand sanitiser everywhere you go, wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching surfaces when you are out, but, what about when you walk in your front door?
Just how clean and germ-free are your keys, cell phone, bank card or handbag? And when last did you wipe down the TV remote or car steering wheel, or clean your laptop keyboard?
Any one of these surfaces can be contaminated, no matter how clean you think you keep them.
It’s particularly important to keep your cell phone screen clean, as a 2019 study showed that it is likely to be dirtier than a toilet, not to mention touched up to 2,500 times day. If you’ve just winced with discomfort, we’re right there with you – but there are solutions.
Simply washing or wiping won’t kill germs like bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Sometimes you also have to sanitise or disinfect, both of which cut contamination on a surface by killing germs.
And, handy though sanitiser certainly is, a disinfectant is stronger and does kill off more nasties.
Areas you should look at disinfecting – as well as the items listed above – include high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom taps, especially when a member of the household has been sick. Don’t forget the handle on your kettle and other frequently used appliances.
Natural disinfectants can be as effective as chemicals – although not all cleaning products labelled as natural are as good. Make sure the concentration is high enough and that you've left the solution on long enough to kill pathogens.
When it comes to hygienic home remedie that won’t harm the environment, here are our top three (four if you have a dishwasher):
Alcohol is a great alternative to chemical disinfectants because it kills germs by breaking down their cell walls. But, it has to be at a high enough concentration – about 60% or more. Ask your pharmacy for isopropyl rubbing alcohol and combine two parts of this with one part of water. Apply to the surface that is to be cleaned for at least 30 seconds, before wiping clean.
To clean your TV remote, for example, take a cotton cloth, rubbing alcohol, cotton earbuds, a lint-free cloth and a toothpick. Remote the remote batteries then dip the cotton cloth into the alcohol and wipe the entire surface of the remote. Follow up with a cotton ear-bud to get into the corners – you may also need a toothpick around the buttons. Dry with the lint-free cloth, replace the batteries, and you are good to go.
2. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide isn't as effective as bleach but it is less harsh and does kill viruses and bacteria. Use the typical 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration as a disinfectant, or dilute it to a weaker concentration by mixing 5 parts water and 1 part hydrogen pyroxide (from your 3% solution bottle). Apply and leave on surface for at least 60 seconds before wiping clean.
Warning: don’t use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your cell phone! However, you can disinfect your phone using a soft, lint-free cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol. Unplug it first and gently wipe the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Keep liquids away. Some manufacturers (Apple, for example), permit you to use a 70 % isopropyl alcohol wipe or 75% ethyl alcohol wipe,
3. Hot water
Hot water does kill bacteria and viruses, but the temperature should be at least 60ºC, and it works even better when combined with soap or another disinfectant. If the item can withstand boiling – keys for example (remove the electronic remote first!), put them in a pot and destroy those germs stone-dead.
Make sure that kitchen cloths (and face cloths!) also get the high-temperature treatment to keep them clean and hygienic. Hot soapy water works beautifully, but even boiling hot water alone is an effective disinfectant.
If you have a dishwasher, make the most of it and pop in one or more of these unexpected items in the next hot cycle, for example:
· Rubber flip-flops, canvas takkies, baseball cap
· Hairbrushes, combs, makeup brushe
· Non-electrical plastic and rubber kids’ toy
For extra cleaning power, run the machine with dishwashing soap.
Of course, you can’t stack your steering wheel in next to the cutlery, nor your TV remote or cellphone, but it does the trick for many smaller, water-proof items.
Whether or not you have a dishwasher, you can still swipe clean to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe.
Date Published: 01 December 2021