What You Need to Know About
Properly Sanitizing Your Home

See also: Cooking With Children

In cold and flu season, you must keep your home clean for everyone who visits and the people who live there. Sometimes, you may be tempted to cut corners because you "deep cleaned" not too long ago. Sanitizing your home might be a bit different than cleaning, depending on the chores you're used to.

Use these tips to ensure that you sanitize your home better after guests visit or illness strikes your household.

1. Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

High-touch surfaces are bound to be some of the dirtiest places in your home. Countertops and doorknobs should be sanitized more often than something like a dresser in a guest room. Especially if you have people coming in and out of your home regularly, sanitizing the front door's doorknob is crucial to keeping your family healthy.

Another way to make sure your doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces stay relatively clean is to provide hand sanitizer the moment people walk through the door. You may choose to equip your entryway with a station full of masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and tissues. That way, you can be sure that your household is protected when guests visit, and you won't have to focus on cleaning the high-touch areas immediately after they leave.

2. Follow What the Label Says

Sanitizing and cleaning your home requires a bit of knowledge of the chemicals you're using, especially if you plan to mix them. You want to keep your household safe, but it can be challenging to do so when you combine cleaners and create something toxic. Understand what the labels of your cleaning products say so that you will know when you can mix cleaners and when you absolutely should not.

Sodium hypochlorite can be found in your basic bleach solutions. You shouldn't mix bleach with anything because it destroys almost everything it touches — and it can become deadly quickly when combined with other chemicals like ammonia. It might take some knowledge of chemistry, but if you're ever in doubt, it's best to err on the side of caution and use cleaning products without mixing them with anything.

3. Always Vent the Area

Once you've finished cleaning somewhere, you're bound to notice a sterile smell. If you continue to smell the odor, you might feel lightheaded or get a headache. To prevent this discomfort, you should properly ventilate the area after you've finished cleaning — and move to a different room. A fan or an open window can help the smell dissipate. Your home should always have adequate airflow, but it's essential when you need to let an area air out after using chemicals.

4. Learn the Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting Wipes

Sanitizing and disinfecting wipes are not the same thing. Knowing the difference could prevent you from feeling terrible. Disinfecting wipes should be handled carefully, preferably with gloves on. Disinfecting wipes often use a solution that could harm your eyes if you touch them without washing your hands. While disinfecting wipes should be handled carefully or with gloves, sanitizing wipes tend to be gentler on the skin. Sanitizing wipes can reduce the bacteria count on surfaces, making them great for delicate surfaces like skin.

5. Clean Frequently When Sick

If you're sick and the rest of your household is somehow healthy, try to clean up whenever you go anywhere. The illness may have sapped your strength, but you should do what you can to keep the rest of your household healthy. If you're in a state where you can't clean, have someone in the house disinfect and sanitize things behind you.

Knowing that you or someone in your household is sick means you have to take greater precautions to prevent the people who are well from falling ill. Make sure you frequently sanitize every area the ill person has come in contact with. See if you can confine them to one bedroom and bathroom, if possible.

Also, ensure the people in your house wash their hands effectively after handling communal areas. Washing your hands frequently can decrease the likelihood of infections, but it has to be done correctly.

6. Practice Discretion with Guests

During cold and flu season, you never know if someone could be sick without showing any symptoms or still be contagious after they've been feeling better. Especially if you or someone in your home is immunocompromised, you should take proper precautions to vet your guests before inviting them to your home.

You may need to grow familiar with proper quarantining practices after certain illnesses. That way, if someone tells you they are improving but were sick recently, you can know whether they are still infectious.

If you want to have guests over without intruding on their personal health privacy, consider setting rules for your home. When guests are over, you may require them to wear a mask while they converse with the more vulnerable members of your household.

If you set up boundaries for guests, like which rooms they cannot enter, and also have set visiting hours, you may find that your sanitization schedule and tasks don't feel so overwhelming. The more guests you have over with loose boundaries, the longer you'll take to sanitize your house again after they've left.

7. Know How to Clean

Certain things in your home need different methods to get completely clean. For example, rugs may need different cleaning care than your laundry load full of t-shirts and sweatpants. Follow any labels that tell you how you should launder and care for certain items you may be unsure of, like drapes, before just assuming a simple spritz of disinfectant will do the job. Drying items completely will ensure that you’ve cleaned them fully and there’s no chance of bacteria hanging onto them.

Be cautious with the cleaning methods you choose. Some may not be as effective as you think. UV Lights seem like they might eliminate bacteria and viruses, but it’s hard to tell when they work as expected if they ever do. You should also take care when using aerosol sprays around people who have asthma — it could affect their lungs and do more harm than good, even though you want to use it for cleaning purposes.

Stay Safe This Season

Winter isn't the only season you need to worry about harmful bacteria and viruses, but it is by far the most commonly known one that holds the most risk. Take care of your family year-round by sanitizing smarter, not more often. While you may have to worry about high-touch surfaces more than others, you can still sanitize your house appropriately while giving yourself a break and not cleaning constantly.

About the Author

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.