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How can you keep the house hygienic?

by Charlotte Hoddge ,
How can you keep the house hygienic?© Shutterstock

How to keep the house hygienic

Love it or hate is, cleaning is a fact of life - and no matter how much you loathe rubbering up in those marigolds, we'll bet you'll loathe bacteria and germs even more.

Hygiene in our homes is more important than ever - especially as we spend a shamefully large amount of our time in our homes - in Europe we're home around 75% of the time. Is that too much?

With Skype, the internet and mobile phones making it all too easy to stay at home, we might as well make sure they're clean.

Making sure your home isn't contaminated with ghastly germs is hard work - and means a lot more elbow grease than simply pouring bleach down the blog.

At sofeminine HQ a show of hands told us that cleaning is one of our worst ways to spend a weekend, but when you know a lil' more about bacteria, slaving away for an hour or two suddenly becomes much more appealing.

Bacteria are tiny living organisms, invisible to the naked eye yet present all around us, in the air, the ground, in fabrics and on our skin.

While we do in fact need some types of bacteria (in the intestine to aid digestion, or to produce certain foods, like sauerkraut or yoghurt) some, so-called pathogenic bacteria can cause illnesses which have serious health risks.

If you're ready to learn what bacteria beasts lurk in your home, then read on for a room by room account of where bacteria can be bothersome, and importantly how to blitz it.

Examples of types of bacteria you can find in the home

These are the types of bacteria you seriously want to eliminate from your home. Happy reading - but be warned, it's not for the faint of heart.

Escherichia Coli (E.Coli): The majority of E.Coli variants are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. Meat can become contaminated during the slaughtering process, without showing any visible signs or giving off a particular smell meaning it can be extra difficult to detect.

E.Coli can cause serious infection. There are around 70,000 cases of E.Coli infection in Europe each year. Infection often leads to bloody diarrhoea and can cause intestinal haemorrhaging.

Drinking contaminated water and not washing hands thoroughly can also lead to infection so get washing those hands!
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacteria which lives in the ground and in moist areas (taps, plugs, etc.). It's very resistant to a multitude of antiseptic products and is often the cause of hospital-based infections. These bacteria are one of the most difficult to treat clinically.

It is believed that Pseudomonas aeruginosa thrives in hospitals in fruit, vegetables and plants which are brought in, which is why the latter, as well as flowers are sometimes not allowed in hospital rooms.

It can cause a great number of pathologies: eye infections, gastroenteritis, lung infections, etc, none of which sound like much fun.
Staphylococus aureus: This bacteria is most at home on us and on any warm-blooded animal. It can be found on our skin, in the nose, throat, etc. It penetrates the skin, producing infections which are difficult to treat and can easily end up in our food.

Intra or inter-human spread of the bacteria generally happens through direct contact.

It can, in rare circumstances, be spread indirectly from the surrounding environment (eg. clothes, sheets, medical equipment). When this bacteria is in full swing it can cause skin infections to deeper infections as well as syndromes linked to the release of toxins.

Salmonella are enterobacteria, bacilli. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 48 hours after infection.

These bacteria can survive for several weeks in a dry environment and several months in water. Poultry, cattle and sheep are often agents of contamination.

Salmonella can be found in food, especially meat, milk and eggs with broken shells.
Listeria is a very wide-spread bacterium which can be found in soil, vegetation, water, sewers and animal and human faeces. Lovely.

It can cause listeriosis, a serious but relatively rare disease, feared particularly by pregnant women as it can affect their baby, but also by the elderly with weakened immune systems. In some cases it can affect the brain and even be fatal.

It is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria: unpasteurised dairy products, raw vegetables and uncooked meat.

However, contamination may occur after cooking, for example in cured meats. One of the worst things about listeria is that it can even spread on refrigerated food and even once contaminated food appears, tastes and smells normal. Yikes.
Enterobacter is a bacterium which lives in the intestine of humans and animals. It can also be found in stools, sewage water, soil and dairy products.

Some variants can cause hospital-based infections or urinary infections. It is spread through direct or indirect contact with surfaces which have been covered with the infected mucus and also direct contact with hands which have been contaminated.

Keeping the bathroom clean

The bathroom may be the place you head to get squeeky clean, but often it's a room harbouring lots of nasty bacteria.

The warm and humid atmosphere is just a playground for the proliferation of bacteria. Nice.

Most of bathroom bacteria can be found in the washbasin.

Showers and baths are far from bacteria-free however as soapy water which is full of bodily bacteria forms thin layers on the surfaces and also on the shower curtain. Ewww, yes we know.

Towels and sponges, which remain moist part of the day, are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Not to mention face cloths, which are more often wet than dry and form a real nest for microbes as they are used to clean rather than to dry.

Taps and handles are also common sources of contamination as they collect all sorts of germs through contact with wet or moist hands.
Types of bacteria found in the bathroom:- E.Coli- Pseudomonas aeruginosa- Staphylococus aureus- Salmonella- Enterobacter
Useful tips and advice:1. Vinegar is one of the most powerful tools to combat bacteria. Wipe all the surfaces in the bathroom with a clean cloth soaked in vinegar and pour a little down the drains. Once a week, rinse out the washbasin with two cups of vinegar.

2. Make sure each member of the family uses their own hand towel and a different one for different parts of the body (face, hands, feet). Germs need a moist, dirty environment to thrive so make sure your bathroom is clean and aired.

3. Make sure toothbrushes are kept in a separate place from anything else. Change them every 3 months and never share them.

4. Regularly clean the taps, handles and any surface with which you are often in contact.

5. Wash your hands in soapy, warm water for about 15 seconds as often as possible.
Suitable products and equipment:

  • Bleach kills bacteria and is also a disinfectant, but must be used with caution.
  • Environmentally-friendly new technologies are appearing on the market, like products with "anti-marking" or "anti-bacterial" treated surfaces.
  • Bathroom furniture provider Ambiance Bain uses SMO Synthetic Resin which is a mix of natural stone and polyester resin with an extremely smooth surface. There are fewer joints too which limits the spread of bacteria.
  • Cosentino offers Silestone bathrooms, which is an antibacterial material made from 94% natural quartz.
  • Haier produces exclusive washing machines with antibacterial treatments (ABT) which can eradicate 99.99% of Staphylococcus aureus, E.coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, resulting in completely clean towels and face cloths.

​Keeping the toilet clean

The toilet, like the bathroom, is a humid area of the house due to the amount of water in the cistern, and as we know - germs love a humid environment to breed in.

Bacteria in the toilet absorb organic waste and release gases which smell - bad. Hence the importance of hygiene.

Bacteria can mostly be found in the toilet bowl but they're also lurking on the seat, the floor, the flush and the door handle. Bacteria can also be found in limescale deposits.

Every time you flush the toilet, they are projected into the air, up to 1.5m high, and then cover all the surrounding surfaces. If your toilet is in the bathroom, bacteria can even land on your toothbrush!

Shut that lid before you flush!

It is important to remember to clean the toilet brush which spreads bacteria in the same way as sponges, cloths, face cloths, etc.
Types of bacteria found in the toilet:E.ColiPseudomonas aeruginosaStaphylococus aureusSalmonellaEnterobacterListeria
Useful tips and advice:

  • Always flush the toilet with the toilet lid down in order to reduce the spread of bacteria in the room.
  • Air the toilet to reduce the level of humidity in the room and check that the ventilation system is working properly.
  • Clean the toilet daily with a product specifically designed to reduce the spread of bacteria. If you have children, do the same for their toilet seat/potty.

  • Make a natural antibacterial solution by mixing 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of Castille liquid soap and 1 large spoonful of Eucalyptus essential oil. Put this emulsion into a spray bottle, shake well, then apply the mixture and wipe with a moist cloth.
  • Go over the flush and the taps with extra care as they are breeding grounds for bacteria. These are ideal places to pick up microbes as they are in direct contact with our hands.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly every time you use the toilet, preferably using a push-pump soap dispenser which doesn't allow bacteria to collect.

Suitable products and equipment:

  • Clean the toilet either with diluted bleach or with the array of products available in store such as blocks or gels to use on and under the bowl and between the joints, once or twice a week.
  • Be careful however: too much bleach can make some bacteria more resistant, which is why it is important to standard products regularly.
  • Initial has developed a combination brush/cleaner containing a special liquid which is released in doses each time the brush is put back in its base. This ensures the brush is disinfected after each use.
  • Japanese toilets which have integrated spray-showers are very efficient in eradicating bacteria.

Keeping the kitchen clean

Kitchen sinks are 100,000 times more contaminated than wash basins, contrary to popular belief.

There are several reasons for this: firstly, it is used the most by all the family members, but it is also where both animal and vegetable foods can be found.

Kitchens contain both breeding grounds of bacteria (sinks, drains) as well as objects for spreading the bacteria (sponges, cloths, tea towels), which are used regularly by all the family.

It also has “surfaces” which are in contact with hands and food and which contain a whole range of germs, for example chopping boards, work surfaces, fridges and utensils. There are also "other surfaces" (the floor, furniture, etc.).

Another major source of bacteria is food. Some food can be contaminated by animal excrement, such as fruit or vegetables which are not properly washed. Butter, milk, raw food or eggs which are not stored properly can also present a risk.
Types of bacteria found in the kitchen:E.ColiPseudomonas aeruginosaStaphylococus aureusSalmonellaEnterobacterListeriaUseful tips and advice:

  • Cook food thoroughly, adhering to the recommended temperatures.
  • Clean cloths regularly in the washing machine.
  • Wipe down surfaces with hot, soapy water before preparing food.
  • Keep meat, poultry and raw sea food separate from other food in the fridge.
  • Divide left-overs from a meal into small containers to enable them to cool down quickly.
  • Don't fill the fridge too much, the air needs to circulate for food to be stored properly.
  • Change sponges and tea towels as often as possible. Use paper-wipes where possible. The most effective way to clean a sponge is to put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. This reduces the number of colonies of bacteria from 59 million to 1 million.
  • Use a disinfectant and antibacterial spray regularly on areas where microbes thrive the most: under the sink, on the bin and on door handles.
  • Use different chopping boards for meat, cheese and vegetables, preferably made from plastic rather than wood. Replace worn ones as they contain bacteria.

Suitable products and equipment:

  • The Bacteria Blocker Silverguard trademark uses an antibacterial treatment for its kitchens based on silver ions. The surfaces of laminates are treated with silver ions which reduces bacterial growth by 99.9%.
  • BIO2CLEAN kitchen worktops have antibacterial surfaces.
  • Rösle offer antibacterial washing up brushes.
  • Antibacterial filters for fridges.
  • Antibacterial microfiber cloths.

Keeping the bedroom clean

Bacteria also hide in other areas of the house where there aren't any drains, or even food particularly, such as in the bedrooms.

Carpets, sheets and fabrics in general can hide bacteria.

They also proliferate in vases of flowers which contain stagnant water, on the soil in plant pots or in aquariums.

Other objects commonly found in bedrooms are also concerned, such as mobile phones, which are apparently teeming with 500 times more bacteria than the toilet seat.

Computer keyboards sometimes hold nearly 150 times the authorised quantity of germs and are also five times dirtier than a toilet seat.

Handbags, often thrown onto the bed upon arrival home, have previously spent the day on the floor of public toilets, on the underground and in the street whilst waiting for the bus.

Remote controls, handled by everyone in the family, are very rarely cleaned despite being another breeding ground for bacteria.

Finally, as is always the case, door handles, buttons and switches are hot spots for germs.
Types of bacteria found in the bedroom:E.ColiPseudomonas aeruginosaStaphylococus aureusSalmonellaEnterobacter
Useful tips and advice:

  • Stock up on antibacterial wipes to clean remote controls and other surfaces.
  • To protect your keyboard, cover your mouth with your hand when sneezing and don't eat lunch and email at the same time. Clean it regularly by spraying compressed air between the keys.
  • Mobile phones: avoid lending or borrowing them. Clean them regularly with cotton wool or a tissue soaked in alcohol, especially during influenza or angina epidemics.
  • Handbags: invest in a bag hook. At home, don't put them on the work surfaces in the kitchen, on your desk or on your bed. Clean them regularly with suitable products.
  • Wash your hands regularly, for about fifteen seconds, with soap or hydro-alcoholic gel.
  • Clean switches and handles regularly with a soft cloth and disinfectant lotion.
  • Change the water in vases regularly.
  • Air your bedroom regularly.
  • Clean sheets and fabrics as often as possible.

Suitable products and equipment:

  • TechLink: antibacterial spray and cloth for laptops.
  • Modelabs: antibacterial screen protector for mobile phones.
  • Karcher: antibacterial steam cleaner for carpets.
  • Use Cyber Clean paste to clean your keyboards, telephones, computer etc.
  • Use Haier's washing machine with antibacterial treatment (ABT) for your clothes, sheets and general household washing.

Charlotte Hoddge
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