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Sanitation and hygiene in the home

by , health and fitness expert

If you've worked in a nuclear radiation area, you understand about step-off pads. You understand how to contain contaminants. The concept is very simple: don't put something clean onto something dirty. In the home, that concept often goes unheeded.

Here are some tips:

  1. Shower BEFORE going to bed, not when you get up. Why? Well, if you wash your sheets and then sleep on them without washing your body, your sheets will be as dirty in one night as they would be in a week or longer of sleeping on them after a shower.
  2. Don't eat from countertops. Don't set food directly on countertops. Why? Because these surfaces typically have higher bacteria counts than do toilets!
  3. Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly before hanging it back up. Otherwise, it becomes a bacterial breeding ground.
  4. Wash your hands BEFORE handling your genitals to urinate. Why? Urine is sterile. Your hands are loaded with bacteria, especially if you have been shaking hands.
  5. If anyone in your house has allergies, set aside clothes to wear outside and clothes to wear inside. This way, you do not spread outside allergens all over your home.
  6. If more than one person uses a bathroom, designate towel colors for each person, rather than sharing towels. Always let towels dry before throwing them in a hamper, where they take much longer to dry and breed bacteria in the interim.
  7. Wash your hands after handling mail or money.
  8. Wash underwear separately from dish towels. Soap does not disinfect; it merely lubricates. So when you wash clothing, (much of) the dirt and germs get dislodged from the cloth fibers into the water. You don't want to wipe your dishes with underwear water.
  9. Rinse dishes semi-clean before putting them in the dishwasher. You don't have to scrub them or wash them. The dishwasher can easily handle that for you. What you don't want is to have large amounts of proteins sitting on dishes and feeding bacteria until wash time.

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Some more thoughts on sanitation

Many people completely overlook the concept of sanitation in their home, car, and office. Clutter is an issue when it comes to compliance. If you see, for example, a desk covered in stacks of paper you know that's a desk that has not been cleaned in a while.

Keep surfaces clear of clutter. There's no reason to leave stuff out. If you think you don't have enough storage space, then get rid of things you don't really use until you free up enough space to properly store things. The tools and other things you really need for getting tasks done doesn't even come close to taking up the typical amount of storage space a work area contains. This applies in the kitchen, office, and garage.

Keep cabinets free of clutter. Organize, using containers with lids, Lazy Susans, and other devices that make a shelf easy to use.

Keep closets free of clutter. Also drawers, shelves, nooks, crannies, purses, briefcases, and anything else where things can accumulate. The more things you have cluttering your physical environment, the more surface area you provide for mold, bacteria, and various pathogens.

Wash surfaces frequently. Don't just move dust around, and don't just rub grime to a fine shine. Use water, a soft cloth, and some kind of gentle cleaner. If you stay on top of the dirt, it doesn't accumulate. And when it can't accumulate, it can't provide a nice environment for nasty little bugs that make people and pets sick.

Do you have a pet? Wash water and food bowls after use. Putting down a water bowl and just refilling it is a good way to erode your pet's health. The slime that builds up in the bowl makes your pet averse to getting enough water, and that's not healthy. But the slime itself is unhealthy for you and for your pet. Wash the bowl. Often.

Your toilet bowl should look pristine. Clean it frequently. Soap, a brush, and some hard scrubbing applied often will keep you from having an embarrassing bowl. Also check the tank. It's possible for mold to grow inside the toilet tank, especially if the toilet is in the "guest bathroom" or for some other reason isn't frequently used. Do not rely on commercial chemical bowl cleaners. You cannot set it and forget it, you must look and clean.

Don't leave wet sponges and rags around. Kitchen sponges must be completely dried out, at least once a day. Rinse them out, then let them dry in the sunlight or hasten the drying by popping them in the microwave for a minute or two. Soap is typically animal fat; it's a lubricant, not a disinfectant, so it will not inhibit bacterial growth. Antibacterial soap won't inhibit bacterial growth, either. But it will produce a bacteriacide-resistant strain of bacteria when used regularly.


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