You’ve probably heard that we’re having a particularly bad flu season nationwide. Beyond the flu, there are enough colds and winter viruses going around that it can feel like everyone you know is sniffling or coughing. So how can you prevent the flu from keeping you out of work or your kids home from school?
Start by disinfecting the germiest places in your home (and no, that’s not the bathroom!) To stay healthy this flu season, an NSF International study found that you should be cleaning these trouble spots:
5. Cutting boards and countertops
Food prep areas contain more bacteria and other contaminants than any other place in your home – which is bad news when you’re trying to prevent the flu. Make sure plastic cutting boards are being washed in a hot dishwasher cycle to properly disinfect them. Wooden boards need to be hand washed in hot soapy water and can be disinfected with a vinegar solution. Make sure they don’t have any deep grooves – those are prime hiding spots for germs.
4. Pet bowls
You’re vigilant about making sure your pets get food and water – but when was the last time you disinfected their bowls? Toss them in the dishwasher once a week to disinfect, or if they aren’t dishwasher-safe, you can clean them with a diluted bleach solution and rinse well. With regular bowl-cleaning, your pets will be healthier – and so will everyone in the household who regularly feeds them!
3. Toothbrush holders
This is the one spot in your bathroom where you definitely want to stay vigilant during flu season. You may be changing your toothbrush regularly (and always after someone gets sick!), but when was the last time you scrubbed the toothbrush holder? Whether it’s a cup, a stand-alone rack, or mounted to your bathroom mirror, anywhere damp toothbrushes hang out is a prime place for germs. If your holder is dishwasher safe, add it to a load once a week to disinfect it. If the dishwasher isn’t an option, scrub your toothbrush holder frequently with very hot, soapy water and make sure it dries completely.
2. Kitchen sink
Nearly half of the sinks tested had bacteria lurking in them, and about a quarter were harboring mold, too. And sure, once you’ve scrubbed a whole load of dishes, cleaning the sink feels like an extra chore. But thoroughly scrubbing the sides and bottom every few days will give you an extra edge heading into flu season. About once a month, use a diluted bleach solution to disinfect the sink (more often if someone in the household has been sick), and make sure you’re washing your hands thoroughly after you do the dishes!
1. Kitchen sponge
The biggest germ trap in your house? It’s your kitchen sponge. With its soft, porous surface and the fact that it’s often damp, your sponge is a favorite hideout for bacteria, mold, yeast, and other contaminants. The fact that it comes into contact with your dishes and utensils makes disinfecting it critical, especially during flu season!
To disinfect your sponge, soak it in a mild bleach solution once a week. You can also pop it in the microwave for two minutes while damp or run it through the dishwasher. But once it starts to get worn out, your best bet is to simply throw it out and replace it with a fresh one.
Now you’re ready to tackle germs on their home turf this flu season – and stay healthy all winter long!