12 Household Items That Need Extra Attention After You've Been Sick

3 Ways to Tell Whether It’s a Cold or the Flu—Plus, How to Treat Either

Whether it’s the flu, a stomach virus, or strep throat (a personal nemesis of mine), chances are you’ve encountered some sort of illness in your home this cold and flu season. If you’re not careful to scour even the most unassuming corners and crevices of your home with disinfectants, you might be at war with those germs all over again (not to mention, infect other folks in the meantime). 

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Germs can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, which is a pretty large window to encounter them when you’re living in close quarters with others. Be on the safe side and regularly clean these 12 items to avoid a sickly holiday season. More than likely, your kitchen was probably due for a deep clean anyway. 

And remember—disinfectant wipes used incorrectly can just as easily turn into germ bombs.

1. Countertop

Your gorgeous, cook-friendly countertop can be a breeding ground for infectious germs, and if it’s granite or patterned, you might struggle to detect even visible messes like crumbs and spills. You don’t even want to know how much invisible gunk is plastered on there too. 

To clean, use a store-bought disinfectant spray or mix up a cleaning solution with ½ cup of bleach per gallon of cold water (p.s. never mix anything with bleach besides water!). Let this solution sit on the surface for five minutes after spraying, then wipe with a wet cloth or let air dry. And no, bleach won’t ruin your granite countertops. 

2. Silverware

All dishes, but especially those that come in direct contact with your mouth, should be sanitized in a dishwasher so they can reach bacteria-killing temps. If you don’t have one, wash your utensils with soap and hot water (at least 110º F), then soak in a chlorine bleach bath (made with one part bleach to 10 parts warm water), rinse, and allow to air-dry. 

3. Dish Towels

There’s no telling how many times (and by how many people) those cute, handy dish rags are touched every day. Try to quit your habit of drying your hands on conveniently-located dish towels—unless they’re replaced daily—and reach for paper towels instead. When you do wash dish towels, change the washer setting to hot to make sure all germs are killed off. 

4. Knobs/Handles

Pantry, oven, fridge, and dishwasher handles should all be considered suspect when making a post-illness clean sweep. Make sure to disinfect them (using the bleach solution noted above!) all around the house, not just in common areas. 

5. Sponge

Bacteria love to multiply in environments that are moist and warm—i.e. the state of your kitchen sponge 90% of the time. Microwave your sponges for a minute to kill germs, or buy a new pack altogether. Researchers from a 2017 study suggest replacing your sponges weekly regardless. 

6. Faucet Handles

Sinks should be a safe zone because they’re where you wash your hands, right? Unfortunately, the germy hand you turn on the faucet with isn’t clean just yet. And even if your hands are clean when you turn off the nozzle, the damage is already done. Your sink handles—and basin—should be sanitized with a bleach solution at least once a week, according to an expert.

7. TV Remote

The same spots that dust and grime can build up between your remote controls’ buttons, germs are likely creeping. Give it a wipe down after it’s fought over by your kids, spouse, or visiting relatives.

8. Pillowcase

No item gets more “face time” than your pillow, and that means sneezes, saliva, and germs galore. If you’d rather not wash your pillowcase nightly, keep a stash of around seven in the closet for easy, daily replacements.

9. Toothbrush

The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months no matter what, but it is especially crucial to toss your old toothbrush after an illness. And don’t let sickly toothbrushes sit next to others’ when storing them for the night. 

10. Computer/Laptop Keyboard

Germy fingers can infect every inch of a keyboard when you’re typing or browsing online. In an attempt to not destroy your electronics, avoid sprays and liquids, and only clean your devices when they’re turned off. Wipe your keyboard down with disinfectant wipes or a soft, lint-free cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol instead. Don’t forget the mouse! 

11. Smartphone

Try and think about how many times you touch for your phone everyday. Or don’t, and just disinfect your phone instead, knowing it’s carrying around more germs than you can even imagine. In the same way you treated your keyboard, use a disinfectant wipe or lint-free cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean your phone while it’s turned off. 

12. Light Switches

Here’s another place your hands go without a second thought. In fact, light switches and bedside lamps in particular were found to be some of the germiest spots in hotel rooms in a recent study, but a quick wipe-down with a disinfectant wipe will do the trick. 

Read more: Make This Wellness Tea Concentrate to Prepare for Cold and Flu Season

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