By Aviva Patz
From Ideas That Spark
Home is where the heart is -- not to mention the dirt, dust, bacteria and mold. "Most people clean what they can see, but there's a lot more to cleaning a home than just wiping down your bureau," says Richard Symes of Clenz Philly, an eco-friendly home and commercial cleaning service in New Jersey and Philadelphia. The payoff to a more thorough clean: better air quality, fewer allergy symptoms, a house you can show off to your guests, and best of all, peace of mind.
Here are five germ hot spots you're probably missing when you clean, and the most powerful tools to add to your cleaning arsenal today.
Germ Hot Spot No. 1: Your Front Door
According to Symes, 85 percent of the germs and dirt in your house come in through the front door. Keep them out! Double-team them by placing a doormat outside your door and in your house. Shuffle your feet on the mat before you enter, then remove your shoes once inside.
Germ Hot Spot No. 2: Corners, Cracks and Creases
First, steel yourself. Then, look high -- in ceiling corners, on top of shades, blinds and picture frames, and on the blades of ceiling fans -- and you'll find neglected dust. Next, look low -- under baseboards, under furniture and in the corners of kitchens and bathrooms -- and you'll probably see colonies of dust bunnies and layers of dirt and grime. Don't let them continue to thrive. Do a top-to-bottom house cleaning every other week (more frequently if you have kids and pets, especially shedders).
Germ Hot Spot No. 3: Beds and Furniture
Millions of microorganisms live in your mattress. Their dead cells and feces (you read right) are the No. 1 cause of allergies in a home, says Symes. Get your bed and pillows steam-cleaned once a year to sterilize your sleeping environment; wash sheets once a week and duvet covers once a month. Get your couches and upholstery professionally cleaned every six months to a year too. And don't forget your curtains: Wash or dry-clean them every few months. In between, lay them on the floor and vacuum lightly or do a couple of passes with a lint brush or lint roller.
Germ Hot Spot No. 4: Showerheads
Potentially disease-causing germs can get trapped in showerheads and grow into biofilm, a layer of slime that delivers a bacteria blast along with your hot water. Clean the showerhead with a wire brush every week and replace it every year to prevent germy buildup.
Germ Hot Spot No. 5: Sponges and Dishtowels
Moisture and bits of food on clingy surfaces make these common kitchen items a dangerous source of E. coli, salmonella and other virulent bacteria, not to mention yeasts and molds. Rinse sponges after every cleaning with soap and water, and disinfect them once or twice weekly by zapping them in the microwave for 60 seconds. Wash all towels weekly to avoid mold spores.
Cleaning Tools You Need
You don't have to break your back struggling to reach corners or spend days cleaning. These tools will help you get the job done faster -- and get better results.
Grout brush: It gives you access to areas that a sponge or cloth can't reach -- corners, under baseboards and around window locks. Just spray with household cleaner, brush and wipe.
Steam machine: High-pressure steam naturally disinfects and cleans tile surfaces. It works by flushing the dirt out rather than packing it in.
Microfiber cloths: They're made with loops that act like tiny claws, gripping and holding dust -- not kicking it back into the air like cotton cloths do. You don't even need to spray!
Vacuum with HEPA filter: Unlike standard vacuum bags, which are fine for collecting small chunks of stuff, HEPA filters suck up dust, retaining 99.9 percent of the small particles they encounter.
Air Freshener: An air freshener that eliminates cooking, pet and other household odors instead of masking them can transform your house from seeming lived-in to feeling brand-new. To find this type of product, look for the ingredient cyclodextrin. Then finish your cleaning by spraying down rooms, breathe deep and say hello to the fresh scents of spring!
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