With time at home, most of us are looking around wondering what else we can scour and scrub. I would hazard to guess that this will be the cleanest spring of record, but there’s one thing that’s important to stress: You need to clean and disinfect. There is a difference between the two. Cleaning removes germs and dirt from surfaces, but it does not kill the germs; it just lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting kills the germs, but it does not clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. So, what you want to do is clean first, then disinfect. (The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of approved disinfectants for covid-19 at epa.gov.)
In my house, I have already done my typical spring cleaning of the windows, rugs and upholstery, and the cleaning and disinfecting of the refrigerator and toilet, but I am also tackling some other areas of my home that are often overlooked. You might want to do the same.
In the kitchen
Your dish rack: Even though you place clean items on your dish rack, it can be a breeding ground for germs, because water drips from dishes and utensils into the crevices and bottom tray, and, if left to sit, can generate mildew and mold. To clean your dish rack, which I suggest doing every couple of days or so, separate all the parts (often the utensil holder and tray separate). Rinse all parts with hot water, then dip a toothbrush or scrub brush in distilled white vinegar and scrub all parts until mineral deposits, mold and/or mildew spots are gone. Continue to add more vinegar as needed. Rinse and air-dry.
Your sink: I am a stickler for disinfecting my sink nightly; I’ve never understood how people clean their dishes and then leave bits of food and grime in the sink! Clean your sink with soap and water, then spray a mist of distilled white vinegar followed by a mist of hydrogen peroxide, and let air-dry. (Don’t mix the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together; spray one after the other.)
Your can opener: I’ve seen too many people use a can opener and then just put it back in their utensil drawer. You should clean a can opener after every use, and not only the blade, but also the handles. Run it through the dishwasher or wash it with hot, soapy water, and allow it to air-dry fully before you put it back in a drawer.
Your garbage can: Completely empty your garbage can, making sure to remove any stuck-on food particles. Scrub both the interior and the exterior with hot, soapy water. Rinse with clean water, turn it upside down on a towel, and allow it to air-dry. You don’t have to do this every time you take out the trash, but it’s good to get in the habit of cleaning the can once a month. However, if you have a top with a handle, make sure to frequently disinfect it with a disinfecting wipe or wipe it down with a bleach solution. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended recipe is one-third cup bleach per gallon of water or four teaspoons bleach per quart of water.) And to diminish garbage can odors, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the can before inserting a trash bag.
In the bathroom
Your toothbrush holder: Your toothbrush holder is probably one of the germiest places in your home. I would clean it weekly — or as often as you clean your toilet. Rinse the toothbrush holder with hot water, then use a small bristle brush or pipe cleaner to scrub the inside of the toothbrush slots. Next, fill the holder with antibacterial mouthwash and let sit for several minutes. Rinse with clean water and let air-dry before reloading your toothbrushes.
Your shower curtain liner: Shower curtain liners typically harbor mold, especially at the bottom of the curtain, where you might not notice it. To clean the liner, remove it from the rings and put it in your washing machine with a half-cup of baking soda and a couple of towels. Run it through a normal cycle with warm water. The baking soda and towels work together, scrubbing the liner to get rid of the grime and soap buildup. Remove and let hang-dry. I suggest doing this every one to two months.
Lastly, some general cleaning/disinfecting tips: Always clean from top to bottom, so you let gravity do the work for you.
And it may sound like a little thing, but it can help to add cleaning dates to your calendar or set phone reminders so you don’t forget.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”
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