Experiencing the debilitating symptoms of the flu -- the multi-day fever, chills, body aches and pains -- even once is enough to convince anyone to take precautions against contracting the virus ever again. One of the most effective ways to keep the illness at bay is by cleaning. Here, we rounded up expert advice on how to do so the right way.
Pick The Right Detergent
Any disinfecting product that claims it can eradicate the flu virus has to first be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and carry a registration number somewhere on the bottle, according to the American Cleaning Institute. These products like Clorox’s line of disinfectants can effectively kill over 99% of the flu virus found on household objects and surfaces.
“Read and follow label directions at all times,” stresses Brian Sansoni, vice president of communication at the American Cleaning Institute. “Disinfectants and disinfectant cleaners are the only products that kill germs -- but they only work if the label directions are followed.”
Hit The Hot Spots
The most frequently touched surfaces around the house are likely where the flu virus is going to be dropped off and picked up, so it’s important to disinfect them at least on a weekly basis. Sansoni recommends using cleaning sprays containing ingredients like ammonia, which is found in Lysol, and disinfectant wipes such as Clorox, to wipe down light switches, doorknobs, faucet handles, drawer pulls, and remotes, as well as your shared phones and keyboards.
“Flu germs can live longer than other germs on surfaces,” he says. “So, don’t let your frequently touched home surfaces provide a friendly environment for these nasty culprits.”
Wash Your Hands The Right Way
One of the simplest ways to prevent getting sick or spreading germs to others is by keeping your hands clean throughout the day.
“Hand washing is a must,” says Dr. Daniel Eiras, NYU Langone Health assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology. “It’s probably the best infection control technique (and) worth spending time on. But you can’t just wash your hands for 2 seconds and expect to get rid of germ particles.
Dr. Eiras recommends singing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head two times over to know you’ve scrubbed long enough.
“You need to spend 30 seconds at least, (with) soap and warm water, on all areas in between fingers, palms and on the backs of hands,” he advises. “And you have to do some rubbing. The actual friction is what works.”
Mind The Numbers
“In a dry space, the flu virus can live for about 12 hours on non-porous surfaces [if they’re not disinfected],” Dr. Eiras says. This includes glass, plastic and metal.
But on more absorbent materials, like sponges and clothing, the virus could live for two to five days, so it’s extremely important for your household’s health to remain vigilant about doing laundry and keeping things extra clean throughout flu season.
And, according to Dr. Eiras, people who get the virus are typically infectious for about two weeks from the point when their symptoms first appear, even if they no longer feel sick.
“If you get the flu, don’t hug and kiss your infant for a couple of weeks,” he says. “I know that’s tough, but maintaining these techniques -- hand washing, cleaning, keeping distance -- is really important.”
Be A Diligent Caregiver
If someone in your house does become sick, make sure you’ve got plenty of tissues and detergents that contain chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptics and alcohols handy.
“Clean with disposable gloves on,” advises Becky Rapinchuk, the cleaning maven behind the popular blog, Clean Mama, and author of, “Simply Clean.” It’s important to have a barrier between yourself and the germs you’re eliminating to help ensure you don’t get sick in the process.
“Have a garbage bag or can handy for dirty tissues for the sick person and keep them quarantined as much as possible,” she says. And if you have young children, “spray hydrogen peroxide on their toys, let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse off with warm water.” The idea here, says Rapinchuk, is to isolate and then eliminate the flu from everywhere it may have traveled.
And while you’re caring for a loved one: “Wash bedding, contaminated stuffed animals and towels while they’re sick and once they’re better -- and wash them separately from other people’s laundry,” says Rapinchuk. A few thorough wash cycles with virus-killing detergents will greatly reduce the chances of a flu relapse. As far as favorite products: Rapinchuk recommends Seventh Generation’s new disinfectant spray. It’s a non-toxic alternative to many other products, but still kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, including the flu.
And finally, “replace tooth brushes once they are better,” she says. It’s important that a fresh, new toothbrush free of the virus replaces the old, germ-y one so there’s no risk of cross contamination.