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Cleanliness and the American House

This article caught my eye because I used to watch my maid clean my bathroom in Kuwait – she used the personal hygiene spray and sprayed everything down. I don’t think she did much scrubbing! You can find this article at AOL Health

By Sara Abadi

We asked more than 20 questions regarding the cleanliness of your home and your body — and more than 20,000 of you delivered the dirty details. Armed with your responses, we went to the germ experts, including Philip Tierno Jr., M.D., Director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center and author of “The Secret Life of Germs.” Read on as the experts review our daily habits to see if we’re falling within healthy guidelines.

Keeping House

Washing Your Sheets Sixty percent of you aren’t changing them weekly, which is how often Dr. Tierno recommends — and that’s as long as you have a protective cover to guard against dust mites and debris that build up in your mattress. “You could do it more, but that can be excessive and a waste of water,” he says. To the 16 percent who wash their sheets monthly and 10 percent even less than once a month — you might want to consider changing your bedding more frequently.

Doing the Dishes “You can wait a day, but not more than a couple of days,” says Dr. Tierno. Almost half of you don’t even bother waiting a day — 49 percent you’re your dishes immediately, and 37 percent wait just a day. Ten percent wait two to three days, which is Dr. Tierno’s maximum delay time. The four percent who wait at least a week might want to wash the dishes more frequently, or at the very least leave the dishes soaking in soapy water to avoid growth — even if it’s a huge pain.

Washing Fresh Produce Only seven percent of you always wash your produce. Fifty-seven percent never do and 36 percent remember to wash sometimes. At a minimum, you should soak your fruits and veggies in water and a small amount of citric acid to loosen up the grime, advises Dr. Tierno. “E. coli 0157 and salmonella have been found on fruits as well as veggies. So it is more than just washing pesticide residue off.”

Cleaning Out Your Refrigerator Food and drink spills should be cleaned up right away to limit exposure to E. coli or Salmonella. But assuming there are no major spills, Dr. Tierno says you can get away with cleaning your fridge every couple of weeks. This is good news for the 22 percent who do just that and the 15 percent who clean their fridges weekly. The once-a-monthers (21 percent) can probably get away with their current cleaning schedule. But, those who go every three months (19 percent) or once a year (21 percent) may want to clean more frequently. And the two percent who never tackle the fridge may want to start!

Scrubbing the Tub/Shower Even though water and soap are key parts of bathing, your tub or shower should be given its own bath once a week. The reason, Dr. Tierno explains, is that biofilm, a substance that builds up on the inside of the tub, gets left behind. “Biofilms only go away with mechanical action like scrubbing with a sponge and soap.” And if you think you’re getting away with spray-on cleaners like Tilex or Scrubbing Bubbles, Dr. Tierno says it’s not enough — a little elbow grease is needed. For those who shower, take note: Mold tends to grow on shower curtains — even the mold-resistant ones. The good news is that 45 percent of respondents scrub the tub on a weekly basis, and some go above and beyond, cleaning daily (six percent) while others get to the job once a month (28 percent) or every few months (12 percent). For some of you, this chore can be daunting and you only get around to cleaning the tub every few months (12 percent) or don’t get to it at all (two percent).

Cleaning the Toilet Add this to your weekly cleaning list. About half of you (51 percent) opt for an every-seven-days cleaning, and 15 percent go at it a few times a week. Twenty-two percent clean every couple of weeks and eight percent get to the task once a month. Very few of you wait every few months (four percent) or don’t clean at all (one percent). Dr. Tierno warns that moisture allows bacteria to grow, so rooms like the bathroom should be disinfected regularly.

Dusting “Surface disinfection is really important,” says Dr. Tierno. He recommends making it a weekly habit, or more often if you have allergies, as letting dust accumulate can aggravate allergies. But keep in mind, there’s more to dust than just your bookshelves and TV stand. The living room is not the most unsanitary room in the house, that honor is reserved for the kitchen. Twenty-nine percent of you are in good shape with your weekly dusting, although the highest percentage of you (33 percent) opt to do it every couple of weeks. Some dust monthly (14 percent), while others get around to it every few months (15 percent). Five percent diligently dust a few times a week, and four percent never do.

Tossing Out Old Pillows “In five years, 10 percent of the weight of the pillow is dust mite and dust mite debris,” says Dr. Tierno. To fight the mites, he recommends a protective cover for your pillow in addition to using a pillowcase. The National Library of Medicine recommends purchasing allergen-impermeable pillow covers, or replacing your old pillows with synthetic, washable pillows and wash them in hot water weekly. So let’s hope the 15 percent of survey respondents who said they never throw away their pillows are making every effort to keep the mites away.

Cleaning Your Towels “The best thing to do with a towel is to let it air dry,” Dr. Tierno says, “because folding keeps in moisture.” As long as you air dry your towels, Dr. Tierno says they can be used two to three times, four max. So instead of dumping your towels in the washing machine based on the amount of time that’s passed, Dr. Tierno suggests tracking the number of uses. However, the two percent who admitted to changing their towels monthly or even less than once a month (one percent) should probably throw in an extra load.

Time to Toss it?

Cleaning the Trash Can Only 10 percent of us fall in line with the weekly trash-can cleaning Dr. Tierno recommends. The remaining 90 percent of us vary in our diligence in keeping a clean bin — seven percent clean their trash cans every other week, 34 percent do it once every few months, 18 percent do it monthly, 16 percent clean once a year and 15 percent never do. “If trash cans are soiled, they should be cleaned immediately. If not, once a week will work fine.” His can-cleaning prescription? Rinse with soap and water or a sanitizing agent, like bleach. Not doing so on a weekly basis raises the risk of “dealing with dead animals and even plants that can carry harmful diseases, like E. coli, andsalmonella,” says Dr. Tierno.

Taking out the Trash When it comes to garbage, there is no set timeline for how often you should ditch it, because of varying trash can sizes and contents. The goal here is to beat the stink. “Where there is smell and odors, there is bacterial build up,” says Dr. Tierno, so as soon as you smell something, “Get rid of it!” he advises. Another word of warning: If a trash bag rips, you risk contaminating the whole area of the kitchen. As for how our readers compare? No one admitted to leaving their trash lying around for more than one week. Thirty-four percent toss their garbage every other day. Second place is a tie with 26 percent taking it out daily and another 26 percent taking out twice a week and 14 percent take it out once a week.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Family Issues, Hygiene | 4 Comments