We all want our homes to be clean and free of dust and germs. But should we be stocking up on bleach and strong disinfecting solutions? What do we need to do to keep our homes clean and safe for our children?
There is an important distinction between a cleaning agent and a disinfecting agent. Cleaning agents remove the germs from surfaces, but disinfectants actually destroy the germs. Most of the time, cleaning surfaces is enough. However, there are a few exceptions:
  • Disinfect counters after preparing raw meat and poultry
  • Disinfect all bathroom surfaces especially if someone has a stomach illness
  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs and telephones when someone in the house is sick
And, hand washing is a great way to limit the spread of germs throughout the house. Washing in warm soapy water for 20 seconds before eating, or after taking care of an ill family member is a great way to prevent the spread of germs. If water isn’t easily available, a hand sanitizer is a good alternative.

Can a house be too clean? There is an interesting theory called “The Hygiene Hypothesis” which says that in this modern world of vaccines and antibiotics, our environments are too free of germs. As a result, our immune systems are reacting to things it shouldn’t like foods and environmental allergens. This is a possible explanation for the recent rise in food allergies. Some researchers speculate that dirt is actually good for us because it keeps our bodies in better check. Therefore, let your kids play outside and get dirty!

A note about safety: I would be remiss in writing about cleaning products without reminding parents to keep all cleaning products in a locked cabinet or out of the reach of children. And if an accidental ingestion occurs, immediately call poison control at 800-222-1222.