Health

Next to Godliness

Yes, we know you like to keep your house clean(ish). But kids with muddy shoes, dogs with muddy paws, and life’s general wear and tear mean that it’s hard to keep on top of it. But even if your loo gleams or your floor looks as though you could eat your dinner off it, is it really as squeaky clean as it could be? We asked local experts for their views. We hope you’re not easily shocked.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is a place you need to keep spick and span for reasons of hygiene – especially if you regularly prepare meat and fish.

Floors

Be honest, how often do you clean your floors? Once a day? Once a month? You need to make sure you mop them at least once a week. Use warm or cold water rather than boiling to make sure the antibac agent in your cleaning product is still effective.

Bins

Just think of all the fluid that gathers at the bottom of your bin – ugh! It’s not just at the bottom, either, but round the rim too, which means it’s very easy to transfer bacteria to your hands. Clean thoroughly with antibacterial cleaner every week, inside and out.

Tea towles/cloths

These are a breeding ground for bacteria, which will then transfer to your dishes. Change them every day. Cloths you use to wipe the surfaces are even worse; kitchen sinks are filthy, and you can spread harmful germs round the kitchen if you leave the cloths hanging around. Change them every day and wash at a high temperature.

Sponges

Bacteria thrive on heat and moisture, so sponges are the perfect breeding ground. Disinfect and leave it to dry after every use to kill the bacteria, and replace them once a week minimum.

In the Bathroom

Bathrooms aren’t the cleanest places in the world. But as long as you don’t clean your loo with your toothbrush you should be OK, right?

Towels

Diane Gisbourne, who runs the Quality Ironing and Dry Cleaning Service covering Berkhamsted, Tring and Hemel Hempstead, says: ‘Remember, towels don’t just remove water. When you dry yourself they also remove dead skin cells which collect in the towel fibres. When they’re wet they’re the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and germs.

‘Towels need time to dry to prevent bacteria breeding, which causes mould and mildew, so make sure you hang them up after every use, and wash them after every five uses.’

Loo

The loo needs a thorough clean once a week, and a wipe with bleach and antibacterial spray every couple of days. The brush will need cleaning regularly too – pour bleach into your toilet bowl and stand it in there for an hour.

In the Living Room

Vacuuming round the sofa and wafting a duster round might make it look clean, but there could be germs lurking in surprising places.

Sofas and carpets

There’s no hard and fast rule about how often sofas and carpets should be cleaned, but the more the better to keep nasties and bacteria at bay.

‘I often hear myself saying “if it wasn’t for children and pets I wouldn’t have a business,”’ says David Green, who runs Berkhamsted Carpet Cleaning. ‘Most of my regular customers have carpets and sofas cleaned every 12 to 24 months depending whether or not they have children.’

And it’s not just about the germs. ‘Carpet pile that contains a lot of dirt and grit will get damaged by the constant grinding at the fibres when it’s walked on,’ David adds. ‘A hot-water deep extraction clean will wash out anything not reached by the vacuum cleaner. It’s also a good idea to have a shoes-off policy.

‘With wool and cotton... it’s a good idea to apply an effective stain protection such as Scotchguard.’

Curtains

Curtains attract dust and smells. You can wash them at home but it’s best to get them cleaned professionally every six months to keep them clean and fresh.

In the Bedroom

Sheets

You might not want to think about it, but your bed sheets will be full of sweat, bacteria and human skin cells – a perfect breeding ground for dust mites and their faeces. Ugh.

Change them once a week, minimum, and wash at 60°C. When you get up in the morning, pull your covers back and give the mattress time to air, and open the window to release moisture.

Duvets and pillows

Pillows and duvets are full of dust mites, skin cells and bacteria, however clean they look. ‘Duvets and pillows should be washed at least every two to three months,’ says Diane Gisbourne. ‘If your pillows aren’t regularly cleaned almost a third of their weight can be in dust mites, dead skin cells and bug droppings – yuck!

‘Air them regularly and have them professionally cleaned every few months. They can be washed in a washing machine but remember they’re much heavier when wet.

‘Drying duvets and pillows in the sunlight will kill micro-organisms. In the winter, run a warm iron over them, which helps kill off any remaining bacteria once they’re dry.’

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