All year round, we’ve been doing as much as we can to keep viruses and bacteria from making their way into our homes from the outside world. But, when germs do hitch a ride on a family member and it makes them sick, our precious child or our loving spouse becomes public enemy number one.
Quarantine, disinfecting every possible surface they touch, fogging the house with disinfectant spray whenever they breathe -- we’re all guilty of drowning our living spaces in cleaners in paranoia of catching the bug ourselves.
Inevitably, it seems our valiant efforts always fall flat, and the creeping crud makes its rounds to all.
What else can we do to prevent everyone in the home from catching what is brought in by one person?
According to the CDC, there are a few things you can do to be proactive about fighting germs once they enter your home:
- Avoid close contact. When someone at home is sick, try to quarantine that person as best as possible. Kids who are sick can have a special room where they rest away from siblings, and if you have a guest room, now is the time to use it for something other than storage.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene. If you’re sick, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you sneeze and/or cough.
- Wash your hands. Possibly the most important way to help slow the spread of germs is with good hand washing technique. If soap and water aren’t available, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with a concentration of at least 60% isopropyl alcohol to clean your hands of those eager-to-spread germs.
- Avoid touching your face as much as possible. Touching your face spreads germs from your hands to your mouth and nose. While it’s not the most ideal situation to not be able to touch your own face in your own house, this is the main way those bugs find their way into your body to make you sick, so hold out on that urge to scratch your nose until you can clean your hands with soap/water or sanitizer.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces in your home often, especially high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, refrigerator handles, thermostats, cupboard handles, and small appliances like the coffee maker or microwave.
While these best practices will help, the ultimate goal is for no one to get sick in the first place.
Let’s take a look at what causes us to become sick, and how we can try to mitigate our vulnerability.
What Causes Us to Become Ill?
Despite what our grandmothers have told us, getting caught in the rain or catching a chill is not what makes us sick -- sorry, Granny.
We become sick when we are exposed to germs that cause infections:
- Viral Infections. Viral infections are spread through viruses. Classic examples of viruses are the flu, the common cold, and COVID-19. Unlike bacteria, viruses are a touch more resilient and don’t respond to antibiotics -- these are the “wait it out” types of illnesses where the best thing you can do to recover is get some rest and stay hydrated.
- Bacterial Infections. Bacterial infections are spread through harmful bacteria. Examples of bacterial infections are strep throat, food poisoning like E. coli and salmonella, and staph infections. Antibiotics like amoxicillin and azithromycin can usually completely get rid of these infections in one to two weeks, with symptoms clearing up as quickly as just a few days.
Infections caused by both bacteria and viruses spread much in the same way, too, such as coming into close contact and sharing food and drinks with whoever’s sick.
If you want to make sure your home is as infection-proof as possible, we’ve got some tips to keep you safe and help you rid your home of those stubborn germs.
What Must the Temperature Be to Kill Bacteria In Your Home?
If you’re wondering how you can do a mass “freeze out” or “burn out” to try and target all the bacteria in your home... you can’t. Aside from setting your house on fire, it’s a no-go.
In order for bacteria to be killed by heat, your air temperature would need to be at least 140 degrees. If you’re thinking maybe you can instead freeze the bacteria away, that’s also a dead end. Even though freezing temperatures will cause bacterial growth to slow and essentially hibernate, the bacteria becomes active again when the temperature rises.
On this note, most bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses can actually be killed by cooking food up to temperature. A reliable food thermometer and this chart can help you safely prepare food, especially meats.
While you can’t mass-sanitize, there are some temperature-related ways to sanitize certain items in your home:
- Dishwasher. Your dishwasher gets hot enough to properly sterilize your dishes, making sure they are clean and safe for use even when the last person to use them was sick.
- Washing machine. If your washing machine has a “hot” option, you can hot-wash your sick clothes to kill off any leftover bacteria or viruses waiting for the afterparty.
- Dryer. Your dryer temperature usually ranges between 135 and 150 degrees, which is effective in killing most germs. Following that hot-wash with a tumble dry high will make those pajamas germ-free by your next Zoom meeting.
Aside from using temperature to kill bacteria in your home, there are other methods you can use to help slow the spread of illness and keep your family safe.
What Other Options Are There for Killing Bacteria?
- Disinfectant cleaner. Disinfectant cleaner works by killing bacteria on contact with the use of chemicals, like bleach. Disinfectant cleaner should never be used on the skin, which is why most disinfectant cleaners advise you to wear gloves before handling the product. Normally, you’ll only use disinfectant on non-porous surfaces -- they tend to be too harsh for porous materials like fabrics.
- Disinfectant spray. Save the slightly more forgiving disinfectant sprays to clean and sanitize porous items like pillows, furniture, carpets, and stuffed animals. Normally, aerosol sprays don’t hang out in the air long enough to effectively remove floating germs anyway.
- Hand sanitizer. When fighting off illness, proper hand washing reigns supreme. However, in between washes or when you don’t have access to soap and water, both the CDC and the WHO recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep hands germ free.
How Does Hand Sanitizer Help?
Hand sanitizer is effective in killing 99.9% of germs, bacteria, viruses and spores. Along with other good hygiene practices like mask wearing and social distancing, using hand sanitizer can help keep you safe during cold and flu season.
Hand sanitizer is convenient. Sometimes you just aren’t around soap and water, whether you’re in between taking the kids to practice, running to the store to grab something for dinner, changing equipment at the gym, or changing classes at school, sometimes you need to keep your hands clean and you just can’t get to a sink. Hand sanitizer to the rescue!
Hand sanitizer is safe. Hand sanitizer is safe provided you know what ingredients are in the formula you’re using. We only use a handful of safe ingredients in our own sanitizer (pun intended), and you’ll never find artificial junk or toxic methanol in any of the formulas on the Sanitizer.com marketplace, either.
Easy to use. Using hand sanitizer effectively is as simple as a couple of sprays and rubbing your hands together -- you want your hands saturated but not dripping. Simple enough, right?
Multi-purpose. Some hand sanitizers (like ours) are even approved for use on non-porous surfaces. This means you can sanitize your mobile devices, car keys, door knobs, and whatever other high-touch surface is part of your day to day.
Wrapping It Up
Unfortunately, attempting to do a mass-sweep of bacteria in your home by means of extreme temperatures isn’t an option. While you can definitely use temperature to kill bacteria on clothing and dishes by using your home appliances, the air temperature in your home would have to reach a fiery 140 degrees to be hot enough to kill bacteria -- not quite the cozy heat we’re looking for.
Thankfully, you can still fight the spread of germs by practicing good hygiene and taking advantage of disinfectants and sanitizers to clean high-traffic areas of your home, whether someone is sick or not.
We hope this short guide will help you stay well during this coming winter, and that we’ve convinced you of some better ways to kill the bacteria in your home without having to set your house on fire.