Since germs tend to get passed around among family members, front-line wellness strategies include frequent handwashing and sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve, as well as getting a flu shot.
But taking some time this week to do some post-party housecleaning is also a good way to get rid of germs — just be sure you know which cleaners work, and which ones could make things worse. Writer Lisa Bendall checked it out in the December issue of Best Health.
“We don’t need to sterilize our homes; we just need to keep them clean,” says Dr. Camille Lemieux, associate director of the University Health Network’s Infection Prevention and Control Unit in Toronto.
Indeed, Health Canada warns against using products in the home labelled ‘antibacterial’, ‘antimicrobial’ or ‘bacteria-fighting’, which typically contain benzalkonium chloride or triclosan, to kill common bacteria and viruses.
These chemicals may also wipe out the friendly bacteria we need to fight germs and stay healthy.
Plus, many health experts and agencies warn these products can lead to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
(However, products with antibacterial chemicals may be recommended in institutional settings such as hospitals, where traffic is high and the volume of germs on surfaces can be greater.)
So, what works best at home?
Plain water won’t suffice, but a cleaning product with a surfactant detergent will remove the germs we don’t want.
Products with hydrogen peroxide or bleach can kill or inactivate viruses.
Products labeled ‘disinfectant’ will also inactivate disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and don’t necessarily contain the antibacterial chemicals health experts recommend avoiding.
And good old vinegar and water (a 1:1 solution) may work, too.
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