10 Things You Need to Clean After the Flu
The flu virus can last on surfaces far longer than you might expect—here’s what you need to disinfect to prevent sickness from spreading.
The influenza virus can live on hard surfaces for 24 hours. Every person who touches the clicker will be at risk of infection (you might even be able to get sick again yourself). Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the remote control for your TV or streaming box so you can kill the virus and prevent others from picking it up if they watch television with you. Avoid these 14 things you shouldn’t do when you have the flu.
Your smartphone is a bacteria hazard on a typical day. When you’re sick, however, it’s nearly toxic. Indeed, research shows phones can carry many types of pathogens and bacteria that could possibly make you ill. If you handle your phone regularly while you’re sick with the flu, you could be leaving behind microscopic cells that you could pick back and share with others later. Wipe your phone with a disinfecting wipe daily. If someone in your family is sick, don’t let them use—or touch—your phone. These are 7 times you think you have the flu—but don’t.
Sheets and pillowcases
Odds are that—if you or your child has been sick with the flu—your pillowcases and sheets are contaminated. The flu virus doesn’t live on soft surfaces as long as it can on hard surfaces, but it will linger. When the sick person has finally rounded the corner and is feeling well, it’s time to strip the bed and wash the sheets on the hottest setting possible (at least 140°F). If your pillows are washable, they should also go through a cycle. If your pillows can’t be washed, set them aside for a few days to let any lingering virus die off before putting them back on the bed. Here are 10 reasons to take the flu more seriously.
A flu-induced fever can leave you chilled and shaking, and it’s not unusual to have a collection of blankets you use to wrap up and keep warm while you’re coping with the symptoms of the flu. Those blankets, however, need a bath once you’re better. Again, experts recommend you wash the blankets in the hottest cycle the blankets can tolerate. A hot dryer cycle will also help kill any flu germs that remain. Another option: Put the blankets in a bag and leave them for at least 24 to 48 hours (longer is better) to let the virus die. Check out why a fever makes you feel cold.
Yep, your toothbrush is now harboring the flu virus. Like other hard surfaces, the flu virus can live on a toothbrush (the bristles or the handle) for 24 hours. Although you now have immunity to the virus that made you sick, you could still act as an unwitting carrier and deliver that virus to someone else. If your brush comes with a UV light box for disinfecting, use it to kill the virus quickly. You can also put the toothbrush in an antiseptic mouthwash and leave it for several minutes. Or you can just buy a new one: Toothbrushes should be replaced about every three months, according to the American Dental Association, and you may be overdue for a new one. Learn about the differences between a cold and the flu.
While you’re in the bathroom, take a look around: The flu can make a biohazard site out of your bathroom. Used tissues, saliva on the sink, and infected hands wiping the virus on faucet and toilet handles. Take a minute to wipe everything down and dispose of any tissues yourself that may have missed the wastebasket.
Ethyl alcohol (at least 70 percent) is very effective against influenza, research shows. It kills a wide variety of bacteria and viruses. Diluted bleach is also a good cleaner. Spray your cleanser on surfaces and wipe them dry with a cloth. The chemicals will kill lingering pathogens within an hour.
Mr. Cuddles may have comforted your child while she felt ill, but the animal is now a vector for the virus. If stuffed animals can be washed and dried on hot settings, give them a bath. If they can’t handle a wash cycle, the animals can “hibernate” for a few days—that will be enough time for the germs to die off. Beware of the 13 household items that can raise your risk of getting the flu.
Everybody makes a trip through the kitchen, which makes it Ground Zero for passing around the flu. Wipe down all surfaces—especially handles and doors—to kill any lingering viruses. Dishcloths need to be run through the hot cycle on your washing machine; consider replacing dish sponges. It’s also a good idea to quickly wipe down any food containers in cupboards that the ill person may have handled. Then check out these 10 natural flu remedies that will help you feel better faster.
Your hands, one more time
The most effective way to get sick is to touch an infected surface and then rub your eyes, scratch your nose, or wipe your mouth. Your hands can pick up the flu virus anywhere; when you touch your face, it’s the same as putting down a welcome mat for illness. Whether you’re caring for an ill loved one or recovering from being ill, keep washing your hands with warm water and soap—and skip the antibacterial type. Just make sure you aren’t making one of these 10 hand-washing mistakes.