Spring cleaning of one’s home is a tradition dating back centuries that is tied to the vernal equinox – the first day of spring.   At the spring equinox, days are approximately 12 hours long with day length increasing as the season progresses. In many cultures this longer, lighter, warmer day is often a cause for celebration! And who could even think about celebrating a longer, lovelier day without a clean home?

The kitchen is a great place to start! You can protect yourself by preventing the spread of germs where food is prepared. However, the terms clean, sanitize and disinfect are often used interchangeably which can cause confusion. Best practices based upon current research state that cleaning and sanitizing is multi-step process. And even though surfaces look visibly clean, they may still be contaminated with microorganisms (infectious fungi, bacteria and viruses).

Cleaning is the removal of dirt from food preparation surfaces. These can be counters, cutting boards, dishes knives, utensils pots and pans – even your refrigerator.

  1. Wash surface with soap and warm water
  2. Rinse with clean water
  3. Air dry or dry with a clean disposable towel

Sanitizing reduces germs on inanimate – nonliving surfaces.

  1. Wash surface with soap and warm water using appropriate cleaning agents and equipment. Detergents can penetrate soil quickly whereas solvent, acid or abrasive cleaners may be needed for deep cleaning. The friction of cleaning — often with soap and water — removes most surface germs, which is adequate for most household surfaces.
  2. Rinse with clean water
  3. Air dry or dry with a clean disposable towel

Disinfecting destroys or inactivates most germs on inanimate surfaces.

  1. Wash surface with soap and warm water
  2. Rinse with clean water
  3. Disinfecting is not appropriate in all cases. However, it’s a good idea to get in the routine of disinfecting countertops, door and cabinet handles, and sink and sink faucets as these places are used frequently- think where dirt and guck can collect!
  4. Air dry or dry with a clean disposable towel

Also remember to disinfect dishcloths – often. Launder dishcloths frequently using the hot water cycle of the washing machine. Be sure to dry cloths thoroughly. These items can harbor bacteria and when wet, promote bacterial growth. Also, consider using disposable towels to clean up surfaces.

And don’t forget your kitchen sink drain and disposal. Once or twice a week clean, sanitize and disinfect.

Bathroom surfaces can be of critical concern. Surfaces closest to the toilet bowl – seat, cistern and nearby walls and shelving are most affected. When cleaning and disinfecting bathroom surfaces it is important to understand fecal matter is especially a huge matter of concern!

Then there are our general housekeeping surfaces, floors, walls, and furniture, which are low–touch surfaces that require low-level of disinfections. Cleaning these surfaces frequently with a bit of detergent or a low-level disinfectant designed for general housekeeping can decrease the level of contamination. General procedures should be followed. Remove dirt form surfaces (dust, vacuum or sweep) sanitize or disinfect, allow surfaces to air dry.

Thorough cleaning of all surfaces is important to reduce the spread of pathogens. High-touch surfaces, surfaces that are handled frequently, throughout the day, by numerous people, need cleaning and disinfecting. These surfaces can include doorknobs, light switches, phones, keyboards etc. that can become contaminated by objects such an inadequately cleaned rag, sponges or even improperly washed hands.

Cleaning regularly prevents the build-up of materials that can carry pathogens and support their growth. Some pathogens, viruses especially, can have a long shelf life and can stay on surfaces if they are not properly cleaned, sanitized or disinfected.

Take a look at The University of Florida IFAS EDIS publication explaining the use of common household products to use effectively as sanitizers. Also remember, it is critical to read and follow the safety instructions on any product you use.

Heidi Copeland Extension Agent II Family and Consumer Sciences

615 Paul Russell Road Tallahassee, FL 32301-7060 850/606-5203

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