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With flu season and kids in public schools or daycares, you’ve already seen the devastation that the flu can bring to your home. With coughs, fevers, body aches and chills just being the tip of the iceberg and some symptoms worsening for those that are immune-compromised, it’s only natural to want to find some sanitizing methods to stop the spread of flu symptoms, but did you know you could be doing it wrong?
It’s crazy to think that there are right ways and wrong ways to clean and sanitize your home- but there are.
Simply taking a cleaning wipe and rubbing a surface doesn’t come close to what you should be doing, and with these tips, you can get your home cleaner without hiring some expensive sanitization crew or hazmat team to do it for you.
So keep reading for some incredibly frugal (and free) sanitization methods that are perfect for killing those flu viruses in their tracks as well as the pros/cons and does/don’ts of your available options. By the end of this article, you’ll be a sanitation expert (or at the very least, have a very clean home).
Why You Should Try to Stop the Spread of Germs in Your Home
If you’re like most Americans then you don’t have the best health care, and will often forgo a trip to the doctors because it means missing work (and money) to then pay money (like a copay) just to be told what you already know- that you’re sick.
So instead, we muddle through it as best as we can with a clean handkerchief, vampire coughs and sneezes, and drinking shots of Dayquil as needed.
Missing work means missing money, and landlords and bill collectors won’t stop just because you feel under the weather.
Unfortunately, when you go to work sick, you pass germs on to others, who then pass it on and so on. What might be a simple cough or congestion for you can be a life-threatening ailment for someone else.
The same goes for kids, if you or they get sick, it then passes and spreads. My mother calls a school a petri dish of walking germs. Which, let’s be honest- it kind of is.
Kids are gross by nature, and it’s our job to help them to stop spreading germs around but the best way to get them and us to stop spreading germs outside of the home is to first take care of the ones inside it.
Helpful articles for when the income is low due to missing work, bills are high and you still have to put food on the table:
- How to stretch food stamps to the end of the month
- How to pay off debt when you’re behind on bills
- How to eat when you have no money for food
- Poor man dinner ideas
- How to cheaply sneak nutrition into the picky kid diets
The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting Methods
Cleaning is simply removing the dirt and debris from things through a simple wash. Think of it like cleaning your clothes or self- you’re removing dirt and stains.
For a room, this would be a simple pick up objects, place them away, and give a light dusting and scrub. Nothing major, but the place still looks nice.
Sanitizing goes beyond a simple clean and breaks down and kills bacteria on the surface. This can kill the common germs, bacteria and low grade flu viruses like the common flu, but not something stronger like the norovirus (unless otherwise stated on labels).
Disinfecting is like sanitizing, but an even stronger method of killing the disease-carrying microorganisms and bacteria. Things like Saph, Rhinovirus and other scary named viruses and diseases.
In a majority of instances, you’ll want to use the sanitization method of cleaning in your own home rather than disinfecting as it will be sufficient enough to kill the basic flu bacteria.
Disinfecting is mainly reserved for high-touch surfaces in healthcare or hospital settings and too much within your own home can actually be bad for you.
Okay, so now that we’ve covered the differences, let’s look at some incredibly cheap cleaning and sanitizing products that can get most of the jobs done.
Cheap Cleaning and Sanitizing Supplies You Can Use
If you’ve never used one, you could be missing out. If you have used a magic eraser, I’m almost positive that it was to clean up a crayon drawing on the wall when your little Picasso decided to make pretty art. They work wonderfully, for that and so many other things, but unfortunately, the name brand comes at a high cost.
Several years ago I found melamine foam on Amazon and I haven’t looked back. Where in stores I can get 2 pack of magic erasers for under $3 at Walmart, on Amazon I can buy 100 pieces of melamine foam for under $10. (A majority of the time I can even find them under $5. I often watch prices to snag the best deal).
While the quality is often unpredictable and some pieces fall apart during a single use, it’s still great for the money and if you’re a parent having melamine foam in with your cleaning supplies is always a good thing.
Vinegar is one of those frugal cleaning products that you probably already have on hand. It’s great for descaling your coffee pot and removing built up soap scum on shower heads but it can also be used as a DIY sanitizer for some surfaces. Not only that, but it’s also non-toxic making it kid friendly for sanitizing your child’s toys.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to using vinegar as a sanitizing cleaning agent which most importantly include that it isn’t the best sanitizer.
The EPA doesn’t recognize vinegar as a sanitizer because it doesn’t do good enough of a job at removing bacteria from surfaces. Some studies state that it can leave behind 20% of germs known to cause illness.
While it will kill the common flu viruses, it will not kill the stronger bacteria such as MRSA, STAPH, or Rhinovirus. So continue to use it for the simple cleanings, but if you suspect a stronger germ within your home, grab something a little more potent.
Dollar Tree Products
I absolutely love and swear by some Dollar Tree products including their LA Awesome Spray which cleans just about everything inside of my house. It doesn’t sanitize, but it is strong enough to cut stove grease and pen ink off of the walls! Just make sure that you follow the instructions on the back and dilute it as stated. Many people gloss over this step (including myself) before using.
Just because it costs a dollar, doesn’t make it any less powerful. After a round of the stomach bg enters the house, I spend about 3 days using the disinfecting spray on every surface that people have touched to stop the spread of germs. I usually go through in the morning or at night so that I can get the entire house done in a few minutes rather than going back and forth all day.
This is an antiseptic that has been used for almost a century, it’s so strong and good at what it does and the best part is that you can find large bottles for under $1.
Unfortunately to properly disinfect surfaces with hydrogen peroxide you’ll need to give it a good 10 minutes to evaporate from surfaces to fully kill germs and do its job. Thankfully, it’s a nontoxic choice so if your kids (or yourself) touch the surface while it’s wet, there’s no harm to you or them.
Okay, this one is pretty important to me. As a cloth momma (meaning that I used cloth diapers for m son) I learned a lot about cleaning things with bleach. The first thing that I learned was that it has an expiration date!
Bleach has a shelf life of 1 year from the date that it was bottled, and many stores sell brand new jugs of bleach that are already expired. They don’t know any better, but hopefully this information can help you to spot it before you pay for it!
Unlike foods with a best by date, bleach has doesn’t have a specific “best by” or “expires” date on it. You’ll have to look at a code, look at a calendar and possibly break out a calculator.
On the side of your bottle of Clorox (or another brand of bleach), you’ll find a code of numbers and letters. It might start with a letter/number combo, ignore this as that’s just the manufacturing plant where it was made.
- After that you’ll have a 2 digit number most likely 18, 19, or 20 depending on how old your bleach is. This is the last two digits of the current (or past) year.
- After that is a 3 digit number for example 310. This signifies the 310th day of the year that those 2 digits were for.
So if your bleach states 19 310 then it was made on November 6th, 2019. You then have to realize if that is within 1 year from the date you’re looking at it or not.
If you’re within a year, you’re good, if it’s been over a year, move on to another bottle and find something more recent.
Other important things to note about disinfecting with bleach
It must list Sodium Hypochlorite as an active ingredient in order to have any chance at killing these flu viruses. Unfortunately, this removes bleaches like the Clorox splashless and cleaning bleach varieties. So check the labels carefully!
This is a great article for learning about the proper bleach to water ratios and usage.
How to Properly Use Disinfecting Wipes
Chances are high that you have them now or have purchased Clorox or another brand of disinfecting wipes. Unfortunately, you could be using them wrong (most people do).
If you read the back of the labels they often state that in order to effectively kill germs and flu viruses, you have to keep the surface wet and for 4-10 minutes. Depending on the brands this can change.
So to use them properly, make sure that you follow the application instructions and don’t simply wipe things for the sake of wiping them. You should have an already clean surface, and keep them visibly wet with wipes for however long is stated. Plus you need to make sure that you only use the wipes once so that you aren’t just spreading germs from one place to another.
Another thing to note is that if you use these wipes on food surfaces, you should come back through with soap and water after the sanitization method is complete so that the area can be food safe.
Rubbing alcohol is very frugal to purchase and most often found near the peroxide in stores in the medical supply area. Rubbing alcohol is a great sanitizer because it can work in about 30 seconds.
Just make sure that you use alcohol with a concentration of 60% or more. Note: Alcohol is the primary ingredient in hand sanitizer so this 60% rule should work there too.
The germ killing happens while the alcohol is evaporating, not on contact, so make sure you allow the areas you applied alcohol to air dry completely. But don’t worry as this doesn’t take long.
The Most Frugal Sanitizing Method of All
Not every surface in your home can be cleaned with wipes or sprays. Things like couch cushions, stuffed animals and pillows require a little extra love and attention, but thankfully there is an incredibly frugal source you can use for sanitizing these items. The Sun!
That’s right! The sun has natural sanitizing properties and is possibly one of the best disinfectants that we know of. Poorer countries use sunlight to help sanitize water to make it safe to drink and you can use the sun’s ultraviolet rays to help get your home clean and refreshed.
To use the sunlight, simply place your items outside in direct sunlight for a few hours. I recommend laying stuffed animals and pillows on clean blankets so that they don’t have direct contact with the dirt beneath them. This works as a great way to disinfect toys and freshen them up from the lingering odors.
The only two downsides to using the sun as a natural disinfectant are that it can only sanitize what the sunlight touches, so all of those nooks and crannies or dark shadow spots are still problem areas. The other issue is that you’ll still have to spot clean any grime or food stains on the toys.
To read more about sanitizing things using the power of the sun check out this article from the Sunlight Institute.
For more information about cleaning products and sanitizing methods as well as how to spot the approved products on store shelves and how to use them, you can read this incredibly detailed PDF written by the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging.
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