6 Spots You Can Clean at Home to Prevent Winter Sniffles

Alexandra Frost
Written by Alexandra Frost
Updated September 8, 2021
Close-up of a woman cleaning a door knob
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While we can't really control getting sick, we can lessen our chances through some specific cleaning strategies in our home

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While your home feels safe and comfortable, it can also be one of the most significant sources of germs. Pets are common carriers of a variety of pathogens, and kids, who are more likely to pick their noses and touch their eyes, can increase the number of germs around your house, according to Scientific American. Even if you don’t have pets or kids, your home can be a source of illness, and sometimes home allergens can be the cause. To make sure you are staying as healthy as possible this winter, consider cleaning these spaces.

#1 High-Touch Surfaces

If you do a walk-through of the path you usually take through your house when you get home, noting everything you touch, you will discover your “high-touch” surfaces. These are simply places you often touch, potentially spreading germs on your hand from your last handshake at the end of the last meeting from the last time you sneezed. You can clean and disinfect these common high-touch surfaces:

  • Doorknobs

  • Light switches

  • Kitchen counters and islands

  • Frequently used tables

  • Handles and knobs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that cleaning these surfaces with a household cleaner containing soap or detergent greatly reduces the risk of infection. They also clarify that you often don’t need to disinfect, just clean, to remove most virus particles.

#2 Secretly Germy Car Surfaces

A man cleaning his car’s steering wheel
gilaxia/E+ via Getty Images

Just like the walk-through of your home, it’s important to remember the surfaces in your car. Clean and disinfect your door handles, steering wheel, radio knobs, cup holders, and even the lights in your car that you may have never cleaned before. If you still have a traditional key you can clean, consider how many times you touch that per day, and remember that you can even clean your keys in the dishwasher to thoroughly sanitize them (use a mesh bag or container).

#3 Clean or Change Your Air Filter

Yes, it’s one of the most annoying jobs around the house, mainly because every time you are in a hardware store, you can’t remember which size filter you have. To prevent this, make a note next time you are near your filter, and keep the information on your phone. Clean or change your air filter at the end of each season, according to WebMD, to prevent allergies and asthma, which could be causing your winter sniffles. Cleaning an air filter may not be enough, as there can be other allergy-causing build-ups in your ductwork. Consider a professional air duct cleaning to diagnose and remedy this problem, though you can take care of smaller tasks by reaching into air conditioning ducts and thoroughly cleaning vents. If you continue to have issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends adding additional air filtration systems to the home. 

#4 Heat up Your Laundry Routine

A young man doing laundry at home
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If you have been using a generic or basic cleaning cycle on your washing machine, it’s possible that you have dust mites on your laundry. Instead, opt for a high-temperature cycle that will kill dust mites and ensure your sheets, pillowcases, and clothes are allergen-free. Applying higher heat can be a good strategy for illness prevention around the house, including higher heat cycles in your dishwasher to make sure silverware and dishes are disinfected.

#5 Sponges, Rags, and Mops

While these tools are supposed to help you clean, they can get dirty and harbor pathogens. For example, a wet mop that never completely dries can create mold or mildew, which is not healthy to breathe. Disinfect sponges and mops in diluted household bleach for 5 minutes per week to prevent germs and mold, according to University of Michigan Health. Instead of pouring mop water in the kitchen sink, empty it into a toilet or down a drain to prevent contamination. Finally, don’t clean rags and sponges in the kitchen sink either. Instead, clean rags on a high heat cycle in the washer and clean sponges by microwaving them for one minute on high when wet. 

#6 Pay Special Attention to the Bathroom

Especially after someone has been sick in the home, create a plan to clean your contaminated bathroom. Take special care to disinfect the entire toilet area, sinks, handles, shower and bath, and floor. This will prevent illnesses from passing to other family members through germs lurking in the bathroom. There are even special cleaning tricks for taking care of hard-to-reach places, such as grout.

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