Spring Cleaning – Sanitizing Versus Washing

person cleaning counterWhen you are doing your cleaning do you ever wonder if you are getting something truly clean or just wiping the dirt off the surface? I think about it a lot because I often rush through the cleaning just to make the house look nice before someone comes over. For the second week of spring cleaning, I would like to bring back a blog topic I wrote in 2011 called “How Clean is it?  Sanitizing vs. Washing”.

As I mentioned before, often when I am cleaning I am motivated by having a nice looking house. What I should really be motivated by is having a home that has a safe level of germs. Having no germs in the house would make it sterile, and that is not a possibility, so I need to aim for a safe level of germs. The best way to do that is to wash and sanitize.

Washing is done best with hot soapy water. This removes all the visible dirt, food, hair, and other disgusting things around my home. When spring cleaning, most things can be washed – counters, cupboards, walls, floors, door knobs, light switches, railings, showers, and toilets. The bonus of washing is that when the surface grime is washed away, so are some of the germs.

Unfortunately, washing does not get rid of enough of the germs, so the next step is sanitizing. What you sanitize and how often you sanitize depends on your situation – check out this handout for suggestions. I usually sanitize high use surfaces (countertops, toilets) a couple of times a week, some surfaces (light switches, door knobs) monthly, and other surfaces (cupboards, walls) a couple of times a year. You can sanitize daily if you need to.

I sanitize two different ways. After the surface that I have washed has dried, I will either spray it with a bleach solution or wipe it off with disinfecting wipes. Then let the surface air dry or dry with a paper towel before using it. Both ways will get the amount of germs down to a safe level. Fewer germs leads to less sickness and less sickness leads to lower doctor bills.

To make your own bleach solution add ½ teaspoon regular bleach (or 1/8 teaspoon concentrated bleach) and 2 cups of water to a spray bottle.  Bleach solutions need to be dumped out and re-made about once per week.

Have fun with your spring cleaning,


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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5 Steps for Safe Produce

washing lettuceIowa and 15 other states have had an outbreak of cyclospora the past month. In Iowa and Nebraska the cases were linked to restaurant salads.

Does this mean you shouldn’t eat fresh produce and salads because there is a chance you might get sick? No, but you do need to take some precautions to avoid foodborne illness:

  1. Wash your hands and the produce before you eat it. Even fruits like oranges, bananas, and melons, which have thick peels that will not be eaten, need to be washed.
  2. Wash produce under running water and drain it rather than washing it in a container of water. Dr. Cathy Strohbehn, from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, says, “Give it a shower rather than a bath.”  This increases the likelihood of washing away potential contaminants.
  3. Wash all food contact surfaces like cutting boards, colanders, or countertops to make sure they are clean and sanitary so that contaminants won’t be introduced to the produce.
  4. Check the label of packaged produce.  If it says ‘ready to eat’ you don’t’ have to wash it again, according to Dr. Strohbehn. Rewashing washed product labeled as ‘ready to eat’ may pose more risks due to the possibility of recontamination.
  5. Look for good quality produce — no mold, bruises, or shriveling.

Pointers from

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