Your home should be your safe place — a place of refuge. But all too often, homes make their inhabitants ill. In most cases, the illnesses is little more than a cough or a sore throat. But the consequences of a dirty house can be far more serious.
Keeping your home clean and sanitary doesn’t have to be a complicated, time-consuming affair. As long as you know what to look out for, you should be able to keep on top of the situation. Here are 10 common ways a dirty house can pose a risk to human health.
1. Mouldy fridge seals
When was the last time you checked your refrigerator door seal for mould? These sales are notorious for being covered in mould, which means they should be on your weekly cleaning checklist. And once every two or three years, you should think about replacing your fridge seals altogether.
Once mould spores are present, they can spread to other areas of the fridge. They can also be released into the kitchen, causing respiratory problems for anyone with pre-existing conditions.
2. Dirty welcome mats
It’s always a good idea to have a welcome mat at all of your home’s main entrances. They keep a lot of dirt, stones and bacteria out of the home. This not only makes your home cleaner, it protects your flooring from premature damage. But there’s a downside.
A recent study revealed that around 96 percent of shoes contain the bacteria coliform. This particular bug comes from the faeces of animals, and it can cause some very serious health conditions. While you don’t need to clean your welcome mats regularly, it might be a good idea to spray them with an antibacterial solution once a week.
3. Dirty kitchen taps
Most people now know that cleaning worktops in the kitchen regularly is essential. And most of us are aware of the basics of food storage. But there are several ways cross-contamination can lead to serious cases of food poisoning in the home.
While it’s great that you wash your hands regularly in the kitchen, this in itself can cause another hygiene problem.
Imagine you’ve just handled a raw chicken that is covered in campylobacter (a food poisoning bug that is present on around half of supermarket chickens). Quite rightly, you wash your hands immediately afterwards. But to do so, you have to turn on the tap. As a result, the tap is covered in the dangerous bacteria. And when someone else uses the tap, they get that bacteria on their hands.
Right at the end of each day, quickly sanitise your taps with antibacterial wipes. It’s also a good idea to do this after handling high-risk foods such as raw meat and eggs.
4. Dirty fans
A ceiling fan is a great way to get moving in your home. Good ventilation is good for people with respiratory problems, and it keeps the worst of household mould at bay. However, unless you’re cleaning fans regularly, they can do more harm than good.
Every time you turn on a dirty fan, dust is sent flying everywhere. This can be disastrous for people with conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. To keep you and your family safe (and reduce your dusting commitments) clean your fans regularly. Use the long attachment on your vacuum cleaner to reach up safely. This will also ensure dust isn’t released into the air when it’s disturbed.
5. Dusty carpets
It’s important to have the best vacuum cleaner for carpets in your home. Even if your carpets look great, dust could be lurking deep within the pile. Every time you walk across a dusty carpet, you send millions of dust particles into the air. It’s therefore essential that you do all you can to remove them.
A powerful, cyclonic vacuum cleaner with a bagless dust cylinder is essential for anyone living with carpets. And for the very best results, buy one with a motorised brushroll. Also, make sure your vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filter — or something similar.
6. A dirty mattress
The average mattress harbours a range of hidden nasties, many of which can cause health problems. As well as hair, sweat and dirt, mattresses are home to millions of tiny bugs. Not only that, bug carcasses and droppings can add to the horror. Once a month, vacuum your mattress thoroughly with the most appropriate accessory for the job. It’s also a good idea to spray the mattress with a fine mist of rubbing alcohol. This will kill any odour-causing bacteria that remains.
7. Hidden mould
A combination of humidity and a lack of ventilation can lead to hidden patches of mould forming in your home. It can form anywhere, in any type of property — so you need to remain vigilant. The longer mould is left to accumulate, the faster it grows. Before you know it, the air quality in your home will be exacerbating health conditions.
Make sure you pull out furniture to check for mould regularly. If you have a persistent problem in a particular area of your home, it might be a good idea to increase ventilation in the area. And if that fails, a dehumidifier may be necessary.
8. Excessive cleaning products
It’s great that you have the cleaning products you need to keep your home in tip-top condition. But if you use too many of them too often, you might create a serious problem for people with skin and respiratory ailments. There’s even evidence that the ingredients in certain cleaning products can irritate the kidneys, the liver and the immune system.
There are several ways you can reduce your reliance on chemical cleaning agents. One of the most effective is making your own cleaning products with everyday substances such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and your favourite essential oils. You can also use steam to both clean and sanitise, which may mean you can get rid of the vast majority of your cleaning agents overnight.
9. A dirty shower head
A lot of showers are affected by the bacteria known as mycobacterium. When this bacteria is ingested in large quantities, it can cause serious respiratory problems, as well as chronic fatigue. And if you already have underlying health problems, the consequences of long-term exposure could be devastating.
Once every six months, use a handheld steam cleaner to kill the bacteria that lurks on your shower head. Alternatively, you can simply spray it liberally with an antibacterial solution.
10. A dirty vacuum cleaner
Your vacuum cleaner is your first line of defence in the fight against dust, dirt and allergens. It needs to be powerful enough to drag dust from deep within carpet pile. But it also needs to trap allergens away until you have the opportunity to empty it. But the cleaner itself needs regular cleaning and maintenance — otherwise you could simply be spreading dust and dirt around you home.
Every couple of weeks, clean the removable parts of your vacuum cleaner. And find out how to remove the filter. You’ll need to clean the filter regularly in order to keep it working as it should. Don’t forget to clean the vacuum’s exterior too. It will get dusty over time, which means you’ll be redistributing dust as you move around your home.
You don’t need to become obsessed with domestic cleaning to keep you and your family healthy. Source the right tools, create a cleaning schedule and remain vigilant. If you’re serious about household cleaning, you can make your home a safer, happier place.