How to disinfect your home and help protect kids from cold, flu, and more

how to sanitize your home healthy kids

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kate_sept2004/Getty Images

Young children love to bring things home from school or daycare to share. Unfortunately what they seem to bring home most often is every seasonal infectious disease. The cause may be a virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasite.

But no matter the culprit, the results are not good for anyone. So what can we do to help our families stay healthier?

Preventative measures like healthy eating, exercise, and plenty of sleep are essential, of course. Another important step in preventing the spread of infections is proper cleaning and sanitizing.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most important surface to clean to avoid the spread of colds, flu, measles, and other diseases is our hands. Elaine Donoghue, MD, FAAP adds, “In addition to washing hands, circulating fresh air, and cleaning and sanitizing surfaces that have been in contact with body fluids will reduce the spread of infectious diseases.”

We have tested and gathered the best products and tips to help you sanitize most of the surfaces your kids use in your home and slow the spread of many communicable diseases. Each product is great for busy parents because they are simple to use and selected for safety to sanitize each area of your home.


How to use the HomeSoap UV Electronics Sanitizer to clean tablets, laptops, game controllers, remotes, phones, and more

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Amazon

These days, nearly every child uses electronic devices from phones to remotes to tablets for play and schoolwork. These devices hold onto every bacteria they encounter, and the warmth from their batteries allows that bacteria to grow and thrive. HomeSoap UV Electronics Sanitizer can safely kill bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus in as little as 10 minutes using UV-C light.

I was first introduced to this product when I tried PhoneSoapGo that sanitizes and charges a cell phone while traveling. But most kids have larger devices, and that’s why I gave the HomeSoap unit a try. With interior dimensions of 13.18 inches long by 3.43 inches wide and 9.13 inches high, this device can accommodate almost every type of handheld electronics. And with two USB ports for charging, the electronics come out freshly sanitized and charged.

Just place the item you want to clean inside (you can even sanitize toothbrushes, pacifiers, and bottles) and make sure the unit is plugged in. You’ll see several “light bulbs” lining the interior walls. They provide the UV-C germicidal short wavelength, ultraviolet light that breaks apart the DNA of bacteria and germs leaving it unable to harm or reproduce. Close the device and a blue indicator will come on, and when it goes off after around 10 minutes, your item is up to 99.99% free of E. coli, salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, and rhinovirus (common cold). The use of UV-C light is used in hospital surgical suites to aid in killing superbugs. When looking for a UV device, make sure it has the following specs: Bulbs exposing both sides of the smartphone with a UVC dose of 60mJ/cm2.

I use my HomeSoap religiously for all types of devices, and you should too.


How to use Lysol Laundry Sanitizer to clean all of your washable fabrics

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Amazon

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a child wipe his nose and mouth on his sleeve. Okay, you don’t have to raise your hand, but I know you’ve seen it, and if it’s your child, you need Lysol Laundry Sanitizer.

Bacteria and germs can live on fabric surfaces for days, and regular washing, especially in cold water, won’t take care of every problem. There are several ways you can sanitize washable fabrics. Chlorine bleach and pine oil kill germs but can harm some fabrics, and quaternary formulas used in hospitals are difficult to find. But Lysol’s phenolic disinfectant is readily available and safe for all washable fabrics. Be aware, however, that this sanitizer’s main disinfectant ingredient is benzalkonium chloride, which while it is a useful disinfectant, has been shown to cause contact dermatitis (skin rashes) in some patients.

Bleach-free and safe to use in standard and high-efficiency washers, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer is easy to use. Just add the recommended amount of liquid to the washer’s fabric softener dispenser so the sanitizer will be dispersed through the rinse water. If you don’t have a dispenser, wait until the rinse cycle to add the product directly to the washer drum. The product comes in a Crisp Linen scent and is also available in an unscented dye-free formula.

In addition to the health benefits, the sanitizer also kills odor-causing bacteria that can leave clothes like socks and underwear smelling less than fresh. As a mother and grandmother, I recommend using this product regularly when washing your children’s laundry, including clothes, coats and accessories, towels, bedding, and for the entire family’s laundry if a virus is running rampant through the house. Everyone will be glad you did.


How to use Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to sanitize bathrooms, backpacks, plastic toys, and most hard surfaces

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Amazon

Disposable cleaning wipes have changed the way we clean thanks to the simplicity of grabbing a damp cloth to clean up a mess and then tossing it away. But not every wipe is created equal, so to prevent the spread of illness, you need one that not just cleans messes but can disinfect surfaces killing germs and bacteria, like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.

Having toured the research facilities of The Clorox Company, I can tell you that they know about germs. Gleaming white labs are filled with toxins from around the world, and in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Clorox is dedicated to controlling the spread of diseases to keep us healthy. Out of that research came Clorox Disinfecting Wipes as a simple way to tackle germs on most hard surfaces in our homes.

The key to killing bacteria and preventing the spread of disease is how you use the wipes. One wipe will not disinfect an entire room or dozens of toys. There must be sufficient disinfectant left on every surface to be effective. Make sure you’re not just spreading germs around.

To kill bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enterica, use enough wipes to leave a nonporous surface visibly wet for four minutes before the surface is allowed to air dry. Luckily, the most common viruses like Influenza A2 and Human Coronavirus can be eradicated by leaving the surface wet for only 15 to 30 seconds before allowing to dry. If used correctly, the wipes kill 99.9% of the viruses and bacteria on hard surfaces.

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are safe to use on granite, acrylic, plastics, vinyl, and even sealed hardwood surfaces. The one downside is that any area used for food preparation or a toy that might end up in a child’s mouth must be rinsed with plain water once the disinfectant dries.

I use them for bathroom fixtures and counters, light switches, cabinet handles, doorknobs, and all the surfaces our hands touch dozens of times each day. One of the most effective uses is for cleaning backpacks daily. Think of all of the germs inside and outside that backpack. Have your child empty the backpack (also a good time for tossing out items) and wipe it down well inside and out with a Clorox wipe. Don’t forget the zipper pulls and handles. Allow the surfaces to dry and you’ve added one more layer of protection.


How to Use Purell Disinfectant Spray to clean food preparation areas and baby toys

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Staples

There are lots of great products on the market that disinfect surfaces, but they are not safe for baby’s toys that often end up in the mouth or in food preparation areas without an added step of a rinse after disinfecting. That’s why you need Purell Disinfectant Spray.

When I want to clean a toy for my 2-year-old grandson, he is not happy to wait while the disinfectant wipe does its work, dries, and I rinse the toy with fresh water and dry it before he can play with it again. With Purell, I can give it a spritz, wait 30 seconds (three stanzas of “The Wheels on the Bus”), and he is ready to play.

With a rapid kill time of only 30 seconds, the product is also quick drying. And with the designation of a Safer Choice Product by the EPA, surfaces are safe to touch nearly instantly. Simply spray on a kitchen counter, cutting board, baby’s crib railing or pet’s chew toy, and it can be used safely without rinsing.

While Purell doesn’t portend to deep clean surfaces, the one-step disinfectant will kill cold and flu viruses, Norovirus, Strep, and MRSA on plastics, metal, granite, sealed wood, and upholstery to kill germs with patented ethyl alcohol technology. It does not leave surfaces feeling sticky to attract even more grime.

First introduced to the mass market in 2016, the product is offered in a citrus scent in 32-ounce spray bottles and in a 1-gallon jug that can be used to refill spray containers. If you would prefer an unscented version, try Purell Professional Foodservice Surface Sanitizer.


How to use Lysol Disinfectant Spray to sanitize nonwashable surfaces

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Amazon

When one of your kids has a cold or the flu, do they stay in bed or wander out to the couch and use the TV remotes and head to the kitchen to grab a snack from the refrigerator? When they cough into the throw pillow or touch the handle on the fridge, they leave behind bacteria for everyone else.

That’s why you need a good disinfecting spray like Lysol. This is not just an air-freshener; it contains the ingredients necessary to kill bacteria and is safe to use on fabrics and hard surfaces. I like to use it on bed linens between changes to freshen the fabric and kill lingering bacteria.

The key to proper protection is to cover the surface with the mist and allow it to remain wet for 30 seconds to 10 minutes. The active ingredients in the spray need time to work. Drying times for specific viruses are listed on the container. Remember, if you are spraying surfaces that might end up in a mouth, they must be rinsed with clean water after the Lysol spray has dried.

With a dozen scents, you’re sure to find one that suits your sensibilities to use as both an air freshener and surface disinfectant. I often give surfaces, especially upholstery, a quick spray just before leaving the house so I come home to a fresher, less germy home.