Microbe tests over many years have proved without a doubt that bacteria grow rapidly in moist, wet environments. The same tests have established that left to dry out completely this bacterium dies. It therefore follows that the high risk areas of our homes are bathrooms and kitchens.
Do we fully understand the risks though? Often when we move into a new home we commence ‘operation deep clean’, thoroughly obliterating other people’s germs because our own are somehow OK? In most homes the reality is that the initial deep clean is rarely carried out again to the degree.
Food residue and the build up of grease in kitchen areas are ideal harbours for harmful bacteria. The World Health Organisation issued a report in 2003 stating that 40% of food poisoning outbreaks are a result of food eaten in the home. With the human race becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics it is clear that we must exercise caution, particularly in the case of very young children or vulnerable adults.
So what do we know and what should we do?
We know that extensive tests carried out at Clemson University USA in 2006 found that salmonella did in fact live up to 28 days when contaminated onto a dry floor surface. The floor surfaces included in the study were carpet, wood and ceramic tile and it is worth noting that if these test environments had been left moist the salmonella would have lived for longer.
Food dropped onto any of these surfaces and left for 60 seconds was found to have 10 times more bacteria than food which was in direct contact for 6 seconds. It therefore follows that bacterium growing in food residue left on cookers and utensils can easily contaminate food items, hands and cloths for rapid transfer to other areas and people.
Within the home high risk hotspots are called reservoir sites and reservoir disseminators. These are wet sites and items and utensils used in and around those sites. Sinks, toilet bowls, U bends, washing up bowls and nappy changing areas are classed as reservoir sites. Disseminators used within them include cooking utensils, dishcloths, sponges, flannels, washing up brushes etc.
Medium risk areas are contact surfaces for both and hand and food contact. This includes toilet flush mechanisms, toilet seats, taps and door handles. Chopping boards, kitchen surfaces, fridges and cookware are also obvious areas for concern.
It is important to establish a regular routine with regard to these high and medium risk areas. This is sometimes called targeted cleaning but essentially it involves cleaning risk areas daily.
Reservoir sites like sinks should have visible dirt (especially food scraps) removed and they should be thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant. Continuous release products and those with sustained action are recommended.
Reservoir disseminator items like cloths, washing up brushes, cooking utensils etc should be washed at 60 degrees or washed with a disinfectant. Washing with soap and warm water has been found to be largely ineffective in killing germs. Cloths and Mops should be dried thoroughly and as quickly as possible, never leave cloths or mops damp as it is the ideal environment for growth.
If finances allow consider deep cleaning your kitchen and bathroom. Professional contractors can be engaged to hygienically clean ovens, sinks and bathroom fittings. Most importantly they deconstruct drains, plugs and u-bends. Ovens and hobs will look like new and give you increased incentive to keep them looking good.
Above all else however the best advice is to ‘wash your hands.’ Our hands constantly transfer microbes that we have picked up through physical contact. Hands should be washed with an anti-bacterial liquid soap taking care to work the soap around the nail area and between the fingers. Then make sure they are well rinsed and try not to touch taps before drying on a clean cloth.
Always wash hands after using the toilet, stroking pets and before preparing food. Good hygiene routines are likely to be adopted by your children and will protect your family for the future. Take care and protect.
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