Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Attack on the Most Infectious Germ-Laden Areas

A few times today, I have come across articles that have caused me to be concerned about germs, more than usual. I am not a germophobe (almost typed germophone--ha! I'm not a germophone either, I don't think!)...but I don't want any of us to land in the hospital because of some creepy horrible germ that almost kills us. On the front page of our paper, a young man who had been healthy the other day is now near death in the hospital, because of a slew of various germs that took up residence in his lungs. Our Christian & Missionary Alliance e-mailed us with a prayer request for a pastor who has what sounds like a very similar thing as well. And then today, I happened to visit a blog I hardly ever visit, Radical Womanhood, and they had an entry called, "More Concern for Germophobes" (never mind that it's from last July) that led me to a Washington Post article called "A Germ Zapper's Guide to Clean." Is God trying to tell me something?
I have seen these types of articles before that tell that the kitchen sponge is the most germy place in the house, worse than a toilet. Well, I think our house may be better than average in this regard, because I don't use sponges, and I use probably about 5 dish cloths per day...they pile up in my sink, and then I put them in a bowl so they don't drip, to take them to the laundry room on a frequent basis. But I do remember visiting a friend's house when my Tim was pretty new, in other words about 10 1/2 years ago, and I needed to wipe his face. My friend had a lot of kids of her own and was busy when I asked her where I might find a clean washcloth--and she just told me there was a dishrag in the sink. The dishrag I found was slippery and smelled horribly sour, even without putting it to my face. I rinsed it out to the best of my ability and thought that it would either kill my son or improve his immunity. It's always what I think of when I see these articles. And here's an idea I have never heard in any housekeeping book or article: my mom has always put cellulose sponges in her bleach-white washes, and dried them in the dryer. I know, you'll think that's not possible, that they'd fall apart, but they didn't. They shrink down and get hard, but once they're wet they're good as new (unless they're old, and then they're good as old). We rarely had to buy new sponges, but I know they were generally clean!
The "Germ Zapper" article asks whether you rinse your cutting board between uses, rather than washing it. I have a huge collection of those flexible plastic cutting boards, which are very cheap and durable, some of which I cut in half for smaller cutting jobs. If I cut meat, I will toss that "board" in the sink to be put in the dishwasher. As long as it's all vegetables, I will cut over and over again, and if I cut onions first, I consider whether onion juice will contaminate the flavor of vegetables after that. It's nothing to wash them in the dishwasher and bring out another that is clean. If you can't put your cutting board in the dishwasher, at least spray or wipe it with bleach! Get it clean so it doesn't fester with germs. I remember being at another friend's house who actually had a mildewy stain in the middle of her board. Ick! How they lived through that I don't know! (And believe it or not, I don't go around to friends' houses trying to find where their grossest form of housekeeping blindness lurks. I guarantee you, within feet of my front door you can find a few of mine!) In addition to putting your cutting boards into the dishwasher, put your dish brushes in there too. It may not get everything out of them, but it at least improves them, and sanitizes them some.
The next area they speak of is bedding--which is one where I probably do poorly, even though I know better, by not putting airtight cases around our mattresses, box springs and pillows. They say to wash sheets once per week, too...sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. We all have areas for improvement!
Another area where I actually hadn't thought to improve, was to occasionally disinfect the soles of our shoes, for obvious reasons, and the floor mats and entry way flooring where our shoes first make contact in the house; also the outsides of our purses, because of places such as restroom floors where they sometimes are parked.
The next is those things our hands hold: electronic equipment such as cell phones, keyboards, and remotes; doorknobs, cupboard door pulls, etc. They're said to be really bad. (In fact, after composing most of this, I went and cleaned our entry way floor, and picked up the shoes and took them to the bathroom to scrub the soles--and it was a wake-up call! I'm sure there was stuff there I didn't want on my floor, even aside from everyday soil! The tennis shoe soles they make today seem custom-made to pick up as much dirt as possible and retain it.)
In addition to these areas of cleaning, because of an episode of Mythbusters on television, I know that our toothbrushes are prime targets for germs as well--either from other toothbrushes, or from just the general splash and air circulation factor in the bathroom. So since I am too chintzy to throw out seemingly good toothbrushes on a frequent basis, I take them and put them under my hot water dispenser--which is nearly boiling (not my regular hot water tap, which isn't hot enough). You could also boil the water in the kettle and soak them in a mug--dividing each person's into a different mug. This may shorten the life of the bristles, but at least they'd be clean bristles. You could additionally dip them each in Listerine afterward, in a little bowl or cup.
I love, and at the same time hate, to think how many germs I have killed--even in my little bit that I did tonight. I love it because these places are cleaner, and I hate to think how much dirt was already lurking. How sick we could have become! God is gracious to us.

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