With the recent news events reminding us how important it is to keep our hands clean, I feel like I’ve already got a head start, with hand sanitizers in every bag I own and always within reach.

While the chances are slim to none that we risk infection of the deadly disease filling our headlines, we still need to protect ourselves against more common ailments like the cold and flu.

Protection can start at home.

People entering your home can carry the flu virus (and leave it behind) without showing any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which also notes that once the virus is there, it can live on hard surfaces anywhere from two to eight hours. But the good news is that you can easily incorporate steps into your regular routine to cut down on bacteria.


Start by cleaning first.


Cleaning will remove dirt and grime so that you can disinfect properly. Then, get your disinfectant. You can use an EPA-registered disinfectant, or you can make a solution yourself.

The CDC recommends adding one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water. If you need to make a large batch, use 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Use a cloth to apply the solution to a hard surface. Let it stand for three to five minutes before rinsing with clean water.

In the kitchen, start with the sink, which can harbor more germs than a toilet seat. Clean the faucet and basin with the bleach solution at least twice a week. For your cutting boards and sponges, let your dishwasher help you out. (Just make sure your cutting boards are dishwasher-safe.)

In the bathroom, clean the tub and floors with the disinfectant at least once a week. Clean the toilet and counters with the solution twice a week. Toss your shower curtain in the washing machine once a month with some towels added to the load. The towels will act as scrubbers.


Establish a weekly routine to wash your sheets and blankets (using warm water, if possible). While those are going, vacuum rugs, floors and furniture, and mop uncarpeted areas.

For electronics, such as remote controls or cell phones, use disinfecting wipes, and follow their instructions. Also, double-check your owner’s manuals to make sure your electronics can be cleaned this way without risking damage.

Of course, beyond cleaning, you’ll need to make sure you and your housemates practice healthy habits like washing hands thoroughly and frequently and wiping down surfaces regularly with disinfectant.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.