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Caregiving: Reducing Germs and Infection in the Home


Germs and infection can spread easily in the home. This may happen when items around the house become soiled or when you come into contact with body fluids, such as blood or urine. A person's cough or sneeze can spread germs too.

Washing your hands often can help you keep germs and infection from spreading. Keeping the home clean can help too. To help reduce germs and avoid infections, make sure to disinfect all parts of the home. "Disinfecting" means using soap or another cleaner to get rid of germs that can cause infection.

Bathroom and kitchen tips

  • Use different cleaning cloths to clean the bathroom and the kitchen.
  • Clean kitchen counters often. Use a household cleaner.
  • Clean the bathroom and kitchen floors each week. If you mop the floors, always use a clean mop. Wipe up any spills when they happen.
  • Clean the inside of the refrigerator monthly and when there is spoiled food. Wipe shelves with soap and water.
  • Clean soap dishes and any containers used for dental care items each week.

General cleaning tips

  • Make sure you disinfect your cleaning tools regularly. Dirty mops and sponges, for example, can contain germs and mold. And dirty cleaning rags can spread germs instead of removing them.
  • Soak sponges and mops in disinfectant, such as diluted household bleach, for 5 minutes each week. To dilute household bleach, follow the directions on the label.
  • Cleaning rags can be washed in a washing machine with household detergent. You can add household bleach to the wash cycle, if you like.
  • Don't clean rags, sponges, bedpans, or urinals in the kitchen sink. And don't pour mop water into the kitchen sink. Instead, empty dirty water into the toilet or shower drain. This helps keep germs from spreading from one area to another.
  • Clean all medical equipment, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. For example, for some equipment you may clean with a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

Here are some other tips for reducing germs in the home:

  • Wash higher surfaces before washing lower ones. For example, clean counters and sinks before floors and toilets.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning pet items, such as litter boxes.
  • Change the water in flower vases often.
  • Keep the home well ventilated with fresh air.

Avoiding infections from others

When you can, avoid having people in your home who are sick. And ask all people in the home to cover their mouths with a tissue or with the inside of the elbow when they cough or sneeze. Throw away used tissues and empty the trash often.

Wash your hands often and wear a mask if you are around people who have colds or the flu.

Make sure to wash bedding often, especially when someone is sick.

You can reduce the chances of spreading infection by not sharing food, drinks, and personal items such as towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, and underclothes.


Current as of: June 12, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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