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How to prevent germs from spreading - Healthy body

Germs can be spread from person to person, or by touching unclean equipment or surfaces.

To stop the spread of germs, focus your efforts on cleaning areas in the house where germs are more likely to spread, such as the kitchen and toilet.

Use either soap and hot water to rinse the germs away, or a disinfectant to kill them.

Make sure you dry surfaces such as worktops and chopping boards thoroughly after cleaning. Dampness helps any remaining germs to survive and, if there's enough water, multiply.

Clean anywhere that germs are likely to spread regularly, including after each use.

Here are some general cleaning tips to help prevent the spread of germs in your home:

Cloths and sponges

  • use disposable cloths or paper towels when possible
  • disinfect or wash reusable cloths at 60C after each use

Washing-up brushes

  • wash brushes in a dishwasher regularly, or clean with detergent and warm water after each use

Mops and buckets

  • use 2 buckets for mopping – one for detergent and the other for rinsing
  • clean and dry mops and buckets after each use

Toilets

  • keep the U-bend and toilet bowl clean by flushing after each use
  • use a toilet cleaner and brush every few days
  • remove limescale regularly using a descaling product
  • keep the toilet seat, handle and rim clean by using a disinfectant

Baths and sinks

  • clean baths and sinks frequently, if they're used regularly
  • use disinfectant if someone who's ill uses them

Showers

  • clean shower trays frequently, if used regularly
  • run hot water in a shower before using it if it has not been used for a while

Tiles and shower curtains

  • keep tiles and grout in good condition
  • clean shower curtains frequently

Kitchen

  • ensure food-preparation surfaces are clean before use
  • use separate chopping boards for uncooked food – such as raw meat – and food that does not need cooking, like salad leaves
  • wash and dry your hands after handling foods such as raw meat
  • clean surfaces immediately after use

Floors

  • clean floors regularly with warm water and detergent to remove visible dirt
  • if soiled with vomit, pee or poo, clean the floor using a disposable cloth and warm water, then disinfect it – make sure the floor is dry before allowing children on it

Carpet and soft furnishings

  • steam cleaning is effective against germs on carpets and furnishings
  • curtains can be cleaned by laundering or disinfected by steam cleaning

Pets and other animals

  • keep pet food separate from human food
  • always wash your hands after touching animals and their food, toys, cages and litter trays
  • store dishes, utensils and tin openers used for pet food separately

Toys

  • wash hard or plastic toys and put them away once they're clean and dry
  • some soft toys can be cleaned in the washing machine

Laundry

  • wash your hands after handling dirty laundry
  • wash all underwear, towels and household linen at 60C, or at 40C with a bleach-based laundry product to prevent germs from spreading
  • do not leave laundry in the washing machine – any remaining germs can multiply rapidly

Waste disposal

  • foot-operated bins are more hygienic because they reduce the risk of getting germs onto your hands from touching the bin lid
  • always wash your hands after handling waste material
  • throw rubbish away carefully to avoid attracting rats, mice and insects

Page last reviewed: 23 November 2020
Next review due: 23 November 2023