Keeping your house clean without resorting to chemicals

This article recently appeared in The Daily Mail:

Will YOUR dishwasher give you food poisoning?
Charlotte Kemp

While I’ve never claimed to be a Domestic Goddess, I never thought my household management skills were on a par with the poisoner Dr Crippen. But I have in my hand a set of laboratory tests and it makes very scary reading.

According to this document, I’ve got E.coli in the dishwasher, toxic fungus on the bath mat and goodness knows what festering in the toy box. As for the baby’s car seat, you don’t even want to go there…

Three weeks ago, I arranged for a scientist to take swabs from ten sites around my home to find out where potentially harmful bacteria and parasites might be lurking.

It’s an interesting article on how we often do not realise just how “dirty” our houses can be, and where the dangers lie, often in unexpected places:

But in the wake of recent reports pointing to the potential dangers in less obvious places, such as the dishwasher, samples were also collected from other seemingly innocuous places, including the piano keyboard and the children’s favourite wooden toys.

I was a little worried when reading the article, that the solution would be to douse a house in industrial strength cleaners. This worry was also shared by the author, but interestingly, resorting to chemicals is not the answer. It is possible to by eco-friendly soaps (both to the environment and people), and so these should be used in the first instance:

The lab report made grim reading and I was convinced I needed to call in a team of industrial cleaners. Thankfully, Dr de Paiva didn’t think so. Instead, he suggested a few simple steps I could take to minimise any potential dangers, such as cleaning more regularly, more immediately, and in more unlikely places. Interestingly, though, he is dismissive of products that make grand claims about killing bacteria. ‘I believe chemical sprays are not the answer. The key is good hygiene, not dousing everything in chemicals.

‘When you are cooking, you will kill off any potentially harmful bacteria if you wash your hands thoroughly and cook food properly. Widen your cleaning routine to include toys that are used regularly, and other fomites such as door handles. Above all, be led by your nose. If something smells bad, it usually is.’

Hygiene expert Dr Roland Cocker agrees: ‘People rely on chemicals to kill bacteria, but the best way to clean a surface is with ordinary detergent and water. ‘First, clean off any food or soil with a dry cloth. It’s very important to remove the biological material first. Then wash it with soap and water, and dry thoroughly. The danger of these so-called magical chemical sprays is that people tend to layer the chemicals on top of the mess.’

Read more:
A Day in the Life: Our Toxic Lives

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