You can't stop them coming in, and you can't create a germ-free home - that's impossible. But you can stop them spreading and causing infection.
UKCPI supports and recommends the 'targeted hygiene' approach developed by IFH (the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene). It's derived from approaches that food factories and businesses use to keep food uncontaminated and customers safe.
Then it's quite simple to target the times, places and situations when there's a real risk, cleaning away the germs when and where it matters most to avoid that risk.
Germs enter homes on and in people and pets, and also on raw food.
To make you ill, germs must find their way into your body - they don't just float through the air or seep through the skin. The ways in depend on the kind of germ and the illness it causes, but these are the main ones:
Anyone can get infected by any of these routes, but some people are more vulnerable than others - babies and young children, the elderly, someone whose immunity is low through illness or medical treatment, and pregnant women.
Successfully stopping germs from causing infection is about targeting the times and places when they are closest to a way into the body, or when they appear in large numbers. So the most important targets are:
Germs on your hands or food are just one step away from making someone ill - hence the importance of hand-washing. We don't need continuous obsessive handwashing - we just need to wash them at the times when the risk is high, which means:
As hands and food provide the easiest ways into the body, the next most important places to target are:
Of equal importance to these surfaces are the cloths you clean them with. Wiping surfaces with a cloth moves the germs from the surfaces onto the cloth. If you don't clean the cloth afterwards or use a cleaner that kills germs, they go back onto whichever surface you clean next.
Following the same logic of how easily germs can move into the body, and the places they appear in the largest numbers, the next most important places after hands, surfaces and cloths are toilets, baths, sinks, showers, towels, clothing and household linen. Floors, walls and furniture are the last priority.
The targeted hygiene approach outlined here aims to get the biggest benefit, and the most secure protection, from the resources used in terms of cleaning products and materials and your own time and effort. So it's a highly sustainable approach that goes hand in glove with efforts to improve the sustainability of cleaning generally.
Everyone's needs are different of course, and so are our lifestyles and priorities. Our homes have different combinations of challenges and people to look after. But you can apply the same principles of targeting the times, places and situations of greatest risk to find the best, most sustainable solution for your home.
Did you know the facts behind this common myth?
Myth: Natural is better than chemical
Fact: Everything (including ourselves) is made of the same 90-odd chemical elements, so distinctions between "natural" and "chemical" products can be very misleading.
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