Disinfecting should be a routine. Whether or not anyone at home is sick, it is all about prevention. Since viruses are invisible, they wear a disguise and can sneak into our lives undetected until they make us sick.

Cold and flu viruses can survive anywhere from a few hours to a few days, so there are areas that should be targeted for disinfecting. Sanitizers are designed to remove 99 percent of bacteria within 30 seconds, while disinfectants are designed to kill all specified organisms within at least 10 minutes of product application. Products with disinfectant capabilities can be easily identified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registration information on the packaging.

Common household products such as chlorine bleach, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide can disinfect. Read the instructions on the product to determine how long it takes for germs to be killed by these products. Some disinfectants are best left to air dry.

Anytime things such as money, doors or grocery carts are touched and then eyes, nose and mouths are touched, the susceptibility of spreading viruses is present. Start with the automobile, it is as simple as touching the gas pump handle and screen on the pump that has been touched by hundreds of individuals and then touching the car door handle, steering wheel, or adjusting the air and radio.

Place a bottle of hand sanitizer on the bumper before pumping the gas. Immediately after nesting the handle back into the gasoline pump, sanitize your hands and the outside of the bottle of sanitizer before touching the car door handle. It may sound germaphobic, but coming down with an illness is worse than being a germophobe.

In the home, disinfectant wipes are preferable over dish rags and sponges, but when that option is not available, use paper towels with a disinfectant. The idea is to use something that is disposable.

Think of the areas that get touched a lot around the home. Surfaces include door knobs, refrigerator handles, faucet handles, toilet handle, phones, cabinet pulls and knobs, remote controls, children’s toys, computer keyboards, blankets, pillow cases, hand railings, chair backs and hand towels. Soft surfaces such as cloth furniture can be sprayed with a disinfectant spray.

When it comes to stuffed animals, wash whatever can be tossed into the washing machine with some bleach. Things that cannot take this type of cleaning can be kept out of reach for a few days to let viruses on the surface die.

Change hand towels in the kitchen and in the bathroom daily and remember, one of the best defenses is to wash hands with soap and water often, especially before eating or preparing food.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise

appears in the Times-Journal weekday editions.

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