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In the ongoing battle between you and household germs, you may think germs have the advantage. Unlike you, they can be just about everywhere at once. And when it comes down to hand-to-hand combat, you may be too rushed or tired or just have better things to do. They don't.

Yet keeping household germs at bay helps keep colds, flu, and other infectious illnesses from spreading. This on-the-go cleaning guide can help you get the upper hand with germs by focusing your efforts on the places where they lurk the most.

Where the Germs Are

As a rule of thumb, any area of your home with high traffic and surfaces that get touched a lot is a germ bank.

Not all germs are harmful. But where there are germ strongholds, the conditions are favorable for disease-causing viruses or bacteria to lurk.

One study found the kitchen sink had more bacteria than the toilet or garbage can. The only bathroom hotspot in the study's top 10 was the toothbrush holder. Why? Toothbrush holders are often near the toilet, and flushing the toilet sends a fine spray of mist that can contaminates them. They also tend to be neglected because people focus on cleaning the toilet and more obvious germ hotspots.

Getting Started: What You Need to Kill Germs

Cleaning with soap and hot water removes dirt and grime and gets rid of some germs. Cleaning alone is usually enough for many surfaces. But you may want to disinfect areas where there are a lot of germs.

A cleaner-disinfectant can be good for germ speed cleaning because it combines these two steps. You can use it for most kitchen countertops and bathroom surfaces.

Areas with sticky spills and dirt you can see should be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected. You can make an inexpensive and effective disinfectant by mixing no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Never mix bleach with ammonia or vinegar.

Apply it and leave on for three to five minutes, then rinse and let air dry to save time. Or dry with a clean towel.

Always wear gloves and open some windows when you use products with bleach.

White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide are other effective homemade cleaners. Never mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together, however. And if you use hydrogen peroxide, test it first on an unseen surface to make sure it doesn't discolor or fade it.

Daily Speed Cleaning for Germs

You can take down some serious germ strongholds in a half-hour or less a day. If you don't have children or pets, it's even faster because you get to skip the last three steps. Start in the kitchen:

  • Clean and disinfect countertops, sink faucet and handles, refrigerator handles, and cutting boards. Check the manufacturer's directions for specialty countertops.
  • Clean with dishcloths that you can throw in the washer with hot water. Replace towels and dishcloths daily.
  • Clean spills on the kitchen floor to keep them from attracting more dirt and bacteria.
  • Empty bathroom wastebaskets and those with dirty diapers, and take out the garbage. Spritz the containers with sanitizing spray.
  • Clean and sanitize the bathroom sink faucet and handles.
  • Put pet dishes in the dishwasher.
  • If you have a child in diapers, clean and disinfect the changing table.
  • If your child uses pacifiers, put them on the top shelf of the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe. Otherwise, wash it and any toys your child mouths with soap and hot water. Check toy cleaning labels first.

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