Sanitize? Disinfect? Sterilize?
I am the Designated Disinfector in our house these days. This article explains how to keep your home healthy. Regular cleaning is great but it does not necessarily reduce bacteria growth on surfaces. You must sanitize, disinfect or sterilize.
Sanitizing is reducing microbial counts (numbers of bacteria and viruses) to safe levels. Disinfecting aims to destroy harmful growing microbes (bacteria & viruses) that can make us sick. Sterilizing aims to destroy all microbes. Typically, you should sanitize high-traffic areas in your house daily (i.e. bathrooms and kitchen) BUT during this pandemic, be sure to disinfectant every day—and if anyone becomes ill in your home, some items may even need sterilizing.
Disinfect surfaces using Clorox Regular Bleach or Clorox Disinfectant Wipes. (I suggest Clorox brand products as they meet COVID-19/EPA Emerging Pathogen Policy standards.) First, wash the surface with soap and water. Disinfect with a wipe, keep surface wet for 4 minutes and then let the surface air dry.
If using a bleach solution to disinfect, either purchase Clorox Clean-Up Spray Cleaner or mix 3/4 c Clorox Regular Bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wash surface with soap and water then disinfect until visibly wet. Let stand 5 minutes, rinse thoroughly with water and air dry.
All items that come in contact with food or mouths must be rinsed with warm water after using a disinfectant on the surface as bleach and other disinfecting solutions are toxic. Air drying is also an important part of the process.
What about using all-natural solutions? While vinegar and lemon juice do affect bacteria populations, they are not considered to be disinfectants. They contain acids that work as an antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This homemade solution will get your surfaces clean but not disinfect them.
Source: Roxanna Coldiron; Clorox.com
Water Purification Systems
There are many in-home water filtration system options to help purify your water including countertop, faucet-mounted, under-sink or whole-house systems. Costs vary substantially depending on the scope and technology used. If you have well water rather than municipal water, you are advised to have your well tested and look for a system to specifically meet your needs.
Filtration: Filtration systems trap unwanted impurities in the surface or pores of an absorbent medium, such as charcoal filters. If possible, choose a carbon block filter over a granulated activated carbon filter. For even more effectiveness, a Fibredyne carbon block filter is claimed to be the best.
The lowest-cost option is a pitcher with an activated charcoal filter. Faucet-mounted systems are also more economical. Your refrigerator water dispenser likely has a charcoal filter as well, and is an effective source of filtered drinking and cooking water.
Carbon filters typically improve taste and odor but they only reduce (not remove) lead, VOCs, mercury, PFAS & disinfection byproducts. They also can’t remove arsenic, fluoride, nitrate or perchlorate.
Reverse Osmosis: This pricier system uses both an activated carbon filter and a semipermeable membrane that removes impurities including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate, perchlorate & PFAS, BUT the major drawback is that it wastes 3-5 times the water it treats. Therefore, you may want to purchase an under-sink unit and limit use to drinking and cooking.
No matter what type of system you choose, be sure to look for brands with certifications from regulatory agencies like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and NSF International. These agencies certify that home water purification systems meet or exceed national drinking water standards.
Lastly, home water purification systems must also be maintained properly. It’s important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for upkeep, including filter replacement, to ensure that your water is being properly purified.
How to Clean Your Dishwasher
Start out the new year by getting your hard-working dishwasher in top shape. Cleaning it every four to six weeks will help reduce the buildup of lime scale and soap scum and eliminate food particles that can diminish the machine’s effectiveness and clog the little water spouts that rinse your dishes. Houzz had a great article, so I am summarizing it for you below.
Here are the steps:
1. Check your heat. First, check your hot-water heater and set the temperature to 120° to best clean and sanitize your dishes and the inside of your dishwasher.
2. Empty the filter. Manufacturers are designing increasingly quiet dishwashers by removing the noisy macerator, a food-grinding component that operated along the same lines as a garbage disposal, and instead use a detachable cylindrical filter located on the bottom of the machine. When food is washed from dishes, the large particles are trapped inside until the filter is cleaned. If there is a funky odor coming from your dishwasher, this may be the culprit. For most dishwashers, removing the filter requires little more than turning it counterclockwise and gently pulling it out. Review the owner’s manual to locate your filter. Check the screen once a month if you tend to leave a little food on dishes. If you pre-rinse, check the screen every three months.“
3. Inspect the interior. Since you will be removing the bottom rack and silverware container to access the filter, inspect the floor of the machine to look for a buildup of debris.
4. Avoid introducing hand soap and detergent into your machine. Wipe down the inside with a damp cloth and your dishwasher detergent. Even a small amount of soap residue left behind on a sponge can cause foaming. Suds and foaming can loosen the seals inside your machine’s filter and other components and cause leakage.
5. Prevent and remove hard water deposits. Notice white streaks inside your machine? Those are hard water deposits, aka limescale and calcium carbonate. This buildup can clog the holes in a dishwasher’s spray arms and filter components. White vinegar can help remove these deposits .
6. Use quality detergent. High-quality detergent will keep your machine’s interior and your dishes clean. Research indicates that all-in-one products work best. These are the pods or packs you place in your dispenser. Look for different colors and a mix of liquid and powder inside the pack.
7. Watch what goes into your dishwasher. Check plates for toothpicks, bones, fruit pits, paper labels stuck on jars and sticky pricing labels. Paper and water create papier-mâché in filters and clog them. If you pull a glass dish out that’s been chipped, check immediately for broken pieces in your dishwasher. If small enough, broken glass can start breaking down and get inside the system.
8. Use your machine’s options. Use all the cycles and options to see what works best for targeted cleaning. If you don’t run your dishwasher every day, use the short wash and rinse cycles until you’ve got a full load.
9. Load dishes well. Check your owner’s manual or website to see loading tips. Make sure you spin the spray arms before turning on a cycle. If the arms can’t rotate because they’re getting hung up on a protruding pot handle, neither your dishes nor your machine will get adequately cleaned.
10. Check the hose on new installations. Homeowners or installers may hook the machine’s drain hose to a garbage disposal without realizing there’s a knockout plug that needs to be removed first. This is a metal piece about the size of a nickel that’s easily removed with a screwdriver to allow the dishwasher to drain. If your newly installed dishwasher is backing up, this could be the problem.
11. Try these home remedies to remove odors and stains. Once you’ve cleaned the filter, place a dishwasher-safe container with one cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. Run a hot-water cycle. This should wash away grease, gunk and odors. Next, sprinkle about a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the inside of your machine. Run a short cycle. This will keep your appliance free of stains and smelling fresh.
How to Hang Exterior Christmas Lights
Here is a checklist outlining the basics of hanging holiday lights to make the process easy, quick and safe. Hang them on a warm day & work from the roof down.
1. Measure the area & purchase the # of feet of indoor/outdoor LED light strands you will need: the front roofline (measure along the ground below the roof); around the front door; front windows; porch railing or any other areas you want to light.
2. Gather the tools: extension ladder, stepladder, plastic light clips &/or zip ties, retractable tape measure, medium or heavy-duty outdoor extension cords, timer/s.
3. Inspect & test the strands, then clamp them into the clips every 6-10”. I suggest LEDs as they use less power BUT do not mix LEDs with incandescent strands on the same circuit!
4. Clamp the clips onto the gutters, eaves or siding . Zip ties work great for railings. Be sure to end with a MALE plug. Connect it to an extension cord and plug that into an outdoor outlet either on a timer or controlled by a light switch or app.
5. Add accent lighting—solar lighting and projection spotlights.
Best Overall: Everglow Clear White Wire Light Set-Amazon
Best LED: TaoTronics LED Lights w Remote Control-Amazon
Best Solar: Lalapao Solar String Lights-Amazon
Best Budget: Home Accents Clear Light Set-Home Depot
Best Projection Spotlight: 1byone Magical Laser Light-Amazon
20+ years of residential experience.