Don't overdo spring cleaning

Easing up a bit can actually be
a smart and healthy choice.

Posted May 6, 2015

It’s (finally) that time of year. But if you dread the prospect of spring cleaning, you may now have a good reason to take it a little easier.

Researchers at Saint Louis University say not only is there no point in going overboard, but doing so can be detrimental to your health.

Don’t work yourself sick

You actually can make yourself sick from cleaning by being too vigilant, says Donna Duberg of the university’s department of biomedical laboratory science. "People think if some is good, more is better (but) that's not always true.”

Duberg says a simple first step is to ask yourself how contaminated your house really is. "If it is just everyday dirt, then simply dust, vacuum and wipe off surfaces with hot soapy water, which can kill some germs. It's always important to get the dirt off first.”

Next, she says, move onto areas such as kitchen counters and bathroom sinks, which may need a diluted bleach solution  to kill off salmonella, staphylococcus, and other bacteria. Other than that, says Duberg, wash your hands often and just relax.

Leave the chemistry to professionals

She notes that combining different cleaning agents is not necessarily extra sanitary. In fact, it can be a recipe for disaster. For example, some people might use an ammonia-based product to clean rust stains from a toilet or sink, then follow it up with bleach in an effort to kill more germs. But that combination has the potential to kill more than germs.

"Actually, they're making chlorine gas, a caustic mixture that was used as a weapon during World War I," Duberg says.

And while it sounds simple enough, it really is important to follow the label directions in using cleaning products. For instance, instructions on a can of mold and mildew remover will tell you to work in a well-ventilated area with an open window because of fumes that can damage lungs, eyes and skin.

Try these helpful tips

Finally, Duberg offers several suggestions to make spring cleaning easier and healthier.

  • Consider using green cleaners that are environmentally friendly. With its high acetic content, white distilled vinegar is a gentle and effective fighter against many types of bacteria. Use the vacuum cleaner to suck up dust bunnies.
  • Think about having air conditioners professionally cleaned to prevent any inhabiting bacteria and mold from being circulated through the house.
  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and keep them from becoming chapped.
  • Keep cleaning products in their original containers and out of reach of young children.

“A little elbow grease goes a long way,” she adds. “Resist the temptation to over-clean. After all, how many times do you need to kill the same germ?"

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.