Fight the Polar Vortex: Clean Your Home Like a Germaphobe


No matter where you are in the United States right now, with the exception of Florida maybe, it’s pretty f’ing cold. Even those Floridians are shivering in their unusual 50-something degree temps, getting sick of continually washing the two sweaters they own to handle what feels like icy blasts. Here in the real world, windchills are dipping into double-digit negatives, which are so cold and unhealthy that the post office is closed in many states, and students are facing long stretches of snow days. In cold this extreme, germs travel as if by overnight express shipping, and getting sick is close to inevitable. Luckily, you can fight the freeze in your own, small way this long winter: by cleaning your house to an extent that a germaphobe would approve. Make your home a safe haven of cleanliness and sanity, and follow these tips to keep your loved ones healthy.

Do the dishes now – not later

If you are a typical working adult, dealing with commutes and deadlines and daycare and making quick, nutritious dinners for your family, keeping the dishes washed is likely low on your priority list. Unless you have a mega Type-A personality and a masochistic streak as long as the Ben Franklin Parkway, you probably have at least a few dishes sitting unwashed in your sink. It’s okay to admit if your “few” is actually “piles.” I won’t judge. But – no guilt involved – you should probably go do those dishes right now. It’s a simple fact that, as dirty dishes sit, germs grow and flourish. As your dish pile spreads to your countertop, it can transfer nastiness to serving dishes, clean utensils, and even nearby food… gross, right? Get those dishes clean with plenty of hot, soapy water, or a hot dishwasher. Once the chaos is cleared, wash down your sink and surrounding areas (faucet, area behind the sink, dish rack) and give them a scrubbing with some bleach to really make sure you’ve de-gunked. Finally, wash your sponges. Yes, your sponges. These harbor germs, being constantly moist, and can get NASTY. Rinse them thoroughly with soap and hot water, or run them through the dishwasher.

Give some love to your closets

Right now, everyone’s on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and konmari’ing their stuff for that minimalist vibe, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, a closet not crammed so full that the hangers overlap is a good thing. Did you know that, between the body odor on your coats, scarves, and other items that you rarely wash; your reeky shoes, and the outsized amount of dust that tends to build up in these spaces, your closet can be an absolute germ nightmare. Take the items out, give them a good airing, and vacuum the hell out of all the dust, shoe-dirt buildup, and pent-up pet fur that’s storing germs where you keep your clothes. And hey, go ahead and see if your parka sparks joy while you are at it. It’s called multitasking!


You have plenty of laundry to do already; I get it. Nobody wants to do extra. But adding a few items to your laundry list can go a long way towards attacking germs in places that you don’t expect. Towels, like sponges, are frequently wet, so they are crawling with nastiness. Make sure that, without fail, they get washed at least once a week in hot water. You may do that already. But here’s something to consider – your bedsheets and throw blankets should also see the washer weekly. Make sure that you have several sets of sheets, so that one or two pairs don’t get worn out or lose the elasticity of the fitted sheets by constant washing in hot water and spinning in a hot dryer. And you can’t forget your throws, which probably get a lot more action than you’d expect. It’s okay to wash these on delicate to preserve their crispness and brightness.

Attack those fixtures!

You are used to cleaning the obvious dirty spots in your home – your bathroom, the floor near the front door, your kitchen (see above), and your teenager’s den of grime, aka bedroom. But did you know that the most germs are communicated through your household fixtures, which you most likely have been ignoring? Your doorknobs, light switches, and faucets are constantly touched by multiple people with dirty hands. To combat these fountains of sickness ready to happen, buy a good household disinfectant (you can’t go wrong with Lysol, but I also like Clorox Sentiva) and spray those puppies down. Use a clean rag and the disinfectant, and give all the aforementioned fixtures a good wipe-down. Make sure that you get both sides of the doorknobs, the top and bottom of the lightswitch, and the bases of the faucets as well as the handles themselves.

Splash some sun on it

There is something to be said about the cleansing properties of fresh air and sunshine. Whether or not you have a clothesline, regularly take out your bedding, pillows, and rugs to sit in the sun and literally bake off the germs. These items are great magnets for grime and dust, and can really benefit from a good shaking and sunning. If there’s snow on the ground, drape the items on the hood, roof, and trunk of your car or cars so that the sun can still have its beneficial effect.

Are you ready to de-germify your house? There’s no better time than now!

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