Disinfection and Cleaning for H1N1: Outside Services or Home Practices?

Public fears about contracting H1N1 have boosted sales of hand sanitizers and are likely driving the purchase of cold and flu remedies, as well as increasing visits to doctors’ offices or emergency rooms. This same concern is also creating a cottage industry built around H1N1 cleaning and disinfection services.

Former disaster restoration companies and anti-microbial cleaning agent manufacturers are expanding, or in some cases changing, their offering to focus on cleaning and disinfection in homes and offices to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus. They promote their cleaning and disinfecting agents as providing long-lasting protection that treat crevices and hard-to-reach areas, making homes safer. These products and services are touted as being highly convenient and reassuring for those who are concerned about contracting H1N1.

Hiring an outside firm to do in-home cleaning using proprietary disinfecting agents or processes may provide peace-of-mind to some but, in reality, chlorine bleach or any EPA-registered disinfectant has the proven potency necessary to kill H1N1 and many other viruses or bacteria on surfaces. Further, hiring a cleaning service, no matter how effective, for a one-time cleaning is only a temporary solution to interrupting the spread of H1N1. Since most people venture out to malls, restaurants and other public places, they will likely continue to introduce germs to their home or workplace. Therefore, regular and repeated cleaning and disinfection is essential throughout the cold and flu season.

In addition to frequently disinfecting surfaces using disinfecting wipes or chlorine bleach, you can protect yourself and others against H1N1 by making these steps part of your daily routine:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay at home except to get medical care or for other necessities. Keep your distance from others as much as possible to avoid making others sick.

Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and www.fluandhealth.org for more information on preventing the spread of H1N1.

(Barbara M. Soule, R.N., is an Infection Preventionist and a member of the Water Quality & Health Council)