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Oh, to Be Cootie-Free

Americans aren't exactly sure how to rid their homes of germs and allergens, a poll shows. But remember: It's what's on the surface that counts.

April 27, 1998

Americans were polled recently on cleanliness--one of their favorite topics. And the results were of the good news/bad news variety.

On the good side, according to the survey by the clean folks at the Soap and Detergent Assn., we understand the critical connection between hygiene and health. But on the bad side, we're a tad clueless as to how we can protect ourselves against the spread of some germs and allergens that can cause illness.

Here, the survey results and some tips:

* 91% of Americans understand that clean kitchen surfaces are very important to good health.

Clean and disinfect cutting boards and thoroughly wash utensils after each use; keep surfaces free of food particles and grease in which bacteria can grow; wipe up spills, wash dishes regularly and use clean sponges and dishcloths.

Launder sponges and dishcloths frequently, using liquid household bleach in the wash water, and allow the sponges and cloths to dry thoroughly between uses.

* 88% of Americans understand that clean bathroom surfaces are very important to good health.

The high humidity of the bathroom and its frequent use make areas around the sink, toilet, shower and tub a haven for germs and allergens. Regular disinfection of sink areas, toilet bowls, tubs and showers can help keep germs from spreading.

* 45% of Americans believe that regular dusting is very important to their overall health.

Household dust contributes to respiratory irritations and allergies. Regular dusting, along with laundering bed linens, cleaning glass surfaces and vacuuming, can help reduce allergy symptoms caused by dust. Use a clean, soft cloth sprayed with a dusting product to keep dust under control and remove soil that can damage finishes.

* 65% of Americans don't realize that it's important to leave disinfectants on surfaces for a specified length of time to get their full germ-killing benefits.

Disinfectants and disinfectant cleaners take an amount of time to work that varies by product. To disinfect kitchen counter tops and areas you might have touched during food preparation (such as refrigerator door handles), apply disinfectant and let stand the time specified on the label before wiping unless otherwise directed on the label.

* 20% of Americans don't know that germs can live longer on damp surfaces than on dry surfaces.

Frequent cleaning of damp surfaces removes moisture and soils that mildew and bacteria need to grow. Keeping surfaces as dry as possible also helps create a healthy home environment. To control the growth of mold and mildew, use a mildew stain remover on tub and shower walls and vinyl shower curtains.

* 31% of Americans don't know that warmer water makes hand washing more effective.

Warm water makes it easier for the soap to loosen dirt and rinse germs down the drain. Washing hands with soap and warm water--before preparing and eating meals, after using the bathroom or diapering a child, after handling a pet, and before and after coming in contact with someone who is sick--is one of the easiest ways to prevent germs from spreading.

* 43% of Americans aren't aware that longer lathering time makes for a "cleaner clean."

A thorough hand washing with soap and warm water reduces the risk of transferring germs to people as well as to objects such as toys and door handles. At least 10 to 15 seconds of lathering time is needed to properly wash your hands. Those wanting extra protection against some common disease-causing bacteria may want to use an antibacterial soap.

Source: Soap and Detergent Assn. and Roper Starch Worldwide Research

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