Tag Archives for " cleaning "

Our Top Articles for Reference by Topic

Our Top Articles for Reference by Topic

We have published a lot of information for you on our website, so we understand it can be a lot to digest!  Here’s a shortlist of our top articles 

Mold and Mycotoxins

Mold Prevention

Mold Testing

Cleaning

Air Filtration

Humidity

New Home Search

Ventilation

Home Projects for Better Air Quality

HVAC

Disaster/Emergency Preparation

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: There is a Difference

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: There is a Difference

Hold on, we’re going to break some common misconceptions in this post!

Misconception #1: What room do you think is the dirtiest (germiest) part of your house?  

Most people said that it is the bathroom (in a study of 22 families), but in reality, it is THE KITCHEN.  Coliform bacteria –indicating possible fecal contamination—was found on: (from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers)

More than 75% of dish sponges and rags

45% of kitchen sinks

32% of countertops

18% of cutting boards

Overall, the 10 germiest items in the household, listed in order, are:

  • Dish sponges/rags

  • Kitchen sink

  • Toothbrush holders

  • Pet bowls

  • Coffee reservoir:  (NSF’s 2011 International Household Germ Study found yeast and mold present in 31% of households studied. In half of those, it was found in the coffee reservoir of the coffeemaker.)

  • Bathroom faucet handle

  • Pet toys

  • Countertops

  • Stove knobs: Staphyloccus aureus (staph), a common and potentially harmful type of bacteria,was found on stove knobs in 5% of the homes where the bacteria was discovered.

  • Cutting boards

Misconception #2: In the US, we tend to use the words cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting interchangeably, but they really are not the same!  

Many people use vinegar to clean because it is a “natural” non-toxic product, but it does not sanitize.  “It’s a misconception that if you’re using vinegar to clean, you’re sanitizing,” says Mindy Costello, a registered environmental health sanitarian and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) consumer product certification specialist. “Cleaning is just removing the soil. In sanitizing, you’re killing the microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi).” If you want to reduce your risk of getting sick, sanitizing is the way to go. (Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers)  Sanitization reduces contamination or bacteria to a safe level.

Now, if you really want to go all-out, disinfection kills everything on a particular surface, according to Travers Anderson, R&D Group Manager at Clorox.  

Now that you know what cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting are, where and when should they be used?

According to Mr. Anderson at Clorox, sanitizing is best for surfaces that don't typically come into contact with hazardous bacteria, or those that shouldn't come into contact with powerful chemicals: Think cooking tools and food prep surfaces or toys that children come into close contact with (or put into their mouths). Disinfecting is for the big messes, particularly those involving bodily fluids, blood, and the like. In household settings, you'd disinfect a toilet or sinks. (realsimple.com)  

Sanitizing can be done with a cleaning product, or with appliances that have this built-in feature, like a dishwasher or washing machine.  These appliances do so with high heat during the cycle.  It’s important to use these cycles to sanitize your laundry and dishes regularly, especially clothes and dishes worn and used by people who are ill. Sanitize high-contact surfaces regularly, and do dishes as soon as possible, as bacteria begins to grow after about two hours on soiled dishes left at room temperature according to Ms. Costello of the NSF.

Dishwashers and washing machines are tested by the NSF to ensure their sanitizing cycles are faultless.  Clothes washers must show that the sanitizing cycle removes 99.9% of microorganisms from laundry and dishwashers must show a reduction of 99.999%. During testing, three common organisms – staphyloccus aureus, klebsiella pneumoniae, and pseudomonas aeruginosa – are added to the loads of dishes or laundry. The level of bacteria is tested afterward. The water in dishwashers that earn the NSF mark for sanitization must reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit during the final rinse and stay at or above that temperature long enough to achieve the 99.999 % reduction.

The sanitizing cycle doesn’t need to be used on every load of clothing, however, because the high heat can cause colors to fade and fibers to wear over time.  It’s a good idea to use it when laundering clothing or bedding from someone who’s sick, or when washing sweaty clothing, or when towels or clothing smell musty–indicating mold growth.  (realsimple.com)

To sanitize sponges and dishrags, heat them in the microwave for two minutes while they’re wet.  

As for cleaning products, we are all for non-toxic ones.  TotalClean is an all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer that is safe to use in all areas of the home, from the kitchen to the bathroom to your childrens’ toys.  It hasn’t been tested according to the EPA’s requirements for sanitizing and disinfection yet, so we recommend it for cleaning purposes and will advise when these tests are completed!  

Bleach is a sanitizer at low concentrations and a disinfectant at higher concentrations.  However, bleach has toxic VOCs and we don’t recommend it.  Instead, try hypochlorous acid.  Even though it sounds toxic and it’s related to bleach (hypochlorite), hypochlorous is much safer as well as being a far superior disinfectant to bleach.  One of the most fundamental reasons for this is its pH. Hypochlorous acid exists at a near-neutral pH (5-7). Bleach resides at a highly-alkaline pH (8-13). The germ-killing properties of bleach are derived from the presence of hypochlorous acid. However, because of its high pH, the majority of the hypochlorous acid present in bleach ends up getting converted to hypochlorite, which is a less effective disinfectant.  (hypsosource.com)

Here’s something else you may not know: the dirtier the surface is, the less effective the disinfectant is. (sfgate.com)  Switching from using bleach to hypochlorous as a sanitizer is not complicated at all, but it may mean you need to adjust some of your cleaning protocols. For example, cleaning the area with regular soap and water first to remove the bulk of organic material present allows your sanitizer (hypochlorous acid) to disinfect much more effectively. Otherwise, the chlorine in the hypochlorous gets used up trying to break down the organic matter, instead of focusing on killing the more resilient pathogens. (hypsosource.com)  

If you aren’t convinced, check out the following table.   It shows that hypochlorous needs less concentration (parts per million or ppm) and less contact time than bleach to do the same or better job at disinfection!

Source: hypsosource.com

Now that you know about hypochlorous acid, check out the following disinfectants::

  • Force of Nature is a multi-purpose cleaner & EPA registered disinfectant that kills 99.9% of germs. It’s even EPA approved for use against Covid-19.  Best of all, you can easily make more cleaner at home with their small countertop appliance plus a capsule of salt, water & vinegar.  No bulky plastic bottles to tote home or try to recycle!  Force of Nature is hypochlorous acid, a powerful disinfectant.

  • Clean Republic’s All Purpose Cleaner is also hypochlorous acid, and it comes pre-mixed in 3 small spray bottles for $15.  The size of the bottles mean that you can carry them in your car or stash them in small spaces to use whenever and wherever you need to!  

  • Cleanwell Botanical Disinfectant Cleaning Wipes are also a great on-the-go disinfector.  They use Thymol, which is a component of botanical thyme oil that was approved in 2020 by the EPA as an effective disinfectant against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It also disinfects bacteria and viruses including MRSA, Salmonella, H1N1, Influenza A, Staph, E-Coli, Norovirus, Rhinovirus, and more. The thyme scent is very pleasant.

  • The Honest Company Disinfecting Spray uses hydrogen peroxide to clean, disinfect, and deodorize while meeting EPA’s criteria for products effective against SARS-CoV-2 and a laundry list of other germs. If you’re familiar with hydrogen peroxide, it’s one of our favorite non-toxic cleaners that you can safely use on food surfaces and children’s items.  However, it can be a bit harsh, etching marble and granite, it shouldn’t be mixed with vinegar, and can discolor fabrics.

Disinfecting shouldn’t require heavy gloves, eye protection and a respirator! Knowledge is power, and you CAN disinfect without smelly, toxic chemicals.  It’s just a matter of changing your mindset and your tools (cleaning products), so that it’s easy to do.  Breathe easier knowing that your home is clean AND disinfected, the non-toxic way! 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Getting rid of the ICK: Mold in the Shower

Getting rid of the ICK: Mold in the Shower

Mold growth in the shower seems to me like cockroaches in a house: even luxury homes sometimes have problems with each, and sometimes it takes a number of attempts to find a non-toxic solution for them!   The shower just happens to be the ideal place for mold to grow (moisture, food, air and heat are all applied daily!), so keeping the shower from looking like a petri dish can be challenging.  Let us help you with this problem!

Since we know, wittingly or unwittingly, how to grow mold, we can look at its life source requirements and see if we can eliminate one or more to get a mold-free shower.

Moisture:  You would think that taking the “wet” out of a shower is impossible.  Of course, the shower will often be wet, but the important bit is that it’s not continually wet or wet for long periods.  There are various ways to dry it out after showering; check to see if there are any that you haven’t tried! 

  • Make the surfaces hydrophobic:  Hydro-what?  Hydrophobic is the characteristic of products like Rain-X: they repel water instead of absorbing them, so that water drops roll right off.  The active ingredient in Rain-X is Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which is rated a “1” on scale of 1-10 by the Environmental Working Group (meaning it’s of very low toxicity).  In fact, here’s a tip that has worked well for me: after thoroughly cleaning your shower as well as you can (see next section), give all the surfaces, glass and otherwise, with a coat or two of Rain-X to make the water slide right off.

  • Squeegee: This tool, normally in the hands of a window-washer, is also useful for removing water from flat surfaces in the shower.  It can work somewhat on tile if the tiles are large and flat, but it works on glass even better.

  • Drain: Obviously, the water has to have somewhere to go.  If your drain is not working well, you can enlist the help of a plumber.  While the plumber is involved, inquire whether the venting of the drain is adequate (if a vent is too distant or non-existent, the drain does not work well and can cause mold build-up).  If the slope of the shower pan leaves puddles in the floor, it might be prudent to think about replacing or remodeling the shower, because continually wet floors are not only unsanitary, they’re unsafe!

Food: Molds can dine on just about anything, and dead skin cells and even bodywash and hair shampoo are on the menu.  That’s why regular cleaning can break the mold chain even if the other “links” like moisture, air and heat are present.  Find a non-abrasive sponge or brush to avoid damage, and go to town with a non-toxic cleaner:

  • TotalClean is our odorless powerhouse cleaner that can be used on any surface

  • Earth Clean is especially good as a degreaser if you have buildup of waxy products (citrus scent)

  • Force of Nature is a method of making electrolyzed water, which is a completely safe and natural disinfectant that can be used for hand sanitizing and cleaning all areas in your home that can tolerate water!  They have a line of reusable bottles and travel-size sprays that are great for the environment.

  • Vinegar-based cleaners also work, however make sure that they are safe for your shower surface first (for example, they should never be used on travertine or marble, both of which are a type of limestone that can be damaged by acids). 

Air: Of course, you can’t eliminate air from your bathroom, and some molds are even anaerobic anyway (meaning they can survive on little to no air!).  What’s best is if you can change out the air as much as possible, sweeping away excess humidity and mold spores with it.  This is what a good bathroom exhaust fan is for: get the air moving!  Professional restoration companies do the same when they bring in big blowers: air movement speeds up the drying process because it promotes evaporation of water from all the surfaces.  Check out our article on how to check if the size and venting arrangement of your bathroom exhaust fan is optimal.  Getting members of your household to use it is another feat, however this can be automatic if you have an electrician wire the switches together so that the vent always comes on with the light.  Also, here’s another way to “condition” the air in your bathroom to avoid mold:  use a Germ Defender 24/7.   The ions created by the Germ Defender not only destroy mold and its spores in the air and on surfaces, it also sanitizes surfaces after they’ve been contaminated by the dreaded toilet plume.  

Heat:  Anyone who’s cleaned out a refrigerator knows that heat is not a pre-requisite for mold to grow!   However, it certainly makes a more hospitable environment for many molds to flourish.  Using your bathroom exhaust vent after showering  certainly helps reduce moist heat in the air.  

There are also many products worth mentioning that can keep your shower cleaner for longer.  

  • That pink slime that forms around your drains and shower corners can also populate the shower head, and it’s not good!  It’s actually caused by the bacteria Serratia marcescens, and can cause urinary and respiratory tract infections, which are especially problematic for people with immune problems. (Not So Pretty in Pink: What Is That Pink Slime in My Bathroom?)  There are other types of harmful bacteria in there as well, such as NTM (nontuberculosis mycobacteria).  Soaking your showerhead to clean it does not fully resolve the problem, because it does not dry out. If you can’t seem to get rid of it from the shower spray head, swap it out with one of these:

    • Shower Clear Shower Heads ($299-319) are made of brass (a naturally anti-microbial material) and are made to open fully to dry out between uses. 

    • This showerhead by Niagara ($28) features a removable faceplate that will also allow the showerhead to dry between uses.

    • AquaDance Antimicrobial has antimicrobial rubber tips that also prevent minerals from clogging the spray jets.  (It uses the material Microban, which does contain quaternary ammonium compounds or “quats”, however).  

  • Thankfully, there are several good changes happening in the shower curtain market.  For one, PVC shower curtains are being phased out and replaced with PEVA or EVA.  Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, is that plastic with the strong smell that emits toxic VOCs which can disrupt hormones, liver and kidneys, and your nervous system.  EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a safer alternative to PVC, but some EVA contains formamide.  Formamide is used to make the foam soft, but it’s considered to be carcinogenic and a developmental toxin that can be absorbed through the skin. If you’re considering purchasing one of these doors made from EVA, it’s best to contact the manufacturer to ask if their product contains formamide. (hellonaturalliving.com)  

    • Sustainable Jungle also gives many organic and sustainable options to plastic shower curtains!  

    • Check out how I used TotalClean, our non-toxic all purpose cleaner, to clean the pink stains off the hem of my shower curtain.

  • And finally, what about your washcloth?  Experts say it’s a good idea to use a new one everyday, or at least several times a week.  Since it’s usually hanging in the moist shower, washcloths and scrubbies take a long time to dry, allowing microbes to grow and establish in the fibers.   

Since bathrooms are among everyone’s least favorite rooms to clean, and showers and toilets certainly also near the bottom, I’m liking the concept of wetrooms more and more.  Wetrooms are waterproofed bathrooms (at least all of the floor and some distance up the walls) that can be wetted and cleaned all in one go.  If you can’t do that, at least make your cleaning tools easy to use and accessible:

  • This Turbo Handheld Sprayer by Clorox ($50) eliminates the tiring pump, pump, pump of handsprayers.  Used with non-toxic cleaners like we suggested above, this could be a game-changer!  We don’t recommend the Clorox Turbo (or Turbo Pro) however, because it uses alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides, which can have asthma, respiratory, reproductive and developmental effects according to the Environmental Working Group.

  • E-Cloths Shower Cleaning Kit ($15) requires only water to have a sparkling shower.  Once you’ve cleaned it, use these two cloths on a regular basis (with no chemicals) to keep it clean.

  • The shower squeegee is a good way to remove water from the glass surfaces, but what about all the corners, curves and floor area?  If you thought about this before designing your bathroom, you might install an Airmada Air-Jet Shower Drying System.  It directs compressed air through special nozzles on the walls and ceiling of your shower, and can operate on a timer so that without your effort, water is removed from the equation and mold doesn’t have a chance to grow.  Another perk is that everyone can walk into a dry bathroom, no matter how many people have showered before you.  Now that is a great use of technology!

Photo by Curology on Unsplash