Keeping your house clean is about more than making sure things look neat for guests. Wiping down dirty areas and using a disinfectant on surfaces can be vital in keeping you and your family safe from bacteria and viruses that can accumulate over time—especially in the areas of your home where you store, handle, and prepare the food and drinks you enjoy throughout the day. But while spraying down your countertops and staying on top of dirty dishes can feel like a straightforward routine, experts warn that you may want to take extra caution by putting on a safety mask and gloves before cleaning up one thing in particular. Read on to see what kind of mess could be putting your health at serious risk.
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Let’s face it: Most people dread having to bust out the broom or reach for the bleach when it comes time to clean their homes. But even though everyone has their own style and levels of preference when it comes to everything from washing windows to sweeping up dust bunnies, a few cleaning habits could actually be putting your health in danger if you’re not too careful.
While bleach may be one of the most common and effective household cleaners available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that you should never use it at the same time as ammonia. Even though it may seem easy to avoid mixing the two chemicals, the agency cautions that ammonia can be a common ingredient in products such as window cleaners, pet stain removers, and toilet bowl cleaners, making it easy to accidentally double back on an area with a different product containing bleach. When the two chemicals combine, they produce a toxic gas called chloramine that can be dangerous to your health.
The CDC suggests that anyone cleaning with bleach should take extra steps to protect themselves by wearing safety goggles and sturdy gloves to protect their skin. It’s also best to open up windows or run a rotating fan to increase ventilation and reduce exposure to dangerous fumes.
It’s one thing to walk into your kitchen and come across a major food mess or an overflowing trash can that must be dealt with immediately. But according to experts, if you notice rodent droppings, you should be sure to put on a breathing mask and a pair of gloves before tackling the problem. The specks—typically a quarter of an inch long and look like black rice grains but are smaller—present a more considerable health risk than their tiny size suggests.
“Many rodents common to North America can, unfortunately, be carriers of Hantaviruses which can Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS),” David Floyd, founder of ThePestInformer, tells Best Life. “HPS can be deadly in humans and will cause symptoms such as fever, severe muscle aches, fatigue, and eventually difficulty breathing.”
Floyd warns that surfaces that show signs of mouse poop could also be covered with mouse urine, which can also pose serious health problems if you try to wipe it away without taking extra care. “HPS transmission from rodents is caused by improperly disposing of or handling rodent urine and droppings. Once these are stirred up, they can form airborne particles which can transfer the virus,” he says.
Besides donning protective gear, the CDC has also outlined a few other essential steps for cleaning up the pest mess. The agency recommends opening windows and increasing ventilation 30 minutes before you go to remove any waste. From there, you should spray the area with a disinfectant or a one-to-ten bleach and water mixture before letting it soak for five minutes or for however long as specified by the disinfectant product you’re using.
The agency then says to wipe down the entire area using paper towels that should get thrown out right away. Once the visible signs of droppings have been removed, disinfect any surfaces one more time before taking on a major clean of your entire kitchen by mopping your floors and wiping down countertops.
Unfortunately, your cleaning job doesn’t end once the droppings and urine are gone. Experts say finding such messes is a sign of an infestation that could be affecting other areas you haven’t noticed yet.
“As rodents often enter the house in search of food, we also recommend that you go through your pantry and cupboards and throw out any products that may have come in contact with the pests, as they could also be contaminated,” Charlie Church, president of Getem Services, tells Best Life.
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