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Five Things To Clean After You've Been Sick, and How to Clean Them

Illustration for article titled Five Things To Clean After Youve Been Sick, and How to Clean Them
Graphic: Shep McAllister
5 Neat Things5 Neat ThingsJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast “Ask a Clean Person.” Each week, she’ll round up five essential cleaning products, tools and organizational systems to help you live your tidiest lives.

Hi and hello my name is Jolie Kerr and I have had a crummy little cold for what feels like FOREVER. It is very frustrating! Perhaps you have the same one? It seems like everyone I know does. Or maybe you’ve had flu or norovirus or, like, shingles. ‘Tis the season!

It’s actually An Important Thing To Do, after you’ve been sick, to perform some systematic cleaning so that you don’t keep giving yourself the same cold by, say, sleeping on the pillowcases you just spent a week sneezing and coughing into. Plus, let us level with one another and admit that at some point during that cold, you (we, fine) have wiped our runny nose on that pillowcase. So! Time to clean it, and these other things — and here are the products to use in pursuit of clearing out your sickhouse.


Good old Lysol! I love this stuff. It’s great for blasting a smelly-smelling trashcan, and also for blasting away germs, post-illness. Here are some things I want you to use Lysol on after you’ve been sick: Doorknobs, lightswitch plates, cabinet handles, sink faucets. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?!? I bet you are, but let me put a super fine point on it: You should Lysol all the high-touch spots in your home. Why? Well, because your hands are one of the germiest parts of you, so when you’re sick, everything you touch is getting your gross cold all over it.


Disinfect Your Remote, Phone, Laptop

Speaking of high-touch things! Your hands are constantly all over the TV remote, your phone (which may also serve as your TV remote), and laptop and so, under the best of circumstances, they should be cleaned regularly. But when you’re sick, that’s even more important to remember! Fortunately, there’s a low-cost and low-effort way to clean all these items: By using rubbing alcohol. You can either spray the bottled stuff onto a microfiber cloth and use it to wipe germs off of your electronics and their accessories, or you can use pre-moistened alcohol wipes for the job.


Do Some Laundry. Specifically THIS Laundry.

You already know, because I told you when I started this whole thing, that washing the pillowcases after an illness is a smart thing to do. Here are some other things that should get washed fairly soon after you’re back up on your feet: The rest of the sheets. The couch blankie you’ve had wrapped around your poor, shivering, aching body for the past five days. The hoodie, robe, jammies, shroud, etc. you’ve been festering in for the duration. THE HAND TOWELS, MY GOD, PLEASE LAUNDER THE HAND TOWELS AFTER YOU’VE BEEN SICK.

Oh my word? You do not have hand towels? Well, get yourself a set so that your guests don’t have to dry their hands on your bath towel! And then wash them after the next time you’re sick.


For the most part, it’s no longer necessary to wash anything with hot water. But post-illness, and fiber content permitting, it’s not a bad idea to launder these items with hot water. If they do need to be washed on cold, add some Lysol Laundry Sanitizer to the fun — in addition to, not in place of, your regular laundry detergent — to nuke even more germs than regular washing will. Dried-on snot (look, it happens!) can be pre-treated using an enzymatic stain treatment like Zout prior to laundering.


Clean Your Toothbrush, etc.

Here are a few ways to clean a toothbrush after you’ve been sick: Boil it; give it a swish and let it sit in a cup of disinfecting mouthwash for two minutes; dilute two drops of tea tree oil in hot water, and leave the toothbrush in that solution for a few minutes before rinsing well. Or just buy a new one. You’re probably due up anyway! Maybe even upgrade to an electric model if you haven’t already!!


If you wear a retainer or nighttime mouthguard, you should also clean that (AND the case you store it in!) after you’ve been sick. Denture tablets are great for this job!


Go Wild And Steam The Furniture!

Okay so look, this one isn’t strictly necessary but psychology being what it is, some of you will feel better, in a spiritual sense, if you go into full GERM BLASTING mode and steam the furniture. Focus on the mattress, where you’ve been laying your poor, sweaty body lo these many days of illness, and the couch because ditto that. The pillows, too, get those. The steam will kill germs and also freshen things up, smell-wise, which is nice after a few days of being cooped up, when that sort of stale, human body smell can start to develop.



Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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