“The only person who comes into the house besides [my wife], Christine, and me is the woman who cleans the house once every two weeks,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “She wears a mask and gloves at all times while in the house.”
Although maintaining a clean home is vital to preventing the spread of germs, including those that cause covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the decision to have a self-employed housekeeper or a professional cleaning service come in right now can be a difficult one. If you do decide you need help now that your dustballs are the size of baseballs, and you are fortunate enough to be able to afford to bring in outside help, how can you best keep yourself and your cleaning professional safe indoors in this new environment?
Like everything in this pandemic, it’s a matter of assessing and managing risks. “You can minimize the risk, but you can’t eliminate it,” says Dean Hart, a New York microbiologist and author on the transmission of viruses and diseases. Hart says it starts with both cleaners and residents wearing masks and with getting as much air circulation as possible in the space. Cleaning agencies could offer testing for their staff, especially as it becomes more widely available, plus temperature checks and pulse oximeters. “There are no definites in this business, but there are good ideas,” Hart says.
“It really comes down to your contact with people,” says Brian Labus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. He says you should leave the house when people are cleaning, or at least stay in a separate part of it. “The main mode of transmission for this disease is when one person is coughing or talking out respiratory droplets and another person is breathing them in,” he says.
As for the danger of being infected from your cleaner touching the surfaces in your home? “There is always the possibility, but it’s a minor mode of transmission,” Labus says. “The cleaning person should be cleaning all that away.”
In the early days of the pandemic, most house cleaners lost clients. Some condos or co-ops did not allow cleaners or service people of any kind into their buildings, and some still don’t. The households that employed independent housekeepers had to decide whether they were comfortable having them back, if it was allowed. Some private employers continued to pay cleaners’ regular salaries, although the cleaners didn’t come for many weeks.
It’s more important than ever to communicate clearly with your cleaning professional, Forte adds. If you are hiring from a service, confirm what precautions it is taking and how it is screening workers. “Don’t make assumptions. Maybe you want them to go a bit beyond their normal routine in terms of cleaning, using more disinfectants,” she says. “Make sure they know how to use them and [tell them] that you want the product to sit on the surface for the length of time that is required for the sanitizing.”
Looking for some clever cleaning tips? Take a look at some of the best cleaning secrets from hotel housekeeping…
1. They clear the clutter first
Maria Stickney, the Housekeeping Manager at a Radisson Blu hotel, likes to clear the clutter out of a room so she can start with a blank slate. She empties the bins, removes the linens, towels, and anything else left behind.
In the bathroom, she clears the towels, bathmats, bottles, and everything on the counters. ‘This removes the temptation of just wiping around these items or picking them up and immediately placing them back down on a wet surface, which can leave ring marks,’ she says.
2. They prefer microfiber cloths – but reach for clever substitutes in a pinch
The secret to efficient dusting is a proper cleaning cloth. ‘Microfiber is the best,’ says Agustin Canongo, the Director of Housekeeping at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Tennessee.
‘If you don’t have one, use a rag that’s 100 per cent cotton — like a (clean) cloth nappy, an old pillowcase or an old T-shirt – and dampen it slightly.’ Be sure to avoid using polyester cloths – they can actually create more dust.
3. They know the trick to a quickly made bed is in the tags
Making a bed that’s larger than a twin can be time-consuming; no matter which corner you start with, you almost always realise you put the long end of a fitted sheet on the short end of the mattress.
A hint, ‘tags always go on the bottom,’ says Emma Anderson, Best Western’s 2014 Housekeeper of the Year. ‘With king sheets, the tags are on the left. With queen sheets, they’re on the right.’ Anderson also suggests marking the inside seams with a fabric marker to denote right or left corners.
4. They give drapes a good whack in between deep cleanings
Dust particles will only continue to circulate around the room over time. ‘The best way to dust drapes is to whack them with a hand towel,’ Stickney says. A towel this size is heavy enough to make a good impact, but light enough that your arm won’t tire. What about the drape attachment on your vacuum? ‘It doesn’t get all the nooks and crannies like a towel,’ Stickney explains. Knock out all the dust on to the floor and then vacuum it up.
5. They vacuum before they mop
Always vacuum — or sweep — before you mop. ‘You do not want wet hair on your floor – it can be difficult to remove,’ Stickney says. When it’s time to mop, start from the far corner and make your way to the door.
6. They do the bathrooms last
‘It’s best to start in the bedroom (rather than the bathroom) to minimize bacterial transfer,’ Stickney says.
7. They know that cleaning products take time to really work
Let your cleaners do the work for you. ‘Spray the shower walls and the toilet and leave them to do their job for several minutes,’ Stickney says. Use that time to clean the mirrors, windows, medicine cabinet, and whatever else is in the room. ‘Then go back and wash off the surfaces, using way less elbow grease.’
8. They vacuum the opposite way
Your mother may have taught you to start at the furthest part of the room and vacuum yourself out, but Anderson has a different method: ‘Vacuum into the room over the high-traffic areas and then vacuum yourself out, so you hit the most walked-on spots twice.’
9. Their favourite cleaner is probably in your kitchen cupboard
‘You’d think that we’d have some crazy secret weapon up our sleeves, but the best thing we have is white vinegar and water,’ says Canongo. ‘It cleans well and even clears cloudiness from residue left behind by other cleaners.’ Fill a spray bottle with one part vinegar, three parts water.
10. They always have a toothbrush on hand
You certainly don’t need to clean every inch of your house with a fine-tooth comb, but Stickney does support the use of a toothbrush once in a while. ‘I have several small brushes to get into those hard to reach spots in the bathroom,’ she says. ‘Around the bottom screws of a toilet are the hardest parts to get.’
11. They corral their tools
Housekeepers keep everything they could possibly need on their handy carts. Take a cue from them and make yourself a mini version. Fill a plastic bin or bucket with all of your cleaning supplies, rags and brushes. ‘A caddie keeps everything together, cutting down the amount of time it takes to get the job done,’ says Anderson. Keep it in the laundry room and grab it when you need it.
What could be more important than living in a clean, organized, spotless home? Between professional duties, family obligations, and other responsibilities, it’s not always easy making the time to tidy up our interiors and give them the thorough cleanup they deserve – not to mention that household chores can be quite exhausting; they can quickly eat away your energy.
Luckily, you and your household members don’t have to do everything yourselves! Nowadays, wherever you live, you’ll find plenty of companies that specialize in cleaning services for residential homes. They’re professional, efficient, and affordable, for the most part. In that spirit, here’s a useful guide with some compelling reasons why you should consider hiring the services of a professional housekeeping company.
Guaranteed Safe and Healthy Home
It goes without saying that a clean home is always conducive to good health, wellbeing, and a productive environment. By regularly attending to your floors, carpets, curtains, furniture, and decoration items, you cleanse the space and rid the air of any dust particles or pollutants that can cause a number of health concerns, such as allergies or breathing problems. This is critically important for those who want a clean residence, especially if you are prone to asthma or have young children with you. As such, having an experienced housekeeper visit your home a few times a week should help keep your interior perfectly safe, healthy, and livable.
While you might know everything there is to know about dusting, vacuuming, and disinfecting surfaces, a professional cleaning service does so by adhering to certain industry standards. Whether you’ve just hosted a monthly neighborhood get-together, or about to move out of your place, Locals suggest that those living in south-west London take into account specialized companies who possess expertise in dealing with household clean-up situations and end of tenancy cleaning for residential customers. So, whether you reside in New York or London, with some research, you’re bound to find a reputable cleaning service for your home. In any case, be sure to compare providers to find the most advantageous prices.
A great number of homeowners have had unpleasant experiences hiring a housekeeper. The main reason behind this is that they chose not to go through a licensed company first; this naturally comes with a number of risks such as theft, degradation, or even illegal occupancy. Besides, there is no real way to assess how skilled the housekeeper unless you hire them yourself. On the other hand, when you deal directly with a cleaning company, you have the assurance that you will have a competent and trustworthy person coming into your home. They will be held accountable for any misdemeanors.
Contrary to what many people believe, hiring a service for regular home cleaning doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. These are often thought to be reserved for a wealthy clientele, but things have changed over recent years.
With more actors entering the market, prices have dramatically decreased, which means more and more people now have access to and can afford these services without breaking the bank. If you still think this is a wasted expense, remember that professionalism and convenience bring great value to your home, which necessarily comes at a price.
What’s more, you can solicit a cleaning company for a wide range of services, including general house upkeep, carpet, upholstery, or mattress cleaning, a thorough kitchen cleaning, and more. You’ll also find that many providers have experience in post-construction cleaning a home renovation, for instance. So, whatever your needs are, there’s bound to be a service that you can hire to do the job quickly and effectively.
Speaking of which, and this is worth mentioning, having a professional housekeeping service means you don’t have to spend as much time cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing, and tidying up on a daily basis. By hiring a trusted company, you’ll have more time to dedicate to your daily activities, spend with your family, or simply relax and unwind after a long day on the job. This brings you peace of mind and allows you to focus on your responsibility and long-term goals.
At the end of the day, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. Hiring a qualified home cleaning service will most definitely require a separate budget, but it’s worth it. That way, you can dedicate your time to your daily activities while enjoying a clean and spotless home throughout the week. So, whether you need someone to tidy up your home a few times a week or an expert team to come in and clean after a renovation, you’ll be guaranteed professionalism, reliability, and peace of mind.
As our society becomes more homebound and hygiene-conscious, we’re paying more attention to keeping things clean in the bedroom. While most people probably don’t “season” their sheets, many of us aren’t cleaning our beds as often as we should be.
Sweat, skin cells and tiny prowlers
Is that just plain gross or is it a bigger problem? According to respiratory expert Professor John Blakey from Sir Charles Gairdner hospital in Western Australia, “If you didn’t wash your bedding for a year it would be more than two pounds heavier just because of dead skin.”
It gets worse. Little microscopic dust mite arthropods (like spiders), thrive on these skin cells, particularly on pillows because they love the humid environment. “More than 10% of the weight of the manky pillows will be hundreds of thousands of dust mites and their droppings,” Blakey says. Even if that doesn’t unnerve you, it can be problematic for the millions of Australians who have asthma. Dust mite allergy can also cause all-year-round hayfever-type symptoms.
Other microscopic lurkers that flourish on sweaty old bedding include bacteria that can alter the lungs’ microbiome and lead to infections or interfere with inhaled drugs, says Blakey, along with allergy-causing fungal spores such as Aspergillus fumigatus that can trigger asthma. And to complete the cycle, it’s thought these little spores, which are most commonly found in pillows, might feed on dust mite droppings.
Bed bugs are not as common in Australia as they are elsewhere, but infestations are increasing, and the resulting red welts could be mistaken for eczema. Even skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis can be exacerbated by bacteria that lurk in unwashed bedding, according to dermatologists Dr Steven Shumack from Central Sydney Dermatology. Exposing infected skin to sheets can also cause reinfection. Other nasties to look out for that can hang out in sheets and pillowcases are staphylococcus and scabies.
So, freshly laundered bedding clearly has more perks than the exquisite smell of clean sheets. But when and how should we clean it?
Sheets and pillowcases
Although there is no hard and fast rule, the consensus is that sheets and pillowcases should be washed each week. “I’d be a little worried if people weren’t washing their bedding approximately weekly,” says Blakey, and only a hot wash will kill mites and fungi. The National Asthma Council recommends washing in water hotter than 131F. Failing that, they suggest hot tumble drying for 10 minutes or washing in cold water with a product containing tea tree or eucalyptus oil.
Opening the windows and airing sheets in the sun are recommended. Shumack suggests people with skin conditions wash even more often, adding that ironing sheets and pillowcases can also help sterilize them.
It should be noted that sweat – and urine – contains urea, which can react with cleaning products and form compounds called nitrosamines which trigger asthma. The best evidence so far in this regard points to bleaches, so it is better to avoid cleaning agents that contain chlorine. Pouring bleach into a bathtub to clean filthy pillows as in the TikTok video “might well make someone wheezy”, notes Blakey. People with skin rashes can also react to certain cleaning products, says Shumack. This can be alleviated by making sure the bedding is rinsed well after washing to avoid any residue.
The Good Housekeeping Institute suggests pillows should be washed every six months. But as they are hotspots for dust mites and their teeny friends, Asthma Australia recommends washing and drying them thoroughly each month.
Most pillows will come with cleaning instructions on their tags, so it’s best to follow the manufacturers directions – but if you’ve cut your pillow tags off (or never had them to begin with) down and synthetic pillows can typically be machine washed, while memory foam pillows should be soaked with gentle detergent, rinsed, gently squeezed then left to air-dry.
To keep mites away, the National Asthma Council recommends covering pillows, as well as mattresses and quilts, with mite-resistant cases – which is no substitute for washing them regularly.
Asthma Australia suggests replacing pillows when you notice they’re starting to lose their lustre, while some manufacturers suggest doing this every couple of years.
Doonas – and likely other covers like blankets – can also collect dust mites, so these should be at least aired, and ideally washed, regularly. Many doonas and covers are dry-clean only, so pay close attention to the manufacturer’s directions.
While some manufacturers suggest replacing doonas every five years, there’s no hard and fast rule about this, and the lifespan of your duvet will likely depend on how often you wash it.
Either way, if you do want to get rid of your doona or pillow, Friends with Dignity gratefully accept them.
There are other options, too. “The crafty ones among us can upcycle them into large floor cushions, door stops or use for packing and moving,” says Ryan Collins, head of Circular Economy Programs at Planet Ark. Unfortunately, they are not recyclable so will otherwise need to go in the bin.
“If you can’t remember when you bought your mattress, get a new one!” says Blakey. He also recommends vacuuming your mattress when you’re hoovering the floors, and for sensitive people, using allergen-impregnable covers to help avoid contact with dust mites and their droppings.
Disposing of mattresses can cause other problems, though. Collins says 1.6 to 1.8 million are thrown out every year in Australia alone. Only half are recycled, so the rest end up in landfill. This is a problem because they are hard to compact and take up a lot of space. And most of their components, such as wood, foam, fabric and steel springs, can be recycled. “By not recycling these materials we’re wasting the resources, energy and water that went into making the product in the first case,” says Collins.
Many councils around Australia provide mattress recycling services, although there may be a fee, and some mattress retailers or brands have a return service. If the mattress is in good condition, it can be cleaned and reused or donated to charities. Householders can search RecyclingNearYou.com.au for drop-off and pick-up services, and businesses can search BusinessRecycling.com.au.
Even though these measures can help keep mites and other little lurkers at bay, all-round cleanliness certainly helps. Blakey says not to forget about exposure from other sources like sofas, rugs, clothes and office chairs. “Just having a clean bed isn’t going to be a cure-all.”