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In the battle between you and household germs, germs can lurk everywhere, while you can only be in one place at a time.

When it comes to the ongoing battle with germs, you may be too busy or tired, whereas the germs aren't.

However, keeping household germs at bay helps keep colds, flu and other infectious illnesses from spreading. These cleaning tips can help you get the upper hand with germs by focusing your efforts on the places where they lurk the most.

Where the germs are

As a rule of thumb, any area of your home with high traffic and surfaces that get touched a lot is a germ bank.

Not all germs are harmful but where there are germ strongholds, the conditions are favourable for disease-causing viruses or bacteria to lurk.

One study found the kitchen sink had more bacteria than the toilet or rubbish bin. The only bathroom hotspot in the study's top 10 was the toothbrush holder. Why? Toothbrush holders are often near the toilet and flushing sends a fine spray of mist that can contaminate them. They also tend to be neglected because people focus on cleaning the toilet and more obvious germ hotspots.

Getting started: What you need to kill germs

Cleaning with soap and hot water removes dirt and grime and gets rid of some germs. Cleaning alone is usually enough for many surfaces, but you may want to disinfect areas where there are a lot of germs.

A disinfectant cleaner can be good for germ speed cleaning because it combines these two steps. You can use it for most kitchen worktops and bathroom surfaces.

Areas with sticky spills and dirt you can see should be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected. You can make an inexpensive and effective disinfectant by mixing no more than 0.2 litres of bleach in 3.8 litres of water. Never mix bleach with ammonia or vinegar. Keep bleach away from children and out of their reach.

Apply it and leave on for 3 to 5 minutes, then rinse and let air dry to save time. Or dry with a clean towel.

Always wear gloves and open some windows when you use products with bleach.

White vinegar or hydrogen peroxide are other effective homemade cleaners. However, never mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together and if you use hydrogen peroxide, test it first on an unseen surface to make sure it doesn't discolour or fade it.

Daily speed cleaning for germs

You can attack some serious germ strongholds in half-hour or less a day. If you don't have children or pets, it's even faster because you can skip some of the steps. Start in the kitchen:

  • Clean and disinfect work-tops, taps, handles, including the fridge, and cutting boards. Check the manufacturer's directions for specialty countertops.
  • Clean with dishcloths that you can throw in the washing machine on a hot wash. Replace towels and dishcloths daily.
  • Clean spills on the kitchen floor to keep them from attracting more dirt and bacteria.
  • Empty bathroom bins and those with dirty nappies, and take out the rubbish. Freshen the containers with sanitising spray.
  • Clean and sanitise the bathroom taps and handles.
  • Wash pet bowls.
  • If you have a child in nappies, clean and disinfect the changing table.
  • If your child uses dummies, put them on the top shelf of the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe. Otherwise, wash them and any toys your child puts in their mouth, with soap and hot water. Check toy cleaning labels first.

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