You finally kicked that cold that laid you out for a week... but your home and personal belongings haven't. With the advent of cold and flu season, here are the things you really should clean after you recover from illness to avoid being out of commission for another week.
Sheets and pillowcases
Changing the sheets after you've been sick is a good thing to do for the obvious reason that you've probably spent an extended time lying there, breathing germs all over the place, sweating out a fever, and generally doing all the gross things that sick people do. The other reason to change your sheets after you've been sick is that getting into a freshly made bed when you begin to feel better sends a psychological signal that you're feeling much, much better.
If your illness is dragging on and you can't muster the energy to strip the bed and launder a full set of sheets, you might want to consider changing the pillowcases as a half-measure. The cases, after all, bear the brunt of your runny nose and sweaty brow. As a bonus, laying your weary head on a clean pillowcase will probably help to make you feel a little less gross.
Did you brave a nasty little cold from the comfort of your couch? There's nothing better than curling up under a comfy throw blanket and festering in front of the TV to binge watch your favorite show. But when you're well enough to get off the couch, don't forget that you just spent three days sneezing into that comfy throw blanket -- toss it in the wash.
Robes, hoodies, and pajamas
Speaking of your favorite blankie, do you have a beloved robe, hoodie, or set of PJs that serves as your go-to ensemble when you're under the weather? Just like that throw blanket in the TV room, items of clothing that we swaddle ourselves in while sick should always go straight to the laundry room when we're feeling well enough to put on clothes with buttons.
Towels (ESPECIALLY hand towels)
Towels provide a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, which thrive on the moisture and residue left behind by dead skin and grooming products like soap, shampoo, and lotion. After an illness, it's important to launder the towels -- especially the hand towels -- to avoid communicating those germs back to yourself or other members of your household.
While I have you here, thinking about your bathroom, this is a good time to mention that it's not a bad idea to clean your toothbrush, which is as simple as dunking it in boiling water for 2 minutes. You can also swish it in a disinfecting mouthwash. The same goes for retainers or mouthguards worn at night -- make sure you give those a good cleaning too. Denture tablets are a great option for both.
Doorknobs, handles, switch plates, remote controls
You're probably already well aware that your hands are responsible for spreading cold and flu germs all over the place. It’s the reason why doctors and nurses and people who are naturally germophobic are always banging on about the importance of washing your hands, after all! But you might not have stopped to consider all the seemingly innocuous (and rarely cleaned) places in your home that your hands constantly touch. So: Use a disinfecting spray like Lysol, or an all-purpose cleaner like Clorox Clean-Up to ride high-touch items like doorknobs, refrigerator and microwave handles, lightswitch plates, and remote controls of all the nastiness they've picked up.
You know what else you touch constantly? Your cell phone. Seriously, it's so gross, you have no idea. The easiest way to clean a grubby, grimy touchscreen without causing damage is to apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a microfiber cloth, which can be used to wipe away streaks and spots while also killing germs. Same goes for your keyboard, computer screen and portable music devices. That way, no one will ever have to know how often you've been sneezing all over your phone and laptop.
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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert who spends way too much time thinking about all the places people are sneezing. Follow her @joliekerr.