Did you know that 88%* of EU consumers feel that when their place is clean, it gives them peace of mind? Don't take your health for granted. Keeping our homes clean and having good hygiene habits are vital for our health as well as our wellbeing. Done well, safely and sustainably, this doesn’t need to be a chore either. Good habits are essential for our good health.
Let’s be clear first what we mean when we talk about cleaning and hygiene.
Cleaning and hygiene - what do they mean?
Cleaning is the mechanical or chemical removal of dirt and soil from the human body, an object or an area. Normally, cleaning with soap or detergent is followed by rinsing with water is adequate to remove visible dirt and allergens. Cleaning also reduces the number of microbes on hands, surfaces and fabrics.
Disinfection is the targeted use of a disinfectant to help prevent the spread of infection in situations where there is high risk of transmission of harmful microbes (e.g. when someone is infected or is vulnerable to infection). These products prevent the spread of infection by deactivating or killing harmful organisms.
Hygiene is the practice through which people maintain or promote good health. Making themselves and their surroundings clean, cleaning and - when needed - disinfecting surfaces, hands, units, surroundings and items of personal use in order to break the chain of infection, all contribute to hygiene. Other hygiene measures are for instance keeping a certain distance from ill people.
Cleaning and hygiene at home – some basic principles
We clean our home because we like to live in pleasant surroundings. But the cleaning practices which we carry out in our homes also have an impact on sustaining our health.
- The routine practices which we use to keep our homes looking and smelling clean give us a feeling of wellbeing which contributes to sustaining health;
- Routine cleaning reduces levels of ‘dirt’ and insects such as dust mites, lice etc from the home which can have a detrimental effect on our health e.g. allergens found in dust can cause allergies like asthma;
- Routine cleaning to remove dust, dirt and food particles discourages the presence of mice, cockroaches etc in the home;
- Regular cleaning of bed linen helps prevent problems with bedbugs;
- Routine cleaning reduces the levels of fungi which grow in damp places in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet which can cause respiratory symptoms;
- The specific practices (e.g. cleaning, disinfection, application of heat) which we carry out to prevent the spread of harmful microbes are important to protect us from exposure to harmful microbes which can cause infectious diseases.
For activities 1 to 5 above, a daily or weekly cleaning routine is used to keep these potential hazards down to acceptable levels. But cleaning to prevent infections is different.
- General guidance if someone is ill in your household
- Read more about breaking the chain of infection through targeted hygiene.
*A.I.S.E. consumer survey 2017 in 23 EU countries
This article has been co-authored with Professor Sally Bloomfield who is the Chair and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of IFH as well as Honorary Professor with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Professor Bloomfield is an acknowledged expert on home hygiene, with more than 30 years' experience in hygiene research and education.
The International Scientific Forum (IFH) was established in 1997 to develop and promote hygiene in home and everyday life settings based on sound scientific principles.
Note: Cleanright.eu uses the term microbes to refer to both beneficial and harmful micro-organisms. We do not use the term ‘germs’ because this word is often confusingly and incorrectly thought to refer to ‘harmful microbes’.