F lu season is no joke.

The muscle aches, fever, chills and fatigue that accompany the virus affect 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population each year and hospitalize hundreds of thousands, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many are armed with an array of physical preventatives — from flu-shots to Emergen-C packets, neti-pots to home remedies — but what are people doing to stop the illness from spreading in homes, amongst families and community members?

“We have lots of clients call us this time of year to make sure their homes are getting the deep clean they need to stay healthy,” said Sally Libby, owner of The Maids Portland. “If you’ve ever had the flu you know it’s worth the extra step to protect your friends and family.”

Cleaning experts at The Maids clean for health yearround and recommend the following 10 tips to stop the flu virus from invading homes:

1. Wash your hands regularly in warm soapy water. For quick clean-up, use antibacterial hand sanitizer. Make an effort not to touch your mouth or nose without first washing your hands.

2. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning household items to protect oneself. By wearing gloves, it’s less likely a person will touch his or her eyes, nose or mouth, which are havens for the flu virus.

3. Spray disinfecting spray on a cloth, wipe toys, doorknobs, appliance handles, keyboards, remote controls, light switches, phones and facial tissue box covers. Viruses can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.

4. Wash items like towels and bedding in hot water with soap if someone has been sick in the home. Be sure not to share these items until they are thoroughly cleaned.

5. Change vacuum bags monthly or more frequently.

6. Boil toothbrushes for one minute in water and vinegar, run through a dishwasher cycle or purchase new brushes.

7. Use antibacterial wipes on keyboards, phones and pens to protect from spreading germs at work.

8. Wash telephones, cabinet handles, doorknobs, light switches and refrigerator door handles using a slightly dampened cloth with a solution of mild detergent and warm water.

9. Wash mop heads in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and one gallon of water, dry thoroughly, then store. Not only will mop heads pick up germs and dirt, but they also can grow mold and mildew if they don’t dry out completely.

10. Disinfect the bathroom and kitchen, especially the faucet and toilet handles, daily. The kitchen and bathroom are the most used rooms in the home and possibly the most contaminated.

For more cleaning tips, visit www.maids.com.

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