How to stay healthy during flu season

Steps for cleaning and choosing a disinfectant to combat the cold and flu

written by Gina Sloan, Director of Innovations

As we move around our environments, we carry pieces of them with us everywhere we go. Imagine PigSty from the Peanuts comics with a proverbial dust cloud always hovering around him. The pieces of dust, dirt, and debri come not only from dear PigSty but also from the environment around him. Even though we may not be surrounded by a visible cloud of filth, we carry with us the microbes from the dirt on our shoes, the keyboard and mouse from our office, and the microbes from the person sitting next to you. With this in mind, understanding our environment and how it contributes to our health becomes important.

When we think of the environment, it draws nostalgic images of trees, fields, mountains and streams, but in reality, the environment is more than that. The environment is everything that surrounds us. The inanimate objects that we touch daily (door handles, countertops, computers, etc.), the people that we encounter, and the air surrounding us. Microbes can travel from person to person via touches, sneezes, or inanimate objects.

Cleaning Choices and Disinfectant Methods for Cold and Flu Prevention

How do you clean environmental surfaces? In the US there are 3 types of cleaners that you can select from to clean inanimate surfaces in the environment.

Cleaning agents

These are designed to remove dirt and grim from surfaces. Each is specifically formulated to remove certain substances from the surface. For example, a kitchen cleaner is made to remove grease, but a bathroom cleaner is formulated to remove soap scum. In general, cleaners do not typically kill microbes on a surface.


Sanitizers are created to kill 99.9% of some bacteria and mold that can cause sickness or allergies. This class of cleaners contain low levels of specific ingredients that are meant to target microorganisms. Since there is a low level of the active ingredient, these are typically used around the house and to spot clean if there was a spill. Interestingly, these do not kill most viruses.


Disinfectants are formulated to kill 99.99% of the bacteria, viruses, and mold that are listed on their labels. These typically include cold and flu viruses. These cleaners contain higher concentrations of the same active ingredients found in sanitizers. During a cold outbreak in your home or during cold and flu season it is best to grab a disinfectant from the store. Check the label to make sure it kills 99.99% of viruses alongside of bacteria.

Considerations for selecting a cleaning agent for residential environments

Overall you should take into consideration what is occurring in your household at the time of the cleaning. If everyone is healthy and you just need to spot clean, a cleaner will suffice. However, if it is the middle of cold and flu season, you should look to a disinfectant to help reduce the risk of catching a cold.