Housework may not be our favorite way to spend our time, but having a clean house is actually good for our health. Here are some of the ways that cleanliness supports good health.
Reduce transmission of contagious diseases
Cleaning can reduce the chances of catching contagious illnesses. That shouldn’t be surprising, but the details are a bit more complicated than we might at first think.
For one thing, the likelihood of catching a disease from surfaces is different from one disease to another. The length of time viruses can live on surfaces varies not only according to the disease, but also according to the surface. Many diseases are transmitted through the air or by direct contact with bodily fluids, but many can also be caught from surfaces, often by touching the surface and then touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
For example, COVID-19 viruses can live on cardboard for a couple of days — but on a hard counter top for a couple of weeks. Monkeypox virus can live on fabrics for weeks. Measles only lives on surfaces for a couple of weeks, but is extremely infectious while it is alive.
Since you don’t know exactly what diseases people in your home might have been exposed to, it makes sense to make regular cleaning a habit. Cleaning, which physically scrubs away dirt or fluids and makes it easier for disinfectants to reach the viruses or bacteria, should come before disinfecting. Spray disinfectant onto clean surfaces and let it dry.
Avoid non-contagious ailments
Food poisoning isn’t contagious from one person to another, but it can be a consequence of poor hygiene in your home. Food safety requires keeping foods at safe temperatures and making sure not to store food too long, but cross-contamination is a common cause of food poisoning.
Cross-contamination happens when bacteria get carried from one place to another. For example, imagine cleaning chicken in a sink, wiping the sink out with a towel, and hanging the towel on a hook in the kitchen. Later, people who dry their hands on the towel can deposit bacteria on vegetables as they prepare a salad or on dishes as they set the table.
Salmonella germs can usually survive for about four hours, but a heavy infection of some strains could live longer. Norovirus can live for weeks on a surface. It’s easy to contaminate a wooden cutting board or a counter and fail to clean it thoroughly. An outbreak of food poisoning can be the result.
Reduce the chance of household accidents
Falls are more likely in a house with clutter on the floors. Children are more likely to swallow foreign objects when they’re left out in reach of the toddlers. Slips and the resulting injuries can result from spills and drips that make the floors sticky or slippery.
Household accidents result from disorder more often than you would think. For example, people often pull up a chair to stand on because they can’t remember where they put the step ladder. Cluttered cabinets increase the chances of taking the wrong pill by mistake. Kids are less likely to swallow poisonous substances if household cleaners and such are safely put away.
One study found that people with cleaner homes were more physically active than people who lived in untidy homes. While the researchers didn’t draw firm conclusions about the reason for the correlation, there is plenty of evidence that people who are more active have better balance and are less likely to have home accidents.
Support your mental health
Surprisingly, clean and orderly homes are also correlated with better sleep, better moods, and reduced stress.
Clutter makes it harder to focus on tasks. An orderly space is calming. Some psychologists have also found that the process of cleaning can give people a feeling of satisfaction and control over their environments.
Bottom line: cleanliness is good for your health!