You may be stringent when it comes to throwing away food that looks decidedly dodgy, checking use by dates on cans and jars, as well as using up pantry staples and cupboard basics before they reach the end of their shelf life but are you as ruthless in the rest of your home? The chances are that while you fret about dates on a loaf of bread or wonder if the Greek yogurt’s still good you probably aren’t aware that lots of other everyday essentials have come to the end of their shelf life. While tonnes of perfectly good food is thrown away each year, when it comes to household items that we use every day we’re pretty much left to our own devices.
There may be a ultimate chore list that we should all aim to follow, even if it means accomplishing ten domestic tasks before you even leave the house but guidance on how long tea towels, pillows, knives and even kitchen equipment should last varies. While a good rule of thumb is that if something is obviously damaged or develops a fault then it needs replacing, what happens to those items that look fine on the surface but have definitely seen better days? When it comes to safeguarding our family’s health, particularly our children’s, can we ever be too cautious?
Not So Sweet Dreams
We all know that pillow cases, blankets, and duvet covers should be washed once a week but what about the pillows and duvets themselves? Don’t underestimate the importance of pillow cases as it helps to protect the pillow, which is harder to wash, from any grease or sweat that will eventually cause discoloration. The duvet itself should be washed every six months, with winter and summer duvets being rotated when appropriate. Pillows need to be replaced every eighteen months, partly because they start to lose their plump, stuffed shape and also because scientists have shown that over 350,000 live bacteria can be living on a pillow at any one time. Don’t worry if you can’t quite justify replacing your pillows just yet! You can extend their shelf life by popping them in a sixty-degree hot wash and leaving them to dry thoroughly, as well as giving older pillows containing feathers a good beating.
Don’t forget your curtains either as they’re also fantastic dust magnets! Curtains should be washed at least once a year, however don’t be too eager to bung them in the washing machine straight away! Take the time to check any washing instructions thoroughly as bespoke or
made to measure curtains and silk backed fabrics are often dry clean only. Dark velvet, or linen drapes will definitely attract more dust and dirt than lighter, floaty fabrics and should be aired out regularly. If your curtains have become faded over the years then it may be worth splashing out on a new set or upgrading to some sleek, stylish blinds that just require a quick dust every so often.
It’ll be second nature to clean your oven, wipe down your surfaces and even descale your kettle but what about simpler items? Everyday essentials such as kitchen sponges, tea towels, knives and chopping boards all have different shelf lives and you’d be surprised just how much of a health hazard these items can be. No matter what you’re doing, be it washing vegetables, dishes or cleaning out cupboards kitchen sponges can be lifesavers thanks to their cheap, bright multipurpose two-sided fabric. They can be squished into the tightest of corners, wash easily and are pretty cost effective especially when you buy in bulk.
You should replace your current kitchen sponge every week, millions of bacteria alongside dirt, mould and grease collect on the surface over time and could lead to your family coming down with a nasty stomach bug. Make sure you color code all your sponges and that everyone washes their hands after carrying out any cleaning. You’d be amazed at how many kids can get sick from dirty lunch boxes; some plastics are known to attract bacteria like there’s no tomorrow so they should be washed in hot, soapy water every day with any smaller Tupperware containers being replaced every three months. Don’t forget about your stylish chopping board either as studies have shown that wooden boards are more unhygienic than toilets! Look out for indelible food stains, flaking wood or rusting handles as well deep cuts from knives. Flexible, plastic chopping boards are easier to wash, clean and store than their wooden cousins and are often less likely to carry germs.
If you choose to leave your disposable razor by the bath or in the shower tray you aren’t alone. Over half of us choose to keep bath and shower products, razors and even hair straighteners on bathroom counters, shelves, or even window sills instead of storing them in an under sink vanity unit! However, while you think that keeping all your products handy for getting ready is perfect, you could end up with a nasty rash on your face, underarms or legs. Despite what lots of us think a quick spritz under the shower or dip in the bath water isn’t enough to stop bacteria or mold growing on a razor. Buy a new pack of razor blades every fortnight, store them separately and give the whole razor a little wash in medicinal alcohol after each use. Before using your razor check it for signs of wear and tear as any cracks in the plastic or telltale copper specks could indicate rust.
While they aren’t the most glamorous of items, bathroom brushes including cleaning sponges and toilet brushes need regular care too. Always make sure any holders are clean and are free of any grime or residue. Bacteria thrives when left unchecked and continuous brushing can damage bristles, not to mention leave you with moisture on the plastic head and handle. If your brushes are looking past their best then why not buy a new set or treat them to a deep bleaching as often a quick swirl in flushing water won’t be sufficient to remove germs. Sadly, toothbrush bristles tend to lose their firmness after only a short while which means their ability
to brush our teeth effectively, removing plaque, is substantially limited. Aim to replace everyone’s toothbrush every three months to make sure that your teeth are getting the thorough cleaning they need.
Spice Of Life
We’re not saying that you need to rush out and buy a new spice rack although who doesn’t love a sleek, fully ergonomic stand? Most of us aren’t professional chefs, and unless you love experimenting with flavors on a daily basis, then it’s often classic spices such as oregano, basil, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg that are used the most as they’re found in both sweet and savoury dishes. Try to avoid placing your spice rack anywhere humid, and check that it’s out of direct sunlight. Over time, spices such as bay leaves that have been exposed to heat, light and warmth will start to shrivel and fade as glass jars become greenhouses!
Make sure that all containers are securely fastened as even a tiny amount of air can affect a spice’s quality, and ensure that only fully dry measuring spoons are used when scooping out pinches of paprika. Apart from obvious hygiene issues, using your fingers will give you an inaccurate measurement as well as any moisture on your fingertips being transferred to the jar in question. You should also aim to replace both ground and whole spices every year and be aware ground spices are supposed to be pungent!