If you’re only worried about how dirty floors look when your family and friends come tramping through your house in their shoes, think again. You may be exposing them to more health hazards than you think. I would know because I have a husband, three kids, two birds and two dogs living under my roof.
According to recent research from the Scott Kelley Biology Lab at San Diego State University, which was published in the scientific journal Genome Biology, we live with an array of bacteria we bring into our homes via our shoes. All of this bacteria may affect our family’s health.
In fact, you track in dirt and more all over your house when you don’t leave your shoes at the door. Your pets bring in even more than things, like dust, dirt, bacteria, viruses, molds, fungi and other allergens.
Germs on your floors matter because they can exacerbate allergies and make you sick. For example:
Viruses are very tiny and can cause illnesses like the common cold and flu. Luckily, most viruses can’t survive on surfaces for very long.
Bacteria are more complex than viruses and some can survive on surfaces by feeding off of dirt, food or water. Bacteria like to attach to moist surfaces, where they can form dense mats called “biofilm,” making them harder to kill because they can live and reproduce independently. Common bacterial infections include some ear infections, some cases of diarrhea, strep throat and urinary tract infections. Bacteria can also cause more serious infections such as tuberculosis, whooping cough, staph infections, bacterial pneumonia and bacterial meningitis.
You don’t need chemicals to obliterate sickness-causing germs.
Most people think of chemical cleaning and disinfecting products when they want to kill germs, but these aren’t necessarily safe, even though they are readily available at stores.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that chemical household cleaning products and disinfectants are common causes of poisoning in both children and adults. They can be inhaled and absorbed through our skin when we clean. When these chemicals affect our immediate health, as in an asthma attack or stinging eyes, it’s called an “acute effect.” Some chemicals get stored in our bodies, so we are exposed to small amounts repeatedly over a long time, building in toxicity.
But first you need to understand the germ-killing terms:
The removal of visible dirt from a surface.
The use of a chemical product or device (like a dishwasher or a steam mop) that reduces the amount of germs on surfaces to a level considered safe by public health standards or requirements. Sanitizing kills most (but not all) germs. Sanitizers and disinfectants require a clean surface to be effective germ killers.
The use of chemicals to kill 99.999 percent of germs on hard surfaces.
Taking shoes off at the door is the first step to prevent tracking bacteria and allergens through your home, but you can do even more than that to make your home healthier, especially for families with pets and those with babies and small children who spend a lot of time on the floor. Using a vacuum cleaner will also help get up some of the nasty stuff tracked in by your family and pets. However, while both of these options will certainly help, neither of them will truly sanitize your floors.
To get the cleanest floors, simply switch out traditional mops and harsh chemical cleaners for one simple steam mop that cleans and sanitizes floors.
How to Choose a Sanitizing Steam Mop
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies a steam mop as a “pesticide device,” which is any instrument or machine used to destroy any pest such as insects and rodents, but also weeds, mold, mildew, bacteria and viruses. A pesticide device works by physical means (such as heat, electricity, light or mechanics), and does not contain any chemical substances (which is classified as a pesticide product instead) to perform its job.
The EPA doesn’t require registration of pesticide devices (like it does for chemical pesticide products) but these devices are regulated in that advertising or labels cannot contain “false or misleading claims” about the effectiveness of devices. If a manufacturer is making claims about a device, they should have scientific data to back up the claims, according to the EPA.
In fact, a recent Good Housekeeping Research Institute test of 16 steam mops found that all of them heated up to at least 200 degrees or more, which is the lowest temperature needed to kill most bacteria and viruses, and is what you want to look for when buying a steam mop.
I got a steam mop that dissolves and sucks up dirt and sanitizes my floors in one fell swoop (all without the chemicals)!