Homes are not just places where people live. They are also places where a myriad bacteria can thrive - on kitchen surfaces, in foodstuffs, in bathrooms. Nowhere is bacteria-free.
These include less charming ones such as salmonella (which can lead to typhoid fever), E.coli (gastro-intestinal and urinary tract infections), staphylococcus aureus (toxic shock syndrome, wound infection and a type of septicaemia) and clostridium perfringens (food poisoning). Plain house dust can also cause allergic reactions in the occupants.
The bottom line is that it is always less hassle to spend half an hour cleaning properly than it is to spend two days with food poisoning. And cleaning as you go along is always easier than letting it all get out of hand, and then making a massive effort. Give different family members specific tasks - there is no reason why the full burden of home cleaning should fall on any one person.
It isn't necessary to become obsessive, though. Not all bacteria are bad. And though you will never be able to eradicate all harmful bacteria from your home, you can keep things more or less under control.
Here are the 10 most important things you need to do to keep your home hygienic - and have a life as well.
Under foot. Keeping your floors clean is essential. Dust and grime are carried in and regular washing, sweeping and vacuuming are essential. Dust mites love unvacuumed carpets and create huge problems for people who have allergies.
Spotless surfaces. Surfaces such as counters and tabletops need to be wiped and cleaned with a good household detergent. Many different hands touch these surfaces and bacteria and viruses can thrive on these, especially on the ones used for food preparation.
Kitchen sponge horror. The average kitchen sponge is much dirtier than the average toilet seat. Kitchen cloths and kitchen sponges are wet and warm – ideal breeding ground for bacteria. These sponges and cloths must be washed in bleach or anti-bacterial detergent daily. They can also be put into the washing machine or the dishwasher, or into the microwave for 30 seconds.
Food fiasco. Leftover food, foodspills and food scraps need to be dealt with instantly, otherwise they just get more difficult to deal with as time goes by. Food left at room temperature provides ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. Dispose of unwanted foodstuffs instantly. Dishes left for two days are much more difficult to clean than they are right after a meal.
Bathroom blues. Wash all surfaces in the bathroom with an anti-bacterial detergent regularly. A dirty toilet, shower or bath can host a myriad of bacteria, such as E. coli. Once mould or dirt gets a foothold in your bathroom, it's a lot more difficult to clean later.
Drains drama. Open drains are unhygienic things. Water containing food particles, amongst other things, empties into open drains. They get clogged up and pose health risks. Use a strong disinfectant to prevent germs congregating and unpleasant odours developing, and have them cleared at the first sign they're blocking up.
Bedding blues. Your bedding comes into contact with your skin for as much as eight hours a day. You wouldn't wear a shirt every day for three weeks without washing it, would you? Bedding should be washed at least once a week, and more often if you've been ill and spending a lot of time in bed.
Towel trauma. In families, many viruses and infections are spread by people using the same towels. Give each person their own towel and wash these regularly. Bacteria love wet towels.
Get a grip on this. Wash or wipe the things which many people touch every day – these include light switches, door handles, the telephone, computer keyboards, remotes, toilet handles and taps. Most flu viruses get spread by people touching the same things, which do not get cleaned regularly.
Pet problems. Fido and Kitty may be your favourite 'people' in the house, but don't forget that they are animals, who lose hair, who don't brush their teeth and could have fleas, worms and parasites that get passed on to people in the house. Vacuum regularly to get rid of their hair in the house and do not let them onto the beds or couches. Deflea and deworm them regularly.