Environmental Health Practitioner Manual: A resource manual for Environmental Health Practitioners working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

4 House hygiene—cleaning

Page last updated: November 2010

If a house is to be a healthy place it must have all the design features already listed. However, it is also important that everything in the house is kept clean. If the house is not regularly cleaned then rubbish and dirt will build up. Germs and parasites will multiply and grow in the dirt and people living in the house may get sick.

4.1 Cleaning equipment and materials

Equipment and materials which help to make housecleaning tasks easier and more effective include:
  • cleaning products for floors
  • cleaning products for wet areas (baths, handbasins, laundry tubs, kitchen sinks)
  • cleaning products for food preparation and meal areas (tables and benchtops)
  • dish washing detergent for cleaning kitchen utensils (pots, pans, plates and cutlery)
  • laundry detergent for washing household linen (towels, sheets, blankets) and clothes
  • oven cleaner
  • disinfectant (kills germs)
  • cleaning cloths and sponges. These should be replaced regularly and there should be different ones for different cleaning areas (for example, never use the same cloth or sponge to clean the bathroom and the kitchen, as this can spread germs from one place to another)
  • scrubbing brush
  • stainless steel pot scourer
  • broom, dust pan and brush
  • bucket
  • mop or squeegee
It is important to remember that some household cleaning liquids and powders contain dangerous ingredients and can be poisonous. Always follow the instructions on the label and keep these products out of reach of children.

4.2 House cleaning tasks

Each room in the house has its own particular cleaning requirements, which are outlined below.

The Kitchen

The cleaning tasks (jobs) which should be done in the kitchen include:
  • washing the dishes
  • cleaning down the kitchen bench and table top
  • emptying and washing the kitchen rubbish bin
  • sweeping and/or washing (mopping) the floor
  • wiping the shelves and cleaning the cupboards, inside and out
  • cleaning the stove and oven
  • cleaning out the refrigerator
  • cleaning the walls, windows and brushing flyscreens
  • removing cobwebs
Fig.  3.9: Cleaning kitchen cupboards and benches gets rid of unwanted germs and parasites.
Fig. 3.9: Cleaning kitchen cupboards and benches gets rid of unwanted germs and parasites.

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The Bathroom

The cleaning jobs which should be done in the bathroom include:
  • cleaning the hand basin, shower recess and/or bath
  • sweeping and washing (mopping) the floor
  • cleaning the mirror, cupboards and/or shelves
  • changing or washing the towels and the bath mat
  • cleaning the walls and windows and brushing flyscreens
  • removing cobwebs
Fig.  3.10: Cleaning the bathroom.
Fig. 3.10: Cleaning the bathroom.

The Laundry and Toilet

The cleaning jobs which should be done in the laundry and toilet include:
  • washing clothes, linen (for example, towels, sheets) and blankets
  • sweeping and washing (mopping) the floor
  • cleaning the tub and washing machine
  • cleaning the cupboards, walls and windows and brushing flyscreens
  • cleaning the toilet
  • removing cobwebs
Fig.  3.11: Cleaning the laundry and toilet.
Fig. 3.11: Cleaning the laundry and toilet.

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Bedrooms

The cleaning jobs which should be done in bedrooms include:
  • sweeping and/or washing the floors
  • dusting the shelves and cleaning out cupboards
  • cleaning walls and windows and brushing flyscreens
  • removing cobwebs
  • changing the sheets on the bed and airing (putting in the sun for a few hours) the blankets and mattresses
Fig.  3.12: Airing bedding in the sun
Fig. 3.12: Airing bedding in the sun.

Living Rooms and Verandah

The cleaning jobs which should be done in living rooms and verandahs include:
  • sweeping and/or washing (mopping) the floors, including the verandah
  • dusting the shelves and cleaning out cupboards
  • cleaning the walls and windows and brushing flyscreens
  • removing cobwebs
Fig.  3.13: Keeping the bedroom and living room clean.
Fig. 3.13: Keeping the bedroom and living room clean.

It is important when washing or mopping floors anywhere in the house to make sure that:
  • no water gets into any power outlets or electrical appliance, such as a radio or video recorder
  • pools of water are removed immediately
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4.3 House cleaning timetable

How often the various parts of a house need to be cleaned depends upon:
  • how many people live in the house
  • how many other people use the house
  • how tidy people are, such as whether or not people clean up after meals
  • how many pets belong to the household
  • whether or not there is sickness in the house, such as when someone has scabies or diarrhoea
  • whether there has been a plumbing problem, such as water from an overflowing handbasin
  • any other environmental factors, such as wind blowing dust into the house or wet soil being walked into the house when it is raining
Household cleaning tasks are usually done according to the following timetable:

Several times each day

  • Wipe down kitchen benches after food preparation.
  • Wash dishes and cooking utensils after each meal.

Once each day

  • Sweep the floors.
  • Empty the kitchen rubbish bin.

Once or twice each week

  • Wash the floors.
  • Clean the toilet.
  • Clean the laundry tubs.
  • Clean the shower recess/bath and handbasin.
  • Dust surfaces
  • Wash clothes and bed linen

Once each month

  • Clean the stove/oven and refrigerator
  • Clean cupboards, windows and walls
  • Brush the flyscreens
  • Get rid of cobwebs
It is important to remember that it may be necessary to do some cleaning tasks more often than is suggested in the timetable. This is because there are times when parts of the house get much dirtier than usual. For example, the toilet may get very dirty when a lot of children or visitors are using it or when someone in the house has diarrhoea.
Some people may not know about the importance of keeping a house clean or what needs to be done. The EHP can help community members by:
    • explaining why it is important to clean the house
    • showing them what needs to be cleaned and what equipment and materials are needed
    • telling them how often the cleaning needs to be done
    • demonstrating the cleaning method
Fig.  3.14: EHP demonstrating how to clean a stove.
Fig. 3.14: EHP demonstrating how to clean a stove.