(I've been going through my archives and found this, never published. It was written in 2011. Ironically, my eight and eleven year olds woke up with stomach flu at two o'clock this chilly winter's morning. My list for getting rid of flu in the house still withstands the test of all ickiness. I have, however, added another little trick to make laundry more fun, under "Chemical reactions fizz away goo!" Sláinte!)
We have stomach flu in the house. I had it earlier this month. Our four year old has it now. As far as stomach flu goes, this is by far the easiest bout we've endured. In 2007 a highly contagious strain of rotavirus hit Central Texas that caused school districts to panic and even cancel classes. We were among the many families that passed it round and round, despite incessant handwashing. This was the kind that comes out both ends, and sometimes simultaneously. Basically, I had a Mom Boot Camp in Stomach Flu, while nursing a baby and caring for three other kids . . . and a husband who had it thirteen times (he kept getting it from work, not from us, ironically). It wasn't fun getting my badge, but like soldiers who proudly describe their worst battle experiences, I feel honored to have survived!
Before proceeding I want to give a great big credit to Clean House, Clean Planet (Pocket Books. New York: 1997.) by Karen Logan. I read it when I was pregnant with my first back in 1999. Logan has wonderful recipes for homemade cleaners, but I rarely have time to make them anymore. However, my regular use of vinegar and essential oils comes from reading her book. Her book also gave me the brilliant idea of using baking soda and soap, then adding vinegar for fizzing up gunk.
So here's what I do when the stomach flu enters our home:
1) Vinegar! It stinks, but it's a cheap, effective way to kill germs. There are times I just poured the bottle straight onto the mess. When I'm able, I add some drops of essential oil. Once the vinegar smell dissipates, the essential oil scent lingers, making things a bit more pleasant. I use oils and the number of drops according to mood. Orange, lemon, lavender, Australian tea tree, and eucalyptus are among my favorites. I use them alone, or sometimes I mix two or three if I'm feeling creative. (Again, get Clean House, Clean Planet for detailed recipes!)
2) Bleach! Bleach is the cannon in my arsenal. Because of the problems bleach can cause in water supplies, I avoid bleach unless we're seriously sick. I use it on towels, bed linens, and whites, and I wash them all in hot water. If the bathroom has seen some particularly nasty explosions, I use a bleach-water mix (the parts of bleach to water for different strengths are on the bottle) to spray everything down after cleaning.
3) Use vinegar on the clothes, too! For non-white clothing that needs extra cleaning I pour a cup or so (depending on how bad the clothes are) of vinegar in with the laundry detergent. Bleach alternatives don't kill germs. Vinegar does. It lightens some clothes, but when you can't shake a virus, I find slightly faded clothes are worth it.
4) Chemical reactions fizz away goo! For stuff that won't come out of the carpet: Make a paste of soap and baking soda, rub into the spot, pour on some vinegar, let fizz, then wipe up.
I also use chemical reactions in the laundry: I use the usual amount of detergent and add a cup of baking soda (for a medium load). Once the tub is full, I add two cups of vinegar. The swishing of the machine makes sure the reaction gets throughout the materials you're trying clean. I add an extra rinse to loads to which I've applied this method. If you have a glass door on your machine, it's fun to watch, especially if you need a break from vomit and diarrhea.
5) Method Bathroom Cleaner! It smells nice and gets stuff clean without lung stripping fumes. It's also a great alternative to vinegar! I've used this on the doors, the floors, the carpet, the sofa, and every surface in the bathroom. It banishes offending stomach flu odor, while many other cleaners only seem to cover up smells for a short period of time. It's about $4 at Target.
6) Baby wipes! I haven't changed diapers in years, but I still buy baby wipes. I use them for a quick clean up so that no one steps in anything while I get the sick child into the tub. Then I go back and clean in detail with the vinegar, etc. I prefer them to the lysol-type wipes because I don't need to get gloves on, and I don't have to worry about chemicals on any kids' hands who are helping out.
7) Wine! Not for cleaning, silly! For you! There were some nights way back in 2007 that I'd feel queasy. I'd nurse my littlest, then have a glass of wine. In the morning, the queasiness would be gone. For all the times my family got sick that year, I never got it! When my husband told the doctor during one of his many visits, the doctor marveled that the wine would work so well. My mother thought it was because a little wine helps relax a person, and relaxing helps the immune system. Whatever the reason, it worked. St. Paul was a smart man.