hi i was wondering if you could help me. i have recently moved house from my parents and on the day i was cleaning the bathroom bin by puttin it in another bin but wen i did it all the "yucky rubbish" fell on the floor and ihad to pick it up and put it in the black bag so the bag to me was contaminated on the outside from the rubbish that fell on it. and as it was too heavy i had to drag it out of the h ouse on the floor so now the floors all are germy. so my question is how long would it take for germs to die from things that have been in the bathroom bin such as body fluids?? i havent been to the house in 2 weeks but im stil scared to walk on the carpets!! by the way i have ocd!! please respond thanks

It depends of the type of germ. Spore-forming bacteria can survive for years, as can fungal spores, but most will die from dehydration. Some viruses are robust, but envelope viruses like influenza and HIV can only remain viable where there is water. So in answer to your question; it depends! If you are worried, get yourself a wet-vacuum cleaner and some antibacterial cleaning stuff. Soap and water will do a pretty good job of cleaning everything out of your carpet.

For extra-ocd cleaning, you could wash your carpet with a disinfectant, if you can get it. I our lab we use a product called Trigene, but it's quite expensive. I think the wet-vac will do just fine.

Dear Amy,

It's understandable that you would want your home to be clean, especially one that you're just moving in to. However, it is important to keep things in perspective. A cursory carpet clean should be more than sufficient. If you wanted to be thorough about it, then you could, as John says, use a disinfecting shampoo.

Bacteria can indeed last for quite some time on many different surfaces, and it has been my job in the past (working in infection control) to assess just this; but how long any given cell or colony survives is largely irrelevant given the fact that in a domestic environment such bacteria are readily replenished by numerous actions of people, whether you're aware of it or not.

If people really wanted a clean home then the first thing they could do is get rid of the carpets! However, this just isn't necessary. Whilst there are certain times when it is prudent to be a little fussy over hygiene (toilet use, kitchen/food prep), you are none the less exposed to a large number of both 'good' and 'bad' bacteria on a daily basis, most of which you will be unaware.

Please remember that in all but the most extremely controlled environments, none of us can really hope to sterilise our environments, nor should we do so; so try not to waste too much time in what would be a fruitless and tiring effort, and instead injoy your new place ;-)

Hope that helps (and I'm more than a little OCD myself, but I've not met many lab scientists who aren't).

Last edited by Jim Caryl (29th Jun 2010 15:05:46)