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Basic hygiene awareness, knowledge, and practices are crucial for our wellbeing and others.
When you think about it, life— RVing or not– exposes us to a lot of… crap.
Becoming more aware and carrying out healthy habits will help lower the risk for disease, illness, and medical conditions often spread through viruses and bacteria.
Lack of awareness and negligent manners on our part, cause bacteria to multiply and spread on to others, increasing the risk of illness.
As RVers, we know how easy it is to go from one side of the country to the other. That is a LOT of miles covered and even more of our presence left on the trail!
Let’s mindfully continue our journeys without passing on the germies!
Germies through RV Journeys | Cleaning Tips and Hygiene Hacks to Keep You Healthy
When it comes to staying healthy in an RV– although this home on wheels has similar aspects as stationary homes — there are different elements and situations that expose us to germs otherwise.
In fact, RV camping can expose us to many people, places, things, (and GERMS) in a short amount of time.
For instance, after packing up the motorhome we take off and stop at busy gas stations and rest areas en route. Doing so, we touch heavily used door handles, bathroom facilities, ATMs, money, and countertops exposed to countless germs from many different travelers each day through touching, sneezing, or coughing.
Of course, many campers have a busy agenda planned for the duration of the trip, wanting to sight-see, go on excursions, experience attractions, and more. We might attend amusement parks, national parks, museums, cities, dinner shows, or concerts– flooded with thousands, even tens of thousands of people– in close quarters all touching the same door handles, handrails, vending machines, crosswalk buttons, ATMs, and sitting on the same amusement rides, using shared-bathrooms, and so on.
On the other hand, even if you’re the type of camper that wants to get away from the hustle and bustle and not venture far from the campground property, campground facilities and amenities are shared amongst hundreds of campers at a time! Just like being exposed to many germs outside the campground, campers share bathhouses, fitness centers, clubhouses, pools, hot tubs, sports equipment rentals, and arcade games within the campground containing many bacteria ridden surfaces.
Additionally, camping is never complete without a delicious campsite cookout! This can often include group gatherings and heaps of finger food plopped on picnic tables for everyone to enjoy. With this in mind, there’s no doubt many germs can find their way to the campsite cookout too!
In just a three or four day vacation, we can touch a lot of things and visit a large number of facilities, attractions, stores, restaurants and more, full of crowds– ultimately, exposing us to quite the number of germs.
Here are a few healthy tips to adopt into your RVing lifestyle
Frequently Clean Your RV
When we camp, we are usually coming and going from the camper many times a day between visiting busy attractions and exploring the area. That’s a lot of the outside world repeatedly brought IN to our small RV living space! That being said, you should arrange times to clean your RV thoroughly throughout the season. This cleaning should involve removing the collected dust and debris from the motorhome or travel trailer. See how I do a deep clean, here.
Disinfecting Your RV
On the other hand, during the times you are using your RV, pay special detail to heavily touched or contaminated areas. Disinfect frequently touched door handles, light switches, the steering wheel, refrigerator handle, remote controls, faucet knobs, cabinet knobs, the tabletop, the microwave panel, etc. Odds are, you’ll also be prepping some delicious bonfire food in the kitchen. Be sure to disinfect the kitchen counter, faucet, cutting board, and sink routinely. Bacteria can grow quickly and cross-contamination can be an issue in these areas. Don’t forget the bathroom sink and toilet too!
Clean & Disinfect Items Often Overlooked
Recreational vehicles allow us to bring all of our necessities and favored items from home along. Whether it be your computer to keep up on work along the way, your favorite coffee mug, or of course– your cell phone. Despite the convenience of bringing these items with us, we often fail to realize the number of germs and bacteria on them tagging along, yet we touch some of these more than common household items!
Do you know how much bacteria is on your smartphone? A study by the University of Arizona found that cellphones carry ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats! EW! Our phones go everywhere with us… and I mean everywhere. Even though we are adamant about hand washing throughout the day, we fail to clean our bacteria-ridden phone that has likely been sitting beside us the whole time!
Think about other items you use in a day and give them a spray or wipe down! For example, the computer keyboard, TV remote, iPad, purse, and wallet. Think about that reusable water bottle, tumbler, or coffee mug you drink out of then quickly rinse out to reuse the next day. Although reusable items are great for the environment, it’s important that these things get a routine wash.
Clean the “Cleaning” Items
It may sound silly, but items used for cleaning need regular disinfecting as well! Routinely disinfect and often replace items like; sponges, dish scrub brushes, loofahs, and toothbrushes.
Toothbrushes can contain cold and flu bugs found in your mouth and then are put away wet– perfect for bacteria breeding grounds. If stored near the toilet, they can also collect fecal bacteria every time it is flushed. Store these away from the toilet in the medicine cabinet or in a travel bag- ideally with a vented cap to allow them to fully dry.
Likewise, dish sponges are one of the germiest things because they are always moist and used to clean dirty dishes, the countertop, and pick up crumbs and spills. Routinely clean them to prolong their use and replace when needed.
Like sponges, loofahs or any sort of shower scrubby, are the perfect playground for bacteria. Not only that, but in the RV lifestyle, they can pick up a lot of other germs from campground bathhouses. Many people recommend sanitizing them weekly or just going loofah-free and using an exfoliating cleanser or wash cloth that can be thrown in the wash after every shower.
Do Laundry Often
In this case, it can be difficult for campers to keep up on laundry who do not have a washing machine and dryer unit in their motorhome or travel trailer. Under those circumstances, try to locate a laundry facility near you to wash hand towels, dish cloths, body towels, rugs, bath mats, bedding, couch blankets, and dog beds on a regular basis. Hand towels and dish cloths being more often than anything, to minimize the amount of germs spread.
After all, these items harbor dust mites, harmful bacteria, oils, cosmetics, sweat, fungus, dead skin, animal dander, pollen, soil, mold, and who knows what other germs we consistently bring up and into the camper, which in turn, can have a significant impact on your health and your family’s.
Despite not using an RV avidly, many may think that bedding, blankets, towels, and rugs do not need to be cleaned very often. I mean, it’s sitting in storage a lot of the time. Why would bedding need to be cleaned? Well, the amount of dust a camper accumulates is unreal— regardless if it is used or not! It may be a good idea to do laundry before vacations and throughout your travels if you’re on the road for long periods of time.
Change & Launder Clothes after Busy Attractions or Outings
Also, consider making it a routine to change your clothes when coming back from any large attraction; especially amusement parks, fairs, national parks; or where transportation and seating is shared among many people. Our clothes can come in contact with germs and soiled surfaces which can easily transfer harmful microbes back to our RV couch, bed, and blankets.
Take Off Your Shoes
It is important to realize that wearing shoes inside the camper tracks all kinds of gross stuff throughout your living space that can be extremely detrimental to your health. In fact, a study carried out by the University of Arizona, found an average of 421,000 units of bacteria on shoes along with fecal bacteria and E. coli.
Create a healthy habit among your family and make a designated shoe area at the door. A durable, non-slip shoe mat or tray can be kept in the entry area or closet to contain shoes. Doormats like the Gorilla Grip Door Mat or Ottomanson Indoor & Outdoor Tray can be easily vacuumed, washed with a mild detergent, and hosed down outside.
Take Extra Health Measures Dumping Tanks
Here’s the thing. Many who believe their hands are “clean” because they don’t come directly in contact with their actual poo-water, fail to realize that the dump station cap they touch to twist open and ground they are standing on has been contaminated with tons of other spills and drips from previous campers dumping procedures! Not only that, but the sewer hose and fittings dribble excess sewage water into the bin or compartment they are stored, contaminating the outside of the hose and fittings that you will grab next time the tanks need to be emptied.
Another point often overlooked by bare-handers, is what they touch on the way to go wash their hands… In the meantime, they touch the compartment doors, the door handle to the RV, the dash or chairs getting up into the motorhome, the faucet handle, and soap bottle– contaminating all these surfaces. Despite hand washing after-the-fact, getting raw sewage on your bare hands can risk infection. For these reasons, disposable gloves are a small purchase that can have a great impact among touching and transferring germs. Also, make sure to remove and dispose of them properly!
Secondly, have all your dump hoses, parts, and pieces in one tight, sealing bin– designated for these parts only and always handled with gloves on. Never leave sewer hoses loose in the undercarriage to rattle around and leak! A black and gray, latching bin, like the IRIS Heavy Duty Utility Tote, can help you associate this with the black and gray tank parts and pieces so that it will not get mixed up with other bins or used for anything else.
Thirdly, this is another reason to NOT wear your shoes throughout the RV. Shoes pick up spilled sewage and bacteria around the dump station. Think about it, hundreds of people use dump stations. Think they don’t ever dribble, leak, or accidentally spill sewage out of the hose?
After removing gloves, end with thoroughly washing your hands. I also go the extra mile and spray my shoes and the bottoms with disinfectant spray!
Upon arrival, do a quick site check. Check the fire-pit for trash or bones that your pet could find. This could save your dog from eating something they shouldn’t, making them sick in the RV later. Then, check the campsite for any pet waste you could unfortunately step in and track back to your camper.
Picnic Tables Precautions
Picnic tables take a beating from weather, bird droppings, and other animals scrounging for crumbs. Plus, you never know what the previous campers have put on their picnic table. Unfortunately, not everyone treats them like their own dining room table, let alone a place to eat. In any case, you should always use a picnic table cover. Disposable covers seem like the most sanitary route because they are used once and tossed out, avoiding any germs being brought back into the motorhome or trailer. On the other hand, a reusable cover is a more earth-friendly route and can still be wiped down with a disinfectant wipe or spray. It can be stored in a gallon zip lock or plastic bin when not in use.
Group camping is a popular trend among RVers. This usually entails fun games, great bonfires, and big cookouts. When gathering for meals, have a sanitizer bottle set out to keep the germs at bay and the good times still going. All it takes is a couple seconds for each camper to sanitize their hands which significantly decreases the amount of germs being transferred to serving utensils and finger foods.
Also, keep food clean and safe from pesky flies with food tents! This awesome food accessory is perfect for campers who love to enjoy some amazing campsite food. They even fold for storage making them very convenient for the RVing community.
Tips for Using Bathhouses
Bathhouses are a generous camp amenity that provide guests a much roomier, hot shower and spacious bathroom. Some campers use these exclusively, keeping their showers clean and their tanks empty.
Now, if you’re avid campers, you’ve probably seen it all when it comes to bathhouses… There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Bathhouses often get a bad reputation of being unhygienic and dirty amongst the camping community and often get rated online based on the cleanliness and overall look. Although we have gone in always expecting the worst– there are some pretty spectacular ones out there as well!
Whether the shower stalls or toilets look clean or not, there are a few tips and healthy habits you can adopt before heading to the bathhouse!
First things first, always wear footwear in bathhouses! It’s the easiest and most simple form of barrier against bacteria and fungus such as athlete’s foot and ringworm, not to mention shower shoes can save you from slipping on a wet floor.
If public toilets are not your thing, there’s a few steps you can take for a safer experience. Cover the toilet seat if paper covers are provided. If they are not, use toilet paper. Do not set anything on the bathroom floor. Press the flusher using your foot or by using a few pieces of toilet paper as a barrier to avoid it with your bare hands. Try to turn away quickly from a flushing toilet as it creates “toilet plume” sending microscopic particles up into the air.
Most importantly, always wash your hands! This is not only for your health benefit but everyone’s! In fact, 92 percent of Americans say they believe it is important to wash their hands after using the restroom, but only 66 percent actually do-– according to a survey conducted by the Bradley Corporation. While even less fail to wash them properly.
Have a designated bathhouse caddy for toiletries. Ideally something that can be easily cleaned or thrown in the wash and that has a handle or hook.
Along with toiletries, store an over the shower hook in the caddy. Actually, you might want a couple of these! How annoying is it to get into a shower stall and not have any hooks?! One of the best things to do is keep everything off the wet floor where bacteria, dead skin, debris, mold, or other slimy leftovers from bath products could be. Hang your caddy, clothes, and towel. Since all bathhouses and stall styles vary, it can be difficult to find a spot to hang your items– some don’t give you many options at all. By packing a shower hook you can throw it on the stall door, over the side wall, over the curtain rod– anywhere to get your stuff off the floor!
Sink Areas and Countertops
Sinks are hot zones for germs in public restrooms as well as faucet handles. Although our immune system helps against contracting diseases in public restrooms, you still need to proceed with a few cautious measures. Never set your toothbrush, razor, hairbrush, floss, makeup brushes, or other toiletries directly on the bathhouse counter. Lay a paper towel down as a barrier to store your things on as a protective measure.
Baby Changing Tables
If using a public changing table, always lay something down between the baby and the changing table. Who are we kidding, we’ve all had to deal with an “up-the-backer.” If it can make it that far, it can make it on a changing table in many instances. If there are disposable covers provided, use them. I like to bring a portable changing mat along. It is a comfortable buffer between my baby and the changing table and can be wiped off with a disinfectant wipe afterwards.
Make sure to have clean hands before changing your baby. You’ve touched the door handle and changing table already and probably have more germs on your hands than you realize. Since you can’t wash your hands very well with a baby in your arms, have a sanitizer in the baby bag to quickly use.
Also, try everything you can to NOT put the diaper bag on the floor! I am a huge fan of backpack style diaper bags— and this is one big reason why!
For more on bathhouses, check out RV Campground Bathhouses 101.
Pool and Spa Precautions
Rinse off before and after the pool. Now, who wants to rinse off in freezing cold water before jumping into a nice, warm pool?! Believe it or not, this silly sounding pool rule is there for a reason!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to rinse off with soap before swimming. Why? Because showering removes the perspiration, oils, cosmetics, urine, and fecal matter off our bodies and down the drain reducing the risk of waterborne illness.
The thing is, many people don’t do it. Even worse, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average swimmer contributes at least 0.14 grams of fecal material to the water, typically within the first 15 minutes of entering. GROSS!
Now, if you can’t stand the sight of a nasty Band-Aid floating at the bottom of the pool, just imagine how much fecal matter is in a 150-person capacity pool if swimmers DON’T shower first?
Furthermore, swallowing even a small amount of this contaminated water can make you extremely sick. And, just wait, it gets worse– chlorine and bromine used to kill and oxidize harmful bacteria does not kill germs instantly nor work on everything. It can take properly chlorinated water more than seven days to kill the harmful parasite Cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is a bad parasite that spreads from… you guessed it… poo! Diarrhea to be exact. It is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and public pool outbreaks.
Consequently, not showering before diving in puts yourself and others at risk of getting a water illness. And no one wants raging diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and a fever (especially on vacation) that lasts for one to two weeks!
Fitness Center Sanitization
Fitness centers often provide a disinfectant spray for guests to use on machinery and weights, even incorporating this in the gym rules to do so after use. However, I simply like to go in thinking nothing has been cleaned properly. In reality, you always get that handful of people that just don’t clean up after themselves while leaving a large, sweaty, body-shaped-stamp on each machine bench they use. While gym germs should not discourage you from a good workout, it’s in your best interest to go over each machine with a quick wipe-down before using it, and of course after. Also, always shower after sweating it out!
Other Campground Amenities
Being exposed to germs from other campground amenities such as sport equipment, game rentals, water sport rentals, bike rentals, dog parks, playgrounds, and arcade games is inevitable. However, one simple but crucial step will help us stay healthy from harmful microbes we are exposed to– and it’s by washing our hands! Proper hand washing after any and all activities will significantly aid your health and help stop germs from not spreading to others. Likewise, take a full body shower after water activities in pools, lakes, ponds, or oceans.
Keep Your Furry Companions Healthy & Clean
Pets are part of the family too! Be sure to always wash your hands after picking up after your pet, touching pet waste containers or amenities, and petting other camp companions.
With so many pets in one area it is extremely important for their health, to get your pet vaccinated and keep their vaccinations up to date. Kennel cough, canine influenza, and intestinal parasites can be easily transmitted through shared parks, pet relieving areas, and communal water bowls. If you are concerned about them spreading bacteria picked up on their paws into the camper, consider using antibacterial paw wipes like Biga’s Deodorizing Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes or a paw scrubber like the Dexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Cleaner.
Also, dogs playing near one another can also spread fleas and ticks. Although flea and tick medication is routinely administered, it’s wise to do a quick tick check after long walks through the woods so that they don’t transfer to you.
All in all, the importance of hand washing, good hygiene, and basic cleaning practices can not be more evident! We can all make simple changes to our routines that have great impacts on our health, for our own sake as well as others.
RVING IS BEING mindful throughout our journeys, so we don’t pass on the germies.
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