A study of 2,000 UK adults found the nation is labouring over tasks which may clear up dust and dirt visible on the surface, but viruses are being left untouched.

More than a quarter will clean their homes with the ambition to make sure everything appears clean and tidy, with 27 per cent working to remove all evidence of dust and dirt.

However, expert insight highlights how this could lead to virus-ridden homes as germs can remain on hard and soft surfaces for up to 48 hours – even after a daily dusting.

We catch between two and five colds a year

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Figures show adults in the UK catch between two and five colds a year on average, while children suffer up to eight bouts.

In fact, minor illnesses such as coughs and colds were the most common reason for sickness absence in the UK in 2016, accounting for approximately 34 million workdays lost.

Despite this, the research commissioned by Dettol, found just 17 per cent say their main objective when cleaning is to rid their house of cold and flu viruses.

Instead, three in 10 confessed to only cleaning when they can see visible dirt.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, the Hygiene Doctor, said: “The research has gleaned some interesting insights into the cleaning habits of the nation, and how the actions they are taking could mean they are at risk of becoming unwell this winter.

Just because it looks clean, doesn’t mean it is!

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“Although it’s reassuring to see millions of Brits are in the habit of keeping their homes spick and span, it’s the way they are doing it which might mean they aren’t actually as effective at reducing risks of illness as they think because the home may look clean, but it is not hygienic or disinfected at all.

“Studies have shown that flu viruses can survive on common household sites for extended periods of time, from up to 48 hours on wooden surfaces, eight hours on cloths, and 24-48 hours on non-porous surfaces.

“People may be surprised to learn that it is in fact hands and hand contact surfaces that can play a very important role in the journey of the germ, and that good hand hygiene together with regular disinfection of commonly touched surfaces can help to reduce transmission of colds and flu.

“Studies have also found household objects such as door handles, light switches, pens, tap and toilet handles, and television remote controls can become contaminated with viruses which are transmitted by dirty hands.

“In addition, when people come home from travelling on public transport, or being with crowds, for example when shopping, then it is important to wash hands immediately upon coming into the home to prevent the transfer of viruses onto surfaces.”

We are spending time cleaning, just not the right type!

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The study also found the average adult will clean for an hour a week, but one in six spend less than 20 minutes a week on household chores.

Of this time spent cleaning, 22 minutes are dedicated to vacuuming or sweeping but just 14 minutes a week is used for wiping down kitchen surfaces with an antibacterial cloth.

When it comes to the spread of viruses, only half believe this happens in the home.

This compares to 73 per cent who would put it down to sneezing, and nearly two thirds who think it’s from touching contaminated surfaces in public.

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Just 13 per cent of Brits polled, via OnePoll, believe their home is the place where they or their family are most likely to interact with germs and viruses, compared to 38 per cent who would expect it to be at school.

And six in 10 think you’re most likely to come in contact with cold and flu viruses on public transport.

Almost a fifth also don’t believe that catching colds and flu in the colder months can be prevented.

It also emerged around two fifths reckon the toilet is home to the most cold and flu viruses, compared to 33 per cent who anticipate kitchen surfaces to be the most contaminated.

As a result, more than half will regularly use an anti-bacterial cleaning spray on their toilet seat, with just two in five doing the same when cleaning the kitchen table.

Even fewer – one in four – will use an anti-bacterial spray on the door handles between rooms.

Through the Clean It, Kill It, Stop It campaign launching this week, Dettol aims to educate the British public on how colds and flu are spread via touch where viruses may have been deposited.

CLEAN IT: Cold and flu viruses can survive on hard and soft surfaces in the home, from worktops and cupboards, to sofas and curtains, but you can help prevent their spread with your daily cleaning routine.

KILL IT: Cleaning is more than dusting and hoovering. When carrying out your daily cleaning routine it is important to use products which kill 99.9 per cent of those invisible cold and flu viruses.

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STOP IT: Help stop cold and flu at home this winter and keep your family healthy

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Pat Cattini, president of the Infection Prevention Society, added: “Influenza and the common cold can be incredibly debilitating, however it appears that aside from getting a vaccination, the UK public need to be more aware of additional measures that can help prevent catching these illnesses each season.

“We need to ensure that people understand surfaces and commonly touched items, like door handles and phones, can be contaminated with flu and cold viruses particularly in the colder months when transmission is more likely.

“When coupled with actions like regular hand washing and annual flu vaccinations, the simple addition of daily cleaning can help prevent the spread of colds and flu.

“The work Dettol is doing to educate the UK public on this through the Clean It, Kill It, Stop It campaign will go a long way to increase proactive prevention nationwide.

“By ensuring we hygienically clean surfaces and commonly touched items in our homes and workplaces to reduce exposure to cold and flu viruses, we can all work together to help stop cold and flu before they spread this winter season.”

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