Here are the latest tips and recommendations from the CDC and Public Health Agency of Canada on how to properly clean and disinfect your living spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wash your hands
First and foremost, please wash your hands. We can’t stress the importance of good hand hygiene enough. This means washing your hands as often as possible with warm, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds. “The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside – DNA or RNA – is what actually causes the disease,” explains Richard Sachleben, organic chemist and member of the American Chemical Society. “For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap… breaks up the coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.” The CDC has also referred to the coronavirus as a “fatty” virus because of this outer protein layer. If soap and water are not available, disinfect your hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol.
Focus on high-touch surfaces
High-touch surfaces are those we touch often throughout our day such as doorknobs, handles, faucets, toilets, light switches, cell phones, remote controls, keys, etc. These surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected several times a day to help reduce the spread of germs and viruses. According to current evidence reported by Public Health Canada, the COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces made from a variety of materials for a few hours to several days. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas is a best practice measure for the prevention of COVID-19 and other viral illnesses in households and at work.
When in doubt, throw it out
The room in the home just brimming with things that really need to be cleaned, replaced and tossed out is, of course, the bathroom. It’s a good idea to toss cleaning tools like your toilet brush and toothbrush and replace these with fresh ones, especially if you have recently been ill or have experienced gastrointestinal distress. Also, each family member should store their toothbrush away from the others so that they are not touching and possibly spreading germs. When cleaning the toilet, don’t forget to scrub and disinfect the flush lever.
Open cosmetics and makeup should be replaced every 3 months to 2 years depending on the product. For example, eye products, like mascara and eyeliner, should be thrown away every 2-4 months after opening, but powder cosmetics are okay for up to 2 years. Most skin care products, such as those in a pump bottle, are typically safe for 6 months to a year before becoming susceptible to developing bacteria, mold and yeast – icky things that can cause skin infections that can be serious.
Can’t touch this
You’ve heard it before, and we’ll say it again – don’t touch your face. We know it’s hard. Face touching is a subconscious act we all do but, as much as possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially:
- After using the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing on your hands
- Before and after eating or preparing food
- After contact with pets or animals
- Before and after contact with another person who is or may be ill
Use what you have
According to health experts, many household cleaning products, when used properly, are effective at killing the coronavirus. In many places, however, disinfecting wipes and cleaning products are in short supply. Fortunately, there are many other products you can use, most of which are likely already in your pantry or closet.
Soap – any kind, though ones that foam are best. Soap, when mixed with warm water breaks down and removes the viral particles that may have attached themselves to the surfaces in your home.
Bleach – a diluted bleach solution is very effective at killing viruses and germs. The CDC recommends a dilution formula of 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach in 4 liters (1 gal) of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach in 1 liter of water. Bleach can harm your skin or cause damage to the surface you are trying to clean so, be cautious and wear gloves and protective eyewear, if available, to avoid bleach splashing onto your skin or into your eyes.
Hydrogen peroxide – this can also be used as a disinfectant, though not as strong as bleach. It does not need to be diluted but can discolor fabrics, so be careful where you use it.
Rubbing alcohol – products that contain 70% or higher alcohol content will kill the coronavirus. Again, don’t dilute it; rubbing alcohol is safe for most surfaces.
What products are not recommended? Consumer Reports warns: “There is no evidence that [white vinegar is] effective against the coronavirus.” Vinegar is another common household product that people often clean with since it is natural and inexpensive, however, in this case, save your vinegar for your French fries. Additionally, vodka and other distilled spirits are not good disinfectants.
Technique is essential
How you clean is just as important as what product you clean with. A quick swipe is not enough, you must vigorously scrub the surface thoroughly, making sure that the entire area is wet, and then let it dry on its own. Do not wipe the product off with a dry cloth or paper towel. What’s most important is that you use plenty of disinfecting product and physical force and give the product time to work.
If surfaces are visibly dirty, they should be cleaned using soap and water before being disinfected. This two-step process will help ensure maximum efficiency of the disinfecting product.
Remember to use disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting your home and discard them after each cleaning. Wash your hands immediately afterward. Gloves will also provide protection from harsh chemicals in some cleaning products that can cause skin irritation. If you don’t have access to disposable gloves, you can also use reusable rubber gloves, just make sure to wash them with hot soapy water when finished, only use them for household cleaning, and store them safely away between cleanings. Try to use these products when kids and pets are not around and keep the room well ventilated, if possible, as some products can trigger asthma.
Don’t forget fabrics
For soft surfaces such as carpets, rugs, drapes, clothing, etc. remove viral contamination by cleaning with appropriate products indicated for use on the item’s label. Wash all laundry, except for delicate items, on the hottest water setting on your washing machine, rather than with cold water.
Change the bedsheets, vacuum the carpets and use an antibacterial fabric spray on mattresses, couches, and other soft surfaces.
Tackle the big stuff
Lastly, wash your windows, rearrange the furniture and clean behind the larger appliances. These are all things we tend to put off because we are too busy. Now, use some of the extra time on your hands to give your home a deep clean. It is spring cleaning season after all!
If you feel like you’re starting to go a little stir crazy, remember that your home doesn’t need to feel like a prison cell during this outbreak. Many retailers offer online shopping and delivery – buy some trendy new bathroom towels and swap out your bedroom linens for fresh spring prints. Making a few simple changes can help make a room feel refreshed and updated. During this difficult and uncertain time, the one thing we can control is our home environment.