The rapid spread of COVID-19 has lead to a world-wide and state-mandated move to shelter in place. For now, our homes are not just emotional sanctuaries, but also provide physical protection from the virus. But many of us must venture out from time to time, whether we are essential workers or just picking up the essentials from the grocery store. How do we keep our homes safe and secure from this invisible invader? Here is a compilation of the latest information on how to keep a clean and virus-free household, drawn largely from the Centers for Disease Control’s website.
COVID-19 is short for coronavirus disease 2019. It is usually spread from one person to another person by close contact, which occurs when people are within 6 feet of each other. In this situation the virus is usually spread by respiratory droplets, such as when someone coughs or sneezes. People who are infected by the virus may not have symptoms and may still spread it to others. There are no documented cases of anyone getting COVID-19 from a surface with the virus remaining on it. However, the virus may survive on various surfaces for time periods ranging from hours to days. An unpublished study by the CDC says it can remain on plastic and stainless steel for 2-3 days and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. There is no evidence that it can be transmitted through water.
The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home as a best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or any other viral respiratory illness. It is unknown how long the virus stays in the air of a room where there has been an infected person. Both the size of room and the type of ventilation system are factors that have to be considered. Still, it’s always a good practice to ventilate a room where a known or suspected COVID-19 patient has been. The CDC makes recommendations for cleaning in a household where a member may have or has a confirmed case of COVID-19. These practices can be used by anyone who is concerned about the virus in general. The CDC makes a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting. You will want to go through both steps to keeping your home both clean and disinfected.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Different Types of Surfaces
Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces
If possible, wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect, and throw the gloves away after cleaning. It’s ok to use reusable gloves, as long as you don’t use them for any purpose other than cleaning/disinfecting for COVID-19. Be sure to clean your hands right away after you finish cleaning and remove your gloves.
To clean hard surfaces, first use a detergent or soap and water to remove any dirt. Then, disinfect the surface with an EPA-registered disinfectant. For a list of these disinfectants that are approved for helping to fight COVID-19, click here.
You can also make an effective disinfectant by diluting household bleach, as long as it hasn’t expired. Make sure the bleach solution has contact with the surface you’re cleaning for at least one minute. Also ensure the area you are cleaning has adequate ventilation while you’re using the bleach solution. You can make a bleach solution by adding 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
Soft (Porous) Surfaces
Common porous surfaces that may become contaminated and need to be cleaned include carpeted flooring, rugs, and drapes. First use a cleaner that is indicated for use on these types of surfaces. If possible, put the item in the laundry and wash it on the highest heat setting, then dry it completely. You can check the list of EPA-approved cleaners for use against COVID-19 to find one that’s appropriate for the item or surface that you’re cleaning.
When laundering items that may be contaminated, use disposable gloves or a pair of reusable gloves set aside for that purpose. Clean your hands after you finish the laundry and remove your gloves. Don’t shake your dirty laundry, as that could release the virus into the air. Use the highest heat setting on your washing machine and make sure to dry the items thoroughly. Also be sure to clean and disinfect your hamper regularly. If possible, use a liner bag that is either disposable or washable.
Keeping Your Hands Clean
To stop the spread of COVID-19, it’s very important to keep your hands clean. Always clean your hands when you are done cleaning and disinfecting other surfaces, and after coming in contact with someone who is sick with the virus. Spend 20 seconds washing your hands with soap and water. Warm and cold water are equally effective. If these are not available and your hands aren’t visibly dirty, you can use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds.If you hands are visibly dirty, it’s important to use soap and water, not just a hand sanitizer.
Wash or sanitize your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Also clean your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, and after going to the bathroom, or interacting with animals. In addition, clean your hands before eating or preparing food, and before and after providing care for another person.
With these tips in mind, you can keep your household clean and feel secure that your home is still a place of safety.