During this time of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, it is crucial that we take all the steps needed to keep ourselves and our loved ones in good health and protected from this deadly virus. Cleaning and disinfecting your home every day is one way you can protect yourself and your household from getting sick with COVID-19 and prevent this virus from spreading and infecting other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that we clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in our homes frequently –at least once every day– especially if you or a member of your household has gone outside or have had contact with someone from outside your home, such as a delivery personnel.
The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting
The first step in effectively getting rid of pathogens in your home is to know that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things and that these are both essential in keeping your home coronavirus-free. Cleaning is the process of removing germs and dirt from surfaces. Take note that this process does not kill germs, it simply removes them or reduces the number of germs. This helps to reduce the risk of infection. On the other hand, disinfecting is a process that involves the use of chemicals to kill germs. The CDC has posted a list of EPA-registered disinfectants that effectively remove pathogens, specifically the coronavirus.
Prioritize High-Touch Surfaces in Your Home
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the new coronavirus can survive for several hours in air particles and for days on surfaces. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCLA, and Princeton University were able to determine the amount of time that the coronavirus can survive in different surfaces:
- Aerosols (solid or liquid particles suspended in the air, such as fog, dust, and gas commonly used in medical procedures like ventilation and nebulizers): up to three hours
- Copper: up to four hours
- Cardboard: up to 24 hours
- Plastic and stainless steel: up to three days
Because of these recent findings, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces have become vital steps in keeping our homes safe from the coronavirus. If you have been staying home and having your groceries, food, and medications delivered instead, there is still some possibility of exposure, so it is best that you clean and disinfect anything that is sent to your home, along with high-touch surfaces around the house, which include the following:
- Light switches
- Tabletops (dining table, work desk)
- Chairs (seat, back, and arms)
- TV remote controls
- Game controllers
- Kitchen counters
- Bathroom counters
- Toilet seats and handles
Safe and Effective Ways to Clean and Disinfect Your Home
It is for your own safety and protection to wear reusable or disposable gloves whenever you clean your home. You can effectively clean surfaces using soap and water, then disinfect next. Always clean frequently touched surfaces first, at least once a day. Do this on a daily basis.
It is best to use EPA-registered household disinfectants because these are guaranteed to be safe and effective. Before using these, read and follow the instructions on the label. Always wear disposable gloves and consider eye protection for potential splash hazards. You will also need to ensure that the room is properly ventilated. Never combine different chemical products together, as this could produce toxic fumes. After use, store these cleaning and disinfecting agents out of the reach of children and pets.
If the recommended household disinfectants by the CDC are not available, you may use alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Another option is to prepare a bleach solution. Before preparing this, check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection. It should have a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5% to 6%. Make sure that your bleach is not past its expiration date.
For the bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons or 1/3rd cup of bleach with a gallon of water at room temperature, or 4 teaspoons of bleach with one quart of water. This bleach solution will be effective for disinfection for up to 24 hours. Always check the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and ventilation. After applying this on a surface, leave the bleach solution for at least one minute. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
Ways to Clean and Disinfect Soft or Porous Surfaces at Home
To clean soft (porous) surfaces at home, like carpets, rugs, and drapes, you will need to remove any visible dirt then clean these using the appropriate products. After cleaning these, wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Whenever possible, use the warmest water setting for these items then let them dry completely.
How to Clean and Disinfect Clothes, Towels, Linens, and Other Similar Items
Detergents can effectively disinfect clothes, towels, and linens. Wash these items according to the manufacturer’s instructions, use the warmest appropriate water setting, then let these dry completely.
There are a few things you will need to do as you wash these garments to ensure your safety and to prevent spreading contaminants in your laundry area. First, always wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick. You do not have to wash the dirty laundry from an ill person separately, you can wash these together with the laundry of other members of your household. Avoid shaking dirty laundry so virus is not dispersed in the air and transfer dirty laundry carefully from the hamper to the washing machine. Afterwards, clean and disinfect clothes hampers using the appropriate cleaning and disinfecting agents, then take off your gloves and thoroughly wash your hands right away.
While the responsibility of cleaning and disinfecting your home may be a bit overwhelming, doing so would be necessary to protect yourself and your loved ones from the deadly viruses and help stop coronavirus pandemic. Remember, cleaning and disinfecting your home are two separate processes and both are vital in keeping you safe, so be sure to do these at least once every day.
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