Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus cleaning tips: The right and wrong ways to disinfect a house

I wasn't germphobic until the coronavirus hit and now, germs are all I think about. Which is why I was up at 1:30 a.m. last night, swiping down our kitchen cabinet handles with disinfecting wipes.

I've been reading up on the right (and wrong!) ways to clean and disinfect homes. A new study on the novel coronavirus found that it can stay on surfaces for days, including plastic and steel for 72 hours. Although our family is staying put inside our house for the foreseeable future, Dave and I have ducked out a few times for groceries and last weekend all of us took a walk on a trail, so I'm not taking any chances. Here are some key tips I've picked up. Your best defense of all: Wash your hands for 20 seconds.

Use cleaning products that combat coronavirus

Here is a complete list of cleaning products pre-approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use during the coronavirus outbreak, including Clorox, Lysol and Microban. Bleach (4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart water), rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (typically sold in concentrations of 3%) also work. White vinegar, tea tree oil and other natural solutions do not work to kill coronavirus. And, surprise, good old soap and water are great if you're game to scrub, as a chemist and member of the American Chemical Society told Consumer Reports: "Scrub like you've got sticky stuff on the surface and you really need to get it off."

Have your coronavirus gloves

If you're not using disposable gloves, dedicate a pair of reusable gloves to disinfecting, clean your hands right after you take them off and stash them in a plastic bag.

Disinfect the right way

When you use disinfecting cleaner or wipes on cabinet pulls, door knobs, door handles (one of the dirtiest surfaces in a house), light switches, faucets, and toilet handles, the surface must remain visibly wet for several minutes, or the prescribed amount of time on the package instructions. For Clorox disinfecting wipes, for instance, that's four minutes. It may take several swipes to make sure the item is fully wet—see this video from Carolyn Forte, director of home appliances and cleaning products for the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Disinfect your devices, too

It's safe to use disinfecting wipes and 70% isopropyl alcohol on your phone screen or keyboard, according to the folks at Apple, The Samsung people say the same. Don't forget the TV remote controls.

Know that paper towels are your friend 

Yes, paper towels are in high demand, but they are far more sanitary to use than towels. If you need to have anyone over at your house, remove the towels and keep paper towels handy. And for sure use them for anyone in your house who is sick. I've seen recommendations to keep a separate towel for each member of your family. With five of us here, I feel like nobody's going to remember to use their dedicated towel so I haven't tried that but yay if it works for you.

Don't walk around the house in shoes

Make everyone leave their shoes at the front door—outside it, if possible. In ordinary times, research has shown that shoes are covered in gross stuff (namely: poop). This is no time to be trekking crap into your house.

Take off your outside clothes at home

A couple of years ago, I read a viral post called "Please don't sit on my bed in your outside clothes" that stuck with me. Because of coronavirus cleanliness paranoia, when I've gotten home from being out these last few weeks I'll change clothes, putting the dirty ones in a plastic bag in the basement. True, coronavirus is less likely to live on fabric—as one expert explains it, the small holes in porous surfaces trap microbes. But see: "coronavirus cleanliness paranoia." Oh, and don't forget to wash the clothes hamper liner.

Image: Flickr/Jim White

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