Community illnesses are scary, whether it’s an annual flu or something more serious like the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus. You hunker down, stay home, and stock up on pasta so you can eat in for the next few weeks. The best advice is to stay home — but what if your home is covered in germs? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Protection), cleaning and disinfecting are two distinct practices that can both contribute to a more hygienic home environment. Cleaning involves removing germs, while disinfecting uses chemicals to actually kill the germs to stop the spread of infection.
If you’re worried about how to best clean your home during a major outbreak, follow these CDC recommendations to stay safe and learn how to disinfect your house effectively.
1. Wear Disposable Gloves While Cleaning
Your hands can be an unintentional distributor of germs. If you clean a dirty counter with bare hands, and then go use the bathroom, you may accidentally contaminate a new room. Use disposable gloves each time you clean, and throw them away. Yes, it might seem wasteful, but it’s the best practice during relatively short times of epidemic or pandemic conditions. Don’t try washing disposable gloves for reuse.
2. Clean High-Touch Surfaces Daily
Clean door handles, kitchen counters, toilet handles, the backs of kitchen chairs, and other commonly touched areas every single day. This also includes remote controls, light switches, sink handles, and car steering wheels. Go through your morning and meal-time routines and think about everything you touch on a regular basis. These areas need to be disinfected the most, particularly if you have a known sick person in the house (even if they are quarantined to one room as recommended).
3. Clean Bathrooms After Every Use by a Sick Person
If someone in your home exhibits symptoms of the illness in question, they should rest and follow doctor’s orders away from everyone else. But they still gotta pee, right? Make sure you clean down the surfaces in the bathroom after each use by someone who you know or suspect might be sick. This includes the toilet, sink, and the entire countertop. Better safe than sorry!
4. Use Alcohol Solutions with at Least 70% Alcohol
The CDC recommends using chemical solutions with at least 70% alcohol for proper disinfecting. If stores are sold out or you’d rather make your own, you can use prepare a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Make sure you clean surfaces before you disinfect them. For instance, wipe down your kitchen counter with a vinegar and water solution before you hit it with your diluted bleach. Make sure you’re not using products that are past their expiration date.
5. Launder Clothes and Blankets with Hot Water
You may prefer to wash your clothes on cold to keep their colors in tact, but hot water is best in this scenario. Wash towels, sheets, and blankets on hot water that can better kill the germs. You may also want to switch to a new detergent with a stronger disinfecting ingredient, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to wear gloves any time you handle laundry that may have been in contact with a sick person. During this time you’ll want to do laundry more often than usual.
6. Do Not Shake Out Rugs or Dirty Laundry Before Disinfecting
Before you use a rug cleaner or other disinfectant on fabrics like rugs and blankets, resist the urge to shake them out on your back porch. This only further risks the chance of setting particles through the air and having them land on your clothes or blow back in the home. When moving laundry from the basket to the washer, use swift and smooth motions to avoid agitating the fabric.
7. Get in Nooks and Crannies
This is the time for a deep clean. Air borne illnesses can land in places you don’t expect. Be thorough over staircase banisters, wooden steps, floorboards, and even the undersides of kitchen tables that may be touched by hands more often than you think. Consider having an inside clothes/outside clothes policy for the time being, too.
Life in the time of a global virus is no fun, but you can get through it with some planning and the right disinfectants. When in doubt, over-clean your home to avoid contamination!