The old saying “cleanliness is a virtue” rings with new meaning these days in the fight against COVID-19. In fact, the relationship between proper cleaning practices and good health has never been more apparent and important than during this global pandemic. Given that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more at risk of severe coronavirus symptoms, protecting the vulnerable at home is imperative.
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can live on surfaces and in the air between a few hours to several days. It can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours. Some good news according to John Hopkins University: the COVID-19 virus is fragile, with a thin layer of fat its only protection. Soap or detergent is the best offense, as it dissolves the fat layer and thus the protein molecule of the virus disperses and collapses.
We’re all being mindful of handwashing, social distancing and wearing a mask in public to minimize exposure, as per recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fourth leg of the stool for preventative measures is keeping the home safe. According to the CDC, a clean household is another way to help keep COVID-19 at bay. A regular cleaning routine makes for an impactful weapon in the coronavirus fight. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your home clean and safe:
First things first: Clean or Disinfect?
The CDC suggests cleaning before disinfecting, because while cleaning removes dirt and other impurities it doesn’t necessarily kill germs. Disinfecting takes place when chemicals are used to kill germs on surfaces, thus lowering the risk of spreading a virus. The good news is that soap and water is all you need to remove up to 97% of germs. When you wash surfaces with soap and water, you’ll break up the dirt and oil that protects germs. A swipe isn’t enough; you need to use good old-fashioned elbow grease to physically wipe away grime.
To disinfect, soak the surface with disinfectant for about 10 minutes before wiping down. Of course, make sure to wear gloves! Given that disposable gloves might be in short supply, it’s fine to use reusable gloves as long as they’re dedicated for cleaning and disinfecting.
What are the best disinfectants for COVID-19?
You can use these most common EPA-registered household disinfectants: alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium compounds. According to the CDC, the most effective among these are diluted household bleach solutions and alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Follow product label instructions and make sure you have good ventilation.
To create a diluted bleach solution as a disinfectant, the CDC recommends four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water (or one-third of a cup of bleach per gallon of water). Never combine bleach with ammonia or other cleaning solutions, as you could produce a hazardous gas! Here is your NEVER EVER MIX LIST: 1) bleach and vinegar, 2) bleach and ammonia, 3) bleach and rubbing alcohol, and 4) hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.
Try using color-coded cleaning cloths to prevent cross-contamination between rooms. Wash cloths, rags and clothes (on the hot water setting) right after cleaning to prevent contamination of floors or clothing hampers and let them dry completely.
What about cleaning soft surfaces?
Remove visible dirt from rugs, carpeting and rugs and use appropriate cleaners for these surfaces to clean and disinfect them. Avoid shaking dirty clothing, sheets or cloth to cut down the risk of dispersing the virus through the air. Use a disposable bag liner in the clothes hamper.
How frequently should you clean your home?
The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily, including light switches, doorknobs, handles, countertops, tables, desks, phones, faucets, remote controls, hard-backed chairs, computers, and keyboards. Of course, the list includes mobility and medical equipment commonly used by the elderly and the disabled such as walkers, canes and handrails.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci promoted calm during an interview with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. “You don’t want to be obsessive-compulsive about wiping everything down that you go near,” Fauci said. Still, the CDC recommendations daily cleaning tasks include sweeping and lightly mopping the kitchen floor, dishwashing and sanitizing kitchen sponges (either in the dishwasher or a minute in the microwave). Mirrors, waste bins, hard-surface floors, toilets and sinks should be cleaned and disinfected weekly.
What doesn’t work for cleaning and disinfecting?
Many people clean with vinegar because it’s inexpensive and natural. However, there’s no evidence that it is effective against coronavirus. Also, it’s a myth that vodka or other distilled spirits are sanitizing agents. The concentration of alcohol in vodka is not high enough to kill viruses. In fact, Tito’s Handmade Vodka issued a public warning that at 40% alcohol, its vodka “does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC” for at least 60% alcohol in hand sanitizer.
Keep in mind that there is no treatment or cure for COVID-19, so be leery of people trying to sell you a product with that promise. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission has been sending warning letters to companies for selling bogus products and unapproved drugs that pose significant risks. Don’t be fooled by recipes for homemade hand sanitizers or cleaning solutions using vodka or vinegar that you might see on the internet or social media, as these are all ineffective. Also, baby wipes do not kill coronavirus.
What else should I know to keep a safe home?
When someone in the home has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you’ll need to change your cleaning methods. Click here for the CDC’s recommendations.
With increased handwashing and sanitizing comes increased skin dryness. You want to avoid cracks developing in your skin from extreme dryness, as these cracks will give germs an entryway into your body. Make sure to moisturize frequently with products that contain ceramides (oils), dimethicone (a variety of silicone) and/or shea butter.
Let’s face it – cleaning the entire home for COVID-19 safety will seem overwhelming, particularly for older Americans with mobility issues or health conditions. If that’s the case, reach out to family members or a close friend for assistance. Or if you need an extra helping hand to tackle housecleaning or other everyday chores, consider reaching out to Amada Senior Care to learn about how an in-home caregiver can help you maintain a clean home and minimize your exposure to viruses. We are here to help, so if you have any questions on in-home care and preventative measures, please reach out to your local Amada office. You can find the one closest to you by clicking here or calling (877) 442-6232.
Do you need long-term care advice? Speak to a long-term care advisor near you.
“Tips for keeping a Clean Household to Fight Coronavirus,” by Michelle Flores, Amada Blog contributor.