The nation has gotten very careful about germs in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to washing hands and procedures for coughing and sneezing. It’s a good thing, too, as the leading way to spread the disease is through person-to-person contact (with less than six feet separating one another) and the transmission of respiratory droplets. Questions have been raised about the safety of bringing groceries home (see this Parentology post) and whether special housekeeping efforts should be taken. Here are the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) housekeeping guidelines for keeping Coronavirus germs at bay.
Cleaning Versus Disinfecting
Yes, there’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. The CDC breaks them down:
- Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
- Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
The CDC recommends these U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectants. Can’t find disinfectant cleaning supplies at the moment? Fast Company suggests using this mixture: 70% isopropyl alcohol or bleach (4 tsp bleach per quart water). The CDC has a mixture to try below, as well. Before using cleaning supplies on any surface, first Google to see if the surface you intend to use the mixture on is safe, and/or test a small area to see how it reacts.
Doorknobs, light switches, keys, handles, phone, keyboards, electronics, exercise equipment… surfaces within the home abound. A report from the online archive and distribution server medRxiv says SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19) can survive on surfaces for up to three days.
What the CDC says about these frequently touched surfaces: “Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.”
Here are the official CDC housekeeping guidelines for cleaning different kinds of surfaces and laundry.
*Please note, more stringent cleaning methods will be needed if an ill person resides in your household.
Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces
- Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products used. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.
- If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
- A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for (concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
- Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite) can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute, and allowing proper ventilation during and after application. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
Soft (Porous) Surfaces
- For soft (porous) surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. After cleaning:
- Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.
- Otherwise, use products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 and that are suitable for porous surfaces.
- For electronics such as cell phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, and keyboards, remove visible contamination if present.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
- Consider use of wipeable covers for electronics.
- If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid the pooling of liquids.
Linens, clothing, and other items that go in the laundry
- Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard after each use. If using reusable gloves, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other household purposes. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.
- If no gloves are used when handling dirty laundry, be sure to wash hands afterwards.
- If possible, do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air.
- Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
- Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to the guidance above for surfaces. If possible, consider placing a bag liner that is either disposable (can be thrown away) or can be laundered.