How to keep COVID-19 and other germs out of your home
In these times of uncertainty and social distancing due to COVID-19, your home can feel like a safe, comforting place. But as some still have to leave the house to go to work or get groceries, there are some steps you can take to try to ensure the virus stays outside and your home stays clean.
“It’s helpful to get into a routine anytime someone arrives home,” says Dr. Minhaj Husain, an infectious disease specialist at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI. “It helps to protect your home but will also give you some peace of mind.”
Cleaning tips for arriving home:
- When you get home, take off your shoes and leave them outside. Then hang up your coat and immediately go wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Clean any surfaces you have touched with disinfectant wipes— things like your cell phone, doorknobs or sink.
- On a daily basis, clean things you touch multiple times a day— remote controls, doorknobs, sinks, cabinet handles, refrigerator doors, debit or credit cards, computer screens and keyboards.
“It’s important to distinguish between cleaning and disinfecting,” Dr. Husain explains. “Cleaning means physically removing germs and dirt from surfaces. Disinfecting is the use of chemicals or alcohol to kill germs that may not be visible to the naked eye.”
Disinfecting options include:
- Diluting your household bleach: To make a bleach solution, mix: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.
- Alcohol solutions: Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.
- Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants: Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
“It remains unclear how long this coronavirus will survive on surfaces. If it is similar to other coronaviruses such as SARS, it could survive for a few hours to a few days, possibly longer depending on the surface,” Dr. Husain says. “How long it survives would depend on temperature, humidity and what the surface is made of.”
New research from the National Institutes of Health shows that COVID-19 lives for 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel. So, if you want to practice extreme caution with any deliveries, you could simply let cardboard-packaged items sit for 24 hours before you touch them, and plastic packaging sit for 72 hours.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. But again, if you want to be extremely cautious, simply put the items directly in your refrigerator, without placing on your countertop, and then thoroughly wash your hands. If you can, remove outer packaging and throw it directly in the trash before placing items in your refrigerator. Wash any surfaces that have been touched by grocery bags or packaging.
About the Author
Tami Hughes is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health. She attended college at the University of Miami and loves watching her Hurricanes play just about anything. She enjoys cooking and going to concerts with her husband. Her heart is made happy by her children, Neenah and Jack, and her dog child, Rizzo.