Cut The Risk of Coronavirus Spreading in Your Home

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During this challenging coronavirus pandemic, we need to understand now more than ever how we can cut the risk of infection spreading into our homes.

Coronavirus is mainly transmitted from person to person via tiny droplets of saliva or other bodily fluids that float in the air after a cough or sneeze. Contaminated objects and surfaces can also be possible in the transmission of disease. [2]

So, if you or someone at risk of having the virus has recently been in your home, cleaning to reduce the amount of contamination on surfaces could help cut down your risk of further transmission of coronavirus. 

Before you dive into your deep cleaning, there are a few things you should do to help the process go smoothly.

Cleaning and disinfection

how to stop the spread of coronavirus in the house

There’s an important distinction between cleaning and disinfection.

Cleaning physically removes organic matter such as germs and dirt from surfaces. Disinfection is using chemicals to kill bacteria on surfaces. Cleaning is essential because organic matter may inhibit or reduce the disinfectant’s ability to kill germs. [2]

If it is similar to other viruses, coronaviruses could survive a few hours – potentially up to several days in your home. How long it survives could depend on several factors like temperature, humidity, and what the surface is made of. [2]

Contamination in your home

how to stop the spread of coronavirus

If someone in your home coughs or sneezes, and they don’t cover their mouth, the surfaces close to them will likely be contaminated. [2] 

Hands are often the culprit for transferring pathogens from one place to another, so items that people frequently touch are at the greatest risk of being contaminated.

Frequently touched items include:

  • TV remotes
  • fridge doors
  • any door handles
  • kitchen cupboards
  • kitchen surfaces
  • cell phones
  • taps
  • devices such as phones and iPads [2]

“The coronavirus is a delicate structure, and it is vulnerable in the environment. Both heat and detergents, including soap, can stop it functioning” [2]

Contaminated surfaces

If a surface becomes contaminated, or to prevent a surface from contamination, cleaning it with a common household disinfectant will kill the virus. 

Always remember to wash your hands after cleaning (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser) and please avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose. [2]

There are many options for what to use to clean, including paper towels, cloths or disposable wipes—the S-shaped pattern for cleaning a surface without recontaminating parts of it. You don’t want to “recontaminate” surfaces while cleaning. Working from one side of a surface to the other helps with this, using an “S” shape to clean. If you are reusing a cloth, remember to wash it afterwards and let it dry. [2]

Keep an eye out for these surfaces 

Keeping your home or apartment clean and disinfected will prevent the spread of coronavirus, and any other virus for that matter. But if no one in your household is showing symptoms or has been diagnosed, then the chances of the virus living on a surface in your home are less likely. [3]

The most important surfaces to clean regularly are the ones you touch most often. This will reduce the likelihood of the virus transferring from a surface to your hands. [3]

At the moment, it’s still unclear how long the virus can survive outside the body, but a recent US study found it could last on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for up to three days. [3]

“With research suggesting that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on surfaces for a matter of days, establishing a hygiene routine with some simple, everyday preventative steps can help avoid the spread of respiratory viruses” [3]

Wiping down high traffic areas will reduce the spread of viruses in areas that come into contact with various people throughout the day.”

These areas include:

  • Desks
  • Keyboards
  • Phones
  • Door handles
  • Entrance doors
  • Shared kitchens and bathrooms
  • Light switches
  • Car steering wheels
  • Remote controls [3]

Floor surfaces receive a high amount of traffic daily. If outdoor shoes aren’t removed, or if pets live in the home, there’s added risk of bringing in bacteria and viruses from the outside. [3]

Therefore, floor surfaces must be not only cleaned but disinfected correctly. You can vacuum and mop at the same time or for a deeper carpet-cleaning power, try to use a wet vacuum cleaner for your carpet and rugs.

“It’s not enough to do a deep clean every few days. You should make a habit of cleaning, then disinfecting your surfaces at least once a day, but more often if they’re in heavy use.” [3]

Dishes

Washing with hot water and detergent is fine for dishes and cutlery. A dishwasher is even better because it can use more heated water. [2]

Clothing and linen

how to stop the spread of coronavirus

You’ll want to use the warmest setting possible to wash contaminated laundry. For laundry from someone who is sick, this can be washed with other people’s items. If you are handling contaminated items such as towels or sheets, avoid shaking them before washing to reduce the risk of infecting other surfaces. [2]

And remember to wash your hands immediately after touching any contaminated laundry.

Prevention is key

Remember that surfaces play a role in transmitting pathogens, so preventing them from becoming contaminated in the first place is as important as cleaning. There are some things you can do to reduce the amount of contamination of surfaces in your house:

  • cover your cough and sneezes, preferably with a tissue but otherwise into your elbow, and wash your hands immediately
  • wash your hands often, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.

Sick family members

You’ll want to think about which room in your home could be used to care for a sick member of your family. The ideal room should be one that is separate from other parts of your home and has a separate bathroom. An air purifier and humidifier can be effective at removing flu viruses and bacteria that are traveling inside your home’s air.

Family members with asthma or breathing difficulties can reduce their symptoms and breathe easier with less dust and dander in a clean house. Find the best duster for cleaning your home here.

Cleaning this room when someone is sick also requires some thought. Further advice on caring for someone with coronavirus at home is available from the Department of Health. [2]

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor. You can also visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources.

The right products

how to stop the spread of coronavirus

Not only is it essential to keep your home clean, but you also need to be using the right products to make sure any nasty germs are killed. [3]

“Diluted bleach, cleaners with at least 70% alcohol and disinfectants have all been recommended,” [3]

Keep a dedicated pair of rubber gloves for disinfecting potentially contaminated areas, and don’t use them for anything else. Always disinfect and boil-wash cloths used for cleaning.” [3]

Be sure to read the instructions on your cleaning products, or you’ll risk them being ineffective.

“Read the instructions on the back of your disinfectant properly. For disinfectants to work, they need to be in contact with the surface for five minutes to kill bacteria and viruses. Take extra care to ensure that pets and children do not make contact with disinfected surfaces until they’re dry.” [3]

If you’re you’re cleaning something that might be contaminated or, for example, has been sneezed on or touched, it’s a good idea to stick to paper towels and kitchen roll rather than reusable cloths.

Antibacterial products

While stocking up on antibacterial wipes and cleaners may seem like the smart thing to do, they won’t actually protect you from coronavirus. [3]

That’s because bacteria and viruses are two different germs. Therefore they are killed by different products. 

 “Viruses are more resistant to disinfectants but can still be killed with them. Coronavirus is an envelope virus, which means it is developed in a fatty layer that can be more easily broken down by cleaning supplies” [3]

Be sure to check the label to ensure the product has been tested against bacteria and viruses. Not all household cleaning products contain virus-killing active ingredients. Some antibacterial products may not be effective against the virus, so it’s crucial to select a product that states ‘Kills 99.9% bacteria and “viruses” on the packaging. [3]

References:

[1] The ultimate list of age-appropriate chores (Child Development Institute)

[2] How to clean your house to prevent the spread of …. http://theconversation.com/how-to-clean-your-house-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-and-other-infections-133912

[3] COVID-19 coronavirus: do you need to disinfect your home …. https://patient.info/news-and-features/covid-19-do-you-need-to-disinfect-your-home