As a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 crops up around the world, many are worried about the likelihood they’ll come in contact with the virus.
COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact, or through contact with surfaces that a person with COVID-19 touched, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, while we’re out and about in public, we wear masks and practice social distancing to protect ourselves and others.
At home, we can take additional steps to stay safe.
1. Agree on a household routine.
To protect your household from COVID-19, be sure everyone understands their cleaning responsibilities and routines. Also, make a checklist of objects you use or touch. Perhaps one group cleans the first floor while another group tackles the second floor, or one person cleans while the other one follows behind and disinfects.
2. Focus on frequently touched surfaces.
COVID-19 survives on surfaces for a few hours to days depending on air temperature and sunlight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Focus on things that you touch daily – doorknobs, faucets, toilets, handles, remotes, and appliances.
3. Clean, then disinfect as people come and go from your home.
You can prevent spreading COVID-19 in your home by wiping surfaces with soap and water, then following up with a disinfectant. The soap and water remove dirt and germs while the disinfectant kills any pathogens. Be sure you do this cleaning routine daily if people are coming and going from your home.
4. Open windows to improve ventilation.
Keep fresh air moving through your home by opening windows and running fans whenever possible. Good airflow will help keep the disease from spreading and clear out fumes from cleaning products.
5. Use disposable gloves while cleaning.
Don’t use your bare hands to clean and disinfect surfaces because cleaning chemicals can irate your skin. Ideally, use a pair of disposable gloves, especially if you’re cleaning an ill person’s space. If you don’t have disposable gloves, rubber gloves are okay. However, the CDC says not to use rubber gloves for anything other than cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Wash your hands as soon as you remove the gloves.
6. Speaking of disinfectant, make sure you’re using the right type.
Some cleaning products on the market claim to fight COVID-19, but they don’t contain the ingredients proven to kill viruses. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains up-to-date lists of products known to kill viruses on both hard and porous surfaces. The best disinfectants contain ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, or quaternary ammonium, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some common examples are alcohol-based wipes, Clorox, Lysol and Microban, according to UCI Health.
7. Household bleach is an affordable, long-lasting disinfectant for household surfaces.
One bottle of bleach can pack a lot of cleaning power. You can create a disinfectant mixture by adding 1/3 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Or, use 4 teaspoons of bleach and 1 quart of water if you want a smaller batch. Spray the mixture and let it sit on a surface for 10 minutes. Then wipe the bleach mixture off with a wet cloth, according to Wired Magazine. Don’t mix bleach with any other cleaning products to avoid dangerous fumes, according to the CDC.
8. Don’t forget those electronics.
As you’re cleaning surfaces in your home, also think about the various items you’re bringing into your home. That means mobile phones, cameras, laptops, and other gadgets you may pull out and use in public. If you’re not sure how to safely clean devices, consult the manufacturer’s directions. Otherwise, wipes containing 70% alcohol are usually okay to wipe down electronic surfaces and screens.
9. If you have children, leave your shoes outside.
The World Health Organization says it’s unlikely you’ll track COVID-19 into your home on your shoes. However, the organization suggests that if you have children who regularly spend time on the floor and crawl around, you can leave your shoes outside as a preventative measure.
10. Do not let dirty face masks sit around.
If the reusable face mask you wear gets wet or dirty, put the face mask in a plastic bag until you can wash it. Wash your face masks in the washing machine or by hand, according to the CDC. Then, be sure your face mask is dry before wearing it again. Throw disposable masks away after one use. Wash your hands whenever you remove your face mask.
11. Disinfect your mail, if necessary.
If you live in an apartment building or multiple people come in contact with your mail, consider wiping it down with a disinfectant before opening it. Though health experts say COVID-19 does not spread through the mail, the virus can live on cardboard for as long as a day before it dies.