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Cleaning to Help Keep your Home Virus Free

by Tameside Territory, Apr 2020

What is the difference between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are two very different activities. It is recommended that you do both.

  • Cleaning is about removing contaminants and debris from a surface.
  • Disinfecting is about killing pathogens.
  • Do both daily if anything or anyone has entered or exited your home.

Transmission from person-to-person is a much greater risk than transmission via surfaces, but it is recommended that we clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in our homes at least once daily to be safe, assuming we have had contact with the outside world in some way, either a person leaving and returning or goods coming in.

Prioritise a Regular Clean and Disinfect of High-Touch Surfaces

Researchers have found that the novel coronavirus is capable of living on surfaces such as cardboard for 24 hours, but up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel. So cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces is a step we should all take.

  • Doorknobs
  • Table surfaces
  • Hard dining chairs (seat, back, and arms)
  • Kitchen counters
  • Bathroom counters
  • Taps
  • Toilets (the flush, seat and the lid)
  • Light switches
  • TV remote controls
  • Game controllers

Everyone’s home is a little different, so just think about the surfaces you interact with most. Now that you know what you’re cleaning, here’s how you should do it. As recent TV program showed when it sent out a team to fingerprint the hotspots which shows that these are sometimes overlooked. Look at the edges of things, doors, objects that picked up and moved are moved. Think about containers, such as the ones cleaning products come in, no point using bleach if the bottle itself is not wiped down. Without a fingerprinting team just walk around as normally as possible recreating your everyday movements and actions. Think of all the things you touch that have a hard surface.

First Clean and Then Disinfect:

  1. First, clean the surfaces, removing any contaminants, dust, or debris. You can do this by wiping them with soapy water (or a cleaning spray) and a disposable cloth.
  2. Then apply a surface-appropriate disinfectant. The quickest and easiest way to do this is with a cloth soaked in disinfectant or a disinfectant spray. 
  3. Soap and detergent also kill the virus in those places if disinfectant is not available, in these instances clean first with detergent to remove debris which viruses may reside in or under. Then wipe again with a clean cloth (or mop) and detergent to deal with any traces of virus.

That’s it. Just adding these to your daily routine can help lower the risk of infection for you and anyone else in your household. If you aren’t able to obtain disinfectants at this time, just do a thorough job with the soap or cleaning agents – you do have use more soap, water, and scrubbing. Use a double clean process the second time with materials that have been rinsed through in fresh water and detergent. All of these processes can make a huge difference.

Is Washing Clothes in the Washing Machine Work a Good Idea?

Yes, simply washing your clothing with regular laundry soap and drying it at a slightly higher temperature than usual is all you have to do to disinfect your clothes.

Don’t forget to disinfect surfaces the dirty laundry comes in contact with, including the container and your hands—especially if you have a sick person in the house.

Use a disposable container or clean and disinfect the container like you would any other surface. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling dirty laundry from someone who is ill. 

Don’t forget to clean your shoes, coat, bag ,backpack, gloves, hat or whatever else you were wearing. Wiping off inside and out with a disinfectant wipe should do the trick unless your coat is machine washable.

Should You Disinfect Food ?

No, not without reason. According to the FDA, there is no evidence to suggest that food or food packaging can transmit the novel coronavirus, so there is currently no need to disinfect food or food packaging any more than you usually would. Just observe standard food safety.

… what about the packaging food comes in?

Think about the packaging, is it hard plastic, if so wipe it down with a disinfecting solution (diluted bleach or soapy water). Leave it in a decontamination area for 72 hours (use the same place all the time, it makes it easier to periodically cleans this area between decontamination sessions). If it paper, just leave it long enough for any virus to die off. Remove the outer bags (carrier bags etc.)  it came in putting one inside another  Don’t forget when you have finished handling a new intake of groceries to wash your hands.

Should You Disinfect Parcels and Post?

Yes, lightly. According to the UPS, mail and packages are relatively low-risk for transmitting the novel coronavirus, and packages from China pose no special risk compared to packages from anywhere else. That said, researchers have found that it can live on cardboard for around 24 hours, so giving packages a once over with a disinfecting wipe isn’t a bad idea. Use a decontamination area as recommended above. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you have finished handling items,

How to Disinfect Gadgets and Devices

Here’s where cleaning and disinfecting can get tricky. Your devices might be all that’s keeping you sane during your self-isolation but, as we all know, they’re magnets for germs. They’re high-touch surfaces you carry with you everywhere, so you need to clean and disinfect them, too. Disinfecting wipes are the best way to clean your devices, hands down. But some devices have special considerations.

Your Phone or Tablet

If you have them, disinfect an iPhone or Android phone with a disinfecting wipe or alcohol solution  (at least 70 percent). Make sure you pay special attention to the screen, the buttons, and anywhere dust tends to get trapped. Also make sure you remove any case that’s on your phone or tablet, clean underneath, put it back on, and clean the outside. Following recommendations for other high-touch surfaces in the home, a once-daily disinfecting isn’t going to hurt your devices. do be aware that some phones are not moisture proof but a damp cloth and disinfectant or isopropyl alcohol solution should be OK.

Your Computer

Laptop displays aren’t always made of glass (matte displays are plastic) so avoid using a disinfecting wipe on the screen, just in case. The display should be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol (70 percent) solution and a soft towel. Make sure you wipe down the keyboard, the trackpad, the exterior, and where your wrists rest on the laptop.

Most desktop computers are already in sore need for a cleaning. The best way to do that is with a disinfecting wipe or isopropyl alcohol solution and a soft towel. Again, avoid disinfecting wipes on the monitor, just in case—stick to isopropyl alcohol there. But otherwise, just make sure you wipe down the mouse (top, sides, and bottom), the keys on your keyboard, the exterior of the keyboard, and any mousepad you might have.

Personal Equipment

It is important to remember the other items that you carry and use on a daily basis, this may include: car keys, wallets, purses, watches, notebooks, document cases, lunch boxes, drinks containers – just about anything you take out and bring home on a regular basis that has a hard surface. If possible leave them in a safe place where no one will have contact with these items for 72 hours. If it has not been out of the house for a few days don’t worry about it – for now – concentrate on frequently touched surfaces.

Disclaimer and attribution.

The above article is not all my own work, it is largely derived from the online version in Wired Magazine. I have adapted it to make it relevant to living in England