Now that most of us are quarantined at home, our guards may be down compared to when we were in public places. However, now is not the time to become complacent. We should be just as cautious about germs lingering around at home, especially on those surfaces we probably touch multiple times a day. Think about how many times you've touched your refrigerator handle just today, then multiply that by the number of people living in your house or apartment! Especially in the midst of our country's current COVID-19 emergency, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our families now is to keep our homes clean and disinfected. By doing so, we are lowering our risk of contracting COVID-19 or any other infectious disease and lowering the chances of spreading it to someone else. In order to properly sanitize your home, you need to be using the right products. Here we will explore four essential tools every person should have in their cleaning cabinet, their benefits, and where to use them.
It is also important to keep in mind throughout this article that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. The CDC defines cleaning as "the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces" while disinfecting is "the killing of germs via chemicals." Both actions should be done in conjunction to lower the risk of spreading infection.
- 1. Gloves
- First and foremost, you should have a pair of gloves in hand before tackling any grime in your home! This is to protect yourself against any bacteria or viruses your hands may come into contact with when cleaning. According to the CDC, wearing disposable latex, nitrile, or vinyl gloves and then tossing them out after you're done cleaning is the best option for cleaning and disinfection of households. If you are unable to find any available disposable gloves due to shortages in stores or online, rubber gloves will do the job as well. Just make sure you dedicate these gloves solely for cleaning. Remember also that gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene. After removing your gloves, it is just as important to wash your hands thoroughly.
- 2. All purpose cleaner
- For countertops and other hard surfaces, you will want to use an all purpose or multi-purpose cleaner. They serve as emulsifying agents and can fight grease, oil, grime, and dirt. Take note, however, that if your countertops are made of marble, quartz, travertine, or granite, you should ensure that your all purpose cleaner specifically states it is safe to use on these natural stone surfaces. Alternatively, you can opt to use mild detergent and water to clean these surfaces. All purpose cleaner is an example of a product that cleans but does not disinfect. After using it to clean a surface, you will need to follow it up with a disinfectant.
- 3. Disinfectant wipes or spray
- The CDC recommends for effective disinfection of surfaces, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants. Disinfectant wipes can fight any germs hanging around on those surfaces you are regularly in contact with- doorknobs, refrigerator doors, light switches, remote controls, and faucet handles just to name a handful. Don't to clean those phone screens either! Who knows the last time we've cleaned those? Also for areas that can't be wiped down like your couch or the carpet, you can substitute with disinfectant sprays.
- 4. Hydrogen Peroxide
- Another useful disinfectant you should use is hydrogen peroxide. It is one of the strongest oxidizers, meaning it can kill organic material like microorganisms, even those dormant forms with high resistance like bacterial spores and protozoal cysts. It is also safer to use and less toxic to the environment than bleach-based cleaning alternatives because it eventually breaks down into oxygen and water. In terms of its efficacy, hydrogen peroxide is included on the list of products that meet the EPA's criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, and not to mention, it is cheap and easy to obtain (if you don't already own a bottle at home). To use it, take the 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and pour it directly down your sink, bathtubs, and toilets and let it sit for about 15 minutes to give it time to do its job. Afterwards, scrub the area and rinse it down with water.
Always make sure you read the labels on your supplies to know what organisms- bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc- your product has been tested against. Remember that not all cleaning products target the same type of germ. Antibacterial wipes or cleaners, for example, will do nothing to protect you against any viruses. Lastly, it is important to clean and disinfect your home on a regular basis; this is not a one-and-done deal! A recent study suggested that COVID-19 can actually remain infectious on surfaces for up to three days.That's why wiping down these "high traffic" areas in our homes is so imperative to avoid the spread of this virus. If you haven't already, hopefully now you can establish a hygiene routine in your home, starting by getting your hands on these four essential products.