Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve never had to wash our hands more and spring cleaning is even more important.
It’s not easy being clean
The COVID-19 virus is about 10,000 times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. How long it can linger on surfaces is not certain.
A new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours.
A report by Johns Hopkins University found coronavirus molecules remain very stable in external cold, or artificial as air conditioners in houses and cars.
The virus also needs moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness. Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.
UV light on any object that may contain it breaks down the virus protein.
The virus cannot go through healthy skin.
Meaning of clean
Clean or disinfected? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gets technical about the difference.
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
The coronavirus is a protein molecule, it is not killed, but decays on its own. The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.
The CDC urges people to wash their hands regularly with soap for 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
Hard surfaces should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. The EPA lists more than 350 disinfectants to help fight the virus.
Prepare a bleach solution by mixing: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens are expected to be effective against COVID-19.
Do not mix list
Bleach and vinegarBleach and ammoniaBleach and rubbing alcoholHydrogen peroxide and vinegar
Soft (porous) surfaces
For carpeted floor, rugs and drapes, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces.
After cleaning, launder items and if possible, use the warmest appropriate water setting then dry items completely.
The virus is not a living organism like bacteria; antibodies cannot kill what is not alive.
Do not shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth. While the virus is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and disintegrates only between 3 hours on fabric.
If someone is sick
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas.
In the bedroom/bathroom dedicated for an ill person, consider reducing cleaning frequency to as-needed.
As much as possible, an ill person should stay in a specific room.
The caregiver can provide personal cleaning supplies for an ill person’s room and bathroom. These supplies include tissues, paper towels, cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.
Bathrooms should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by an ill person. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as practical after use by an ill person to clean and disinfect the high-touch surfaces.
Household members should follow home care guidance when interacting with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases. More info: coronavirus.org
Wash hands regularly
These are some of the results of a 2013 study by Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business that was published in the Journal of Environment Health. When asked, 95% of people claimed to wash their hands after using public restrooms, but the observational study found the following:
The study also found that:
People are more likely to wash their hands in the morning than in the afternoon or evening.
More women than men wash their hands with soap.
Health care and hand-washing
In the history of hand-washing, it’s helped the most in hospitals.
In the 1850s, Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, insisted people wash their hands in war hospitals during the Crimean War. This resulted in greatly reduced infection rates among wounded soldiers.
In today’s hospitals, the most commonly used method to track hand hygiene compliance is direct observation, or someone watching health-care workers.
Germs in the house
The invisible enemy isn’t alone. Here’s a look at germs around the house compiled by British company SCS Cleaning. The information comes from the British National Health Service and the BBC.
According to Authority Dental, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide effectively reduces human coronaviruses on a toothbrush. You can mix hydrogen peroxide with water (1 teaspoon of HP, 1 cup of water) to dilute it. Soak a brush for 1 minute then rinse it under running water.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SCS Cleaning, BBC, Michigan State University
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