This spring cleaning season, there’s a lot more than just decluttering at stake — a clean home could be your last line of defense against a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. To help separate fact from fiction, we spoke with Dr. Stephen J. Thomas, Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at SUNY Upstate Medical University, for expert advice on what, how, and when to clean.
“SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19 is believed to be able to persist on surfaces such as glass, metal, and cloth,” Dr. Thomas says. “Experiments looking at similar viruses demonstrated persistence for hours to days.” That means it’s possible to contract the virus if a surface in your home has been contaminated. Disinfecting and cleaning everyday surfaces is a great place to start your spring cleaning.
How to kill the coronavirus in your home
Surfaces inside your home would only be compromised if someone with coronavirus has been in the house. But because symptoms can take so long to appear, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Dr. Thomas advised us to clean high-traffic areas: “This would include the bathroom, kitchen and frequent door handles and other surfaces the person would potentially contact. Think of your normal routine in the house and the surfaces you frequently touch and this will give you an idea where you need to disinfect.” If someone in your home does have COVID-19, or at this point any kind of cold, you’ll want to disinfect these surfaces a few times a day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning a surface (reducing the number of germs) and then disinfecting it (killing the remaining germs). The CDC also advises people to use disposable gloves during the process. To kill viruses, it’s best to use products specifically endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use against SARS-CoV-2. There’s a fair chance you already have these in your cupboard, as familiar brands like Lysol and Clorox are on the list. You can also dilute bleach or use alcohol solutions (with 70% alcohol or more). For soft surfaces like carpets or rugs, follow typical instructions for cleaning and wash what you can in warm water.
The 10 most important things to disinfect regularly
- Countertops, desks, tables
- Light switches
- Handles — cupboards, drawers, appliances
- Bathtub, shower
- Remote controls
- Towels, sheets, clothing
- Phones, tablets, keyboards, etc.
Deep clean to pass the time
While the nation is encouraging social distancing, it’s easy to go stir crazy. A great way to feel productive and pass the time is by deep cleaning your home. If you spend part of your day on a bigger cleaning project, you’ll also feel better about the evening hours you spend binge-watching a TV show. Now’s the time to do the tasks you normally wouldn’t bother with, or perhaps only do once a year.
In the kitchen, you can pull everything out of your fridge or freezer and clean the appliance. This is also a great time to do some inventory, check expiration dates, and maybe stock up on things like frozen produce and protein.
You can also do all those little tasks you’ve been putting off. Like hanging a piece of art, changing the lightbulbs, finishing painting a room or completing that Pinterest craft you bought all the supplies for.
Spring is the perfect time to get started on yard work in preparation for summer. This is also a great way to get some fresh air and mild exercise. Plant your seedlings, spray down and clean lawn furniture, prune the shrubs, aerate your lawn, etc.
We’d also recommend doing a deep clean of your bathtub, for some much-needed self-care soaks. And vacuuming under furniture, like your bed and couches, can help with dust or allergies, and be a good chance to rearrange your space for more room while you’re quarantined.
A self-quarantine cleaning checklist
- Dust, pretty much everywhere
- Deep clean the oven, microwave and sink
- Organize your junk drawers
- Clean or replace the shower curtain
- Polish stainless steel surfaces and wood furniture
- Clean air vents
- Wash pillows
- Clean reusable grocery bags
- Clean the windows and mirrors
- Clean your makeup and brushes
- Clean blinds and window hangings
- Get at that grout in the bathrooms and kitchen
- Turn and vacuum your mattresses
- Clean out trash cans
- Deep clean the drains in the kitchen and bathrooms
- Clean rugs, mats and carpets
- Wash and detail cars
- Clean the vacuum cleaner and other cleaning tools
If you can help it, complete the tasks you already have the supplies for, since we should all limit trips to the store as much as possible. And just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be social: post your cleaning progress photos on social media!