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Cleaning after coronavirus

Cleaning after coronavirus
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COVID-19, a novel form of the coronavirus, has changed our day-to-day routines, from grocery shopping to commuting. While most of these new habits are probably temporary, regularly disinfecting our homes should be here to stay. “Frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces is an effective way to stop the spread of germs, not just now during the current pandemic, but whenever anyone in the home is sick,” says Carolyn Forte, a consumer products expert. “I think consumers have really learned the benefits of cleaning these often-overlooked surfaces and will continue to do so even after the current situation subsides.”

Although you don’t need to scrub your home from floor to ceiling every day – especially if no one in your household is sick – smart hygiene practices can keep you and your family healthy once life goes back to normal (or the new normal).

Your hands

Your hands
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It may seem like a no-brainer, but experts agree that frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent coronavirus and a long list of other diseases. COVID-19, for example, can be transmitted when infected people cough or sneeze into their hands and then touch another person’s hands. That’s why “hands are the first and most important ‘surface’ that should be cleaned to protect us from infection,” says Dr Boris Lushniak, an expert in preventative medicine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands several times a day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 70 per cent alcohol.

Are you washing your hands correctly? Find out here.

Doorknobs

Doorknobs
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Working out which surfaces you should sanitize daily is straightforward enough – the more often something is touched, the more frequently it needs to be cleaned and disinfected. Odds are, your doorknobs are near the top of that list. Experts advise washing them with soap and water first to remove dirt or grime. Then, wipe the doorknobs with a disinfectant wipe or spray – such as bleach (sodium hypochlorite), rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol, or any product with an alcohol content of 70 per cent or higher. To ensure that the disinfectant is most effective, allow it to dry for the time recommended on the product label.

Steering wheels

Steering wheels
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You may be driving less than usual these days, but you should still disinfect the high-contact surfaces inside your car as often as the surfaces inside your house. When British car retailer Motorpoint tested 20 spots in an average car, they found that the steering wheel had among the highest concentration of germs. Door handles and controls, gear shifts, and dashboard buttons were also teeming with bacteria. Disinfectant wipes can sanitise most surfaces inside your car, but CNET suggests using specific wipes when cleaning your car’s leather seats or touchscreens. To avoid bringing illnesses back to your vehicle while out and about, Forte recommends using hand sanitiser before touching your car’s interior surfaces.

Here are some common mistakes we all make with antibacterial wipes.

Light switches

Light switches
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New research suggests that COVID-19 could live for up to two to three days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces such as light switches. Like doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces in your home, wipe your light switches down with soap and water first, followed by a household disinfectant product. “Cleaning involves removing dirt from a surface while disinfecting is actually killing germs,” Sansoni says. “The best way to reduce the spread of germs is to do both.” If you’re running low on disinfectant products and can’t find them in stores, the CDC has posted instructions for making a bleach disinfectant spray at home.

Appliance handles

Appliance handles
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Handles on popular household appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, and microwaves are often overlooked, but they can be breeding grounds for germs and diseases like the coronavirus. Experts recommend cleaning them regularly, “especially since more family members are home all day instead of going to work or school and these surfaces are being touched more frequently,” Forte says. Follow the same cleaning protocol as you would for light switches and doorknobs, scrubbing the handles with disinfecting wipes or spray. But rest assured that unless someone inside your home is infected, you’re unlikely to get sick because you missed a handle or two. “People get COVID-19 from other people, first and foremost,” according to infectious disease specialist, Dr Joseph Vinetz.

Don’t miss these common kitchen items that are secretly toxic.

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Kitchen counters

Kitchen counters

Disinfecting your kitchen counters and sink should become a standard part of your cleaning routine, even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. “This will not only help against the novel coronavirus but also against other food-borne microbes that can cause illness,” Sansoni says. A dose of 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide can deactivate a virus within eight minutes, according to the CDC. Apply it directly onto any food-contact surfaces like your kitchen sink and countertops, and allow it to soak for around ten to 15 minutes before scrubbing the area down and rinsing it off with water. The CDC also suggests wearing gloves and washing your hands before and after you clean.

These are the things you need to clean after returning home at the moment.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones
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Your smartphone is one of the germiest items you own – and could be a hotbed for diseases like the coronavirus, according to a recent scientific literature review of 56 studies from 24 countries. To properly sanitise your phone, Sansoni advises wiping it down with a dry, soft cloth to remove any dirt, dust, or fingerprints, and then using alcohol-based wipes or sprays with at least 70 per cent alcohol to disinfect the screen. The same goes for tablets and any other touch screens lying around the house. Word to the wise: don’t forget to unplug your electronics before cleaning them, and avoid spraying your device directly, Sansoni says.

Be sure to give up these germ-spreading habits now.

Floors

Floors
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If you work or cook at home often, your floors might need more frequent cleaning, according to Forte. The CDC recommends mopping tile floors with a mixture of one cup of bleach and 20 litres of water. For porous floors like hardwood, it’s better to use a disinfecting wet mop cloth or a mixture of vinegar and water instead of bleach, which can remove the floor’s stain colour. Carpet can collect allergens like dust mites and mould as well as viruses, so you should vacuum weekly and launder rugs in warm water before drying.

Read on for the expert laundry tips you wish you knew sooner.

Credit cards

Credit cards
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Items that you carry in public on a regular basis, such as credit and debit cards, should be disinfected frequently to keep illnesses like COVID-19 at bay. After swiping your plastic, give it a quick wipe-down with disinfectant, especially if it was handled by the cashier. The same treatment applies to other objects you commonly tote around like keys, wallets, and purses, according to experts. When push comes to shove, “it may be impossible to actually clean and disinfect all surfaces we come in contact with,” Dr Lushniak says. “Think about what your hands touch on a daily basis and pay special attention to those surfaces.”

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