10 Things You Should Be Cleaning Every Day from Now On
The COVID-19 pandemic has made cleaning a daily (or hourly!) ritual. Here are the surfaces you should be tackling every day, even after your life returns to normal.
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Cleaning after coronavirus
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, director of the home appliances and cleaning products lab at Good Housekeeping. “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). Cleaning is not the only everyday habit that could (and should) change forever after coronavirus.
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 Boris Lushniak, MD, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The U.S. 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 60 percent alcohol like Purell if soap isn’t available.
When it comes to the surfaces you should sanitize daily, here’s a good rule of thumb: “The more often an item is touched, the more frequently it needs to be cleaned and disinfected,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president at the American Cleaning Institute. Odds are, your doorknobs are near the top of that list. Experts advise washing them with soap and water first, which removes 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 60 percent or higher, like Lysol or Clorox. To ensure that the disinfectant is most effective, allow it to dry for the time recommended on the product label, Sansoni says. No alcohol or bleach? Try one of these other household products that kill coronavirus.
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 like Lysol can sanitize 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 sanitizer before touching your car’s interior surfaces.
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 like Lysol or Clorox. “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.
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 Joseph Vinetz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine.
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 percent 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.
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 sanitize 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 percent 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. You should regularly disinfect these germ-spreading objects you keep with you all the time, too.
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 five gallons of water; the EPA has also approved using diluted Maquat products. 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 color, per CNET’s guidelines. Carpet can collect allergens like dust mites and mold as well as viruses, so you should vacuum weekly and launder rugs in warm water before drying. Don’t forget to clean these things in your house that could be making you sick, too.
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.” You should also avoid touching these 12 dirtiest surfaces in places you go all the time.
Believe it or not, your laptop or computer keyboard is one of the filthiest items in your home. For the sake of your—and your computer’s—health, it’s a good idea to disinfect it daily. Sansoni recommends removing any debris particles stuck between the keys by using an air duster or turning the keyboard upside down and shaking it gently. Then clean the keys with a disinfectant wipe or spray, making sure the keyboard is completely dry before reconnecting it or turning your computer back on. Instructions may vary depending on the device, so check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best cleaning products to use.