When the shelter-in-place order first took effect a couple months ago, many of us envisioned using that time at home to declutter and deep clean. Unfortunately, as the weeks go by, the chaos of new routines and more demands may have derailed even the best intentions. But, as the coronavirus continues to disrupt our way of life, one way we can help protect ourselves and our families is to make spring cleaning a priority. The tasks may seem daunting, but following a few clear steps over a period of several days is an investment in better mental, emotional and physical health.
This year, commit to going well beyond the usual chores like dusting, organizing and deep cleaning, and make time to combat the spread of coronavirus within your home, workplace and community. Before getting started, it’s important to know how the CDC differentiates between different types of cleaning:
- Cleaning uses soap and water to remove dust and dirt, but doesn’t necessarily kill germs.
- Disinfecting includes using chemicals that will kill germs. Remember that not all disinfectants kill all germs, so you need to look for products specifically approved for coronavirus. See a list of products the EPA has determined are effective for killing coronavirus.
- Sanitizing combines cleaning and disinfecting to cut the number of germs or live virus on a surface or object. This is especially important since studies show the coronavirus can live on various surfaces up to a few days.
A clean, organized, and safe home will make spending time there a lot more enjoyable, now and after the threat of coronavirus has passed.
- Clean and disinfect. Since just cleaning surfaces reduces – but doesn’t necessarily kill virus particles, you need to use an approved disinfectant on all high-touch areas of your home, including countertops, tables, chairs, switches, faucets, doors and doorknobs, drawer pulls, remote controls, and garbage cans. Use a mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water to damp wipe and disinfect computers, gaming controls, smartphones, and other electronics without damaging them.
- Make your dishwasher do the work. Dishwashers use the hottest water available in your home, and are great for cleaning a lot more than just dishes. Putting dish scrubbers and sponges, trivets, silicone oven mitts, soap dishes, hair brushes, small plastic toys and much more through the dishwasher cycle is an easy cleaning hack!
- Launder everything. Gather up all the blankets, throws, linens, and out-of-season clothes and resolve to do at least one load of laundry every day — in addition to your normal laundry needs. Use your regular detergent with hot or warm water if possible, and dry thoroughly with the safest heat setting for the items. Fold and stow freshly laundered items in closets or bins away from dirty items. Donate safely. If you have a pile of stuff to get rid of, make sure to properly clean/disinfect items before donating. Store items for donation in plastic bins or garbage bags until Goodwill and other organizations are ready to start receiving clean and usable clothes, books, furniture, and other items again.
- Declutter. With so much time at home, a cluttered house can affect you more than normal. Start with the areas you spend the most time in, and remove any item that no longer serves a worthwhile purpose. Challenge everybody in the family to find at least one item every day that isn’t needed. Dispose of cleared items immediately to avoid any second thoughts, or store useful items in your donation bin for later.
- Take your time. The shelter-in-place has been stressful, and designating entire days for cleaning can be overwhelming. Instead, go in small bursts and take time to enjoy the results. Set a timer for just 15 or 30 minutes, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can get done!
In the Workplace
Keeping your distance (at least 6 feet) from co-workers is imperative, but with so much shared space and so many common areas and surfaces, you need to take extra precautions to stay safe at work.
- Hire the professionals. If someone in your workplace has tested positive for coronavirus, your best bet is to hire a professional and certified cleaning company to come in and thoroughly disinfect the entire office or building. Don’t assume your regular office cleaning company is equipped to do this; ask about their credentials so you can be certain your workplace is safe. Disinfect and sanitize. Whether your workplace is just re-opening after several weeks, or it’s been operational all along, disinfecting and sanitizing all work surfaces and items is critical. Follow the guidelines outlined for homes above.
- Let the air in. If possible, open the doors and windows to let in the fresh air and encourage circulation.
- Display disinfecting wipes. It might not be anybody’s idea of good décor, but placing containers of disinfecting wipes in all common areas and individual work spaces will help encourage regular use to keep all germs and viruses at bay.
In the Community
We’re all eager to be out and about, socializing with friends and supporting our favorite restaurants, stores, and services. It’s important to enjoy life, and a few new habits can provide more peace of mind.
- Grocery pick-ups. By now many of us have moved to online grocery shopping with at-store pick-up. This is a convenient and time-saving option that’s also very safe. Just carry a container of disinfecting wipes in your car, and wipe down the trunk and doors as soon as you get home. If possible, unload individual items and dispose of bags outside. Although it’s not necessary to disinfect all packaging, you might want to do so with beverage cans and bottles, and other packaged items. Wash produce thoroughly under running water, but don’t use bleach or other disinfectant.
- Food pick-up and deliveries. The food you order is safe, but the packaging and containers should be wiped down before opening. Transfer the food to a plate or dish for serving, and dispose of or recycle the restaurant containers and packaging.
- Buses, trains and planes. It might be difficult to maintain a 6 foot distance while using public transportation, so wearing a mask, wiping down tray tables and your immediate area with disinfectant wipes if possible, and applying hand sanitizer frequently are all good habits to keep. Of course, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water once you reach your destination. Use tools, not fingers. Elevator buttons, ATMs, and public doorknobs (to name just a few) are teeming with germs and viruses. Since it’s not always practical to disinfect every contact point we encounter during our day, focus on keeping your hands and fingers clean by using another object as a “tool”. Pens are great for pushing buttons in a pinch, but a multi-purpose “touch tool” is a great alternative that’s inexpensive, safe, and convenient. They’re sure to be a must-have accessory in the coming weeks as we return to our new version of normal.