Get active! Do a COVID-19 clean

Author: Leigh van den Berg

Living through a pandemic is no mean feat. While most of us are taking every precaution to limit our risk of coronavirus exposure when we venture outdoors, you never know what’s coming home with you. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to keep your household safely sanitised and we got expert advice on how to do it best. 


It’s also a great way to get the body moving and the blood flowing. House work can boost your metabolism and even help to manage your weight, according to WebMD. 


How long can the virus live on surfaces? 


The National Institute of Health compared the lifespan of coronavirus on different types of surfaces. Their scientists found that the virus was detectable for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on a hard, nonporous material like plastic and stainless steel. This is why the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you disinfect high-use and high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches and tabletops. 


How often should I disinfect my surfaces?


Dr William Schaffner is Medical Director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in America. He recommends that, if someone in your household is suspected of having COVID-19, you should be disinfecting whatever they come into contact with once a day, assuming they’re in a shared space. “If no one is sick, common sense should prevail,” he says, suggesting that every few days is fine.


“Keep in mind that more people are home all day in the house now, when the house might otherwise be empty, so you should clean more often than you regularly do”. 


Do I have to wash my groceries? 


You may have laughed at your mom when you saw her plonk ten cans of beans in the bath but maybe she was onto something. 


“At this point, there’s no evidence that transmission is happening through food packaging,” says Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. “That said, we know the virus can remain viable on surfaces for hours or even days, so there’s a hypothetical risk of transmission through touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth”. 


Currently, the CDC isn’t recommending you disinfect your food packaging but if you wanted to be ultra-cautious, discard any excess and wash your hands after touching it until enough time has passed for the virus to die. 


If all the cleaning products are sold out, can I make my own? 


As it turns out, yes. Just as long as it’s not vinegar. Despite its popularity as a natural multi-tasking household cleaner, it’s not an effective germ-killer. These are Dr Schaffner’s DIY recommendations to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces like a glass tabletop or kitchen counter.  


  • If you’re using bleach, mix 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach with 1-litre of water, applying the mixture directly to the surface. “You'll need to let it sit for at least five minutes before you wipe it off”, he says.

  • If you’re using hydrogen peroxide, spread it on the surface and let it sit for at least one minute before wiping away.

  • If you’re using rubbing alcohol, ensure its 70% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol. “You can also apply directly and let it sit for at least 30 seconds,” he says. 


How should I wash my clothes? 


Thanks to that (NIH) study, we know that fabric doesn’t hold onto the virus as long as non-porous surfaces do. However, if you have a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 sufferer in your house, practice stringent hand hygiene after handling their clothes.


According to Dr Georgine Nanos, a physician specialising in epidemiology, you don’t have to wash theirs separately if you’re using a washing machine on a hot water setting as the virus is sensitive to high temperatures. “If you can wash your clothes in the hottest water possible recommended for that material, that would be ideal,” she says. “However, please don’t ruin all your clothes by boiling everything, as that will add more stress and anxiety that none of us needs right now.”


How can I protect myself while I clean?


When it comes to cleaning, gloves aren’t necessary to stay safe. Should you choose to wear them, know that the virus can still adhere to the gloves and you can contract it if you touch your hands, mouth or eyes. Still, should you choose to wear gloves, remove them very carefully so that the outside of the gloves don’t touch your skin.


Ultimately, Dr Schaffner believes hand hygiene is still our best line of defence as it’s still the virus’ main means of transmission. “There are things we can’t control, but we can wash our hands and keep them away from our faces,” he says. 


Grab a cloth and bucket and get cracking!




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