Going Back to Work? Here’s How to Keep the Inside of Your Home Germ-Free

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As an essential worker, this young grocery store cashier has to take extra precautions to make sure she's not bringing any germs into her home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As US restrictions on social interaction become more and more flexible, many people are excited to return to work outside of their homes. Unfortunately for us all, the pandemic is still far from over, and keeping our homes free of germs and safe for our families should absolutely still be our top priority.

Coronavirus has special properties that require specialized cleaning solutions and methods to be eradicated. Just follow these guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are your home should be safe from harmful germs even if you do have to go back into the office.

Cleaning and Disinfection: Hard Surfaces

Always wear disposable or reusable gloves when you clean and disinfect, which, contrary to popular belief, is a two-step process. First, use soap and water on surfaces to reduce dirt, grime, and other impurities, then spray with good disinfectant to kill any remaining germs. The more surfaces are touched, the more frequently they need to be cleaned and disinfected. High-touch surfaces in the home typically include countertops, desks, doorknobs, faucets, handles, keyboards, light switches, phones, sinks, tables, and toilets.

Look for disinfectants that have the EPA-registered household disinfectant external icon on the label and follow the instructions exactly as they are written. These directions often include keeping the surface wet for a specified period of time. You should also use protective gloves and keep the cleaning area well ventilated.

You can also use diluted household bleach as a disinfectant. Just make sure to use bleach that’s actually intended for disinfection, which will be stated on the label and usually has an expiration date. Some bleaches are meant only for washing clothes and whitening and should be avoided in these cases. Again, good ventilation is essential when it comes to disinfecting, and bleach should never be combined with ammonia or any other disinfectant.

For an easy homemade disinfectant, combine five tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or four teaspoons of bleach with a quart of water. This solution is effective for up to 24 hours.

As another alternative, you can also use a 70-percent or higher alcohol solution as a disinfectant.

Cleaning and Disinfection: Soft Surfaces

To reduce or eliminate germs and bacteria on drapes, carpeted floors, and rugs, clean them with soap and water, wash them in hot water and thoroughly dry, or use retail products specifically formulated for cleaning textiles. As an alternative, you can use an EPA-registered household disinfectant that meets the government’s standards for use against coronavirus.

Don’t Forget Electronics

During these times of self-isolation, the use of electronics has dramatically increased. Keyboards, remote controls, tablets, and touch screens are all hard surfaces where coronavirus can thrive, so they should all be cleaned thoroughly and frequently. Covering them with a wipeable material makes upkeep easier. Otherwise, alcohol wipes or sprays with a minimum 70-percent alcohol content are the best options for disinfecting electronics.

Laundry Procedures

No special solutions are necessary for clothes, linens, towels, and other machine-washable items. Just use the hottest water setting approved by the manufacturers’ directions on the labels.

Wear protective disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a sick person. There’s no reason to wash sick people’s laundry separately from the rest — just be careful not to shake dirty items before adding them to the washing machine. Use the guidelines above for cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces to keep the hamper and basket safe, too.

Keep Your Hands Clean

Now more than ever, it's essential to wash your hands with soap and water frequently and often.

No matter what you’re doing during the pandemic, you should do your best to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. You can also use a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60-percent alcohol if your hands aren’t visibly soiled. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves, especially after coming into contact with a sick person. Hand washing should also be done after sneezing, coughing, and nose-blowing, after restroom use, prior to food preparation and eating, after touching animals and pets, and both before and after interacting with children. On top of that, you should avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose.

Caring for Sick People

Ideally, sick people in your home should have a separate bedroom and bathroom. If this is not possible, you’ll want to keep them as separate from other people as you can. People who are sick but can still care for themselves should do so as much as possible to avoid the unnecessary risk of transporting germs and bacteria. As a healthy person living with a sick person, the best you can do is to regularly provide them with surface cleaners, paper towels, and tissues.

If you have a separate bedroom and bathroom for sick people: wear disposable gloves and only clean the area around the person who is sick when needed, such as when the area is soiled. This will help limit your contact with harmful germs even more.

Food Preparation

Feed sick people in a separate room or as far away from healthy household members as possible. Wear protective gloves to prepare food, as well as clear and wash the dishes, glassware, silverware, pots, and pans. Thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

Trash Handling

Use a separate trash can to hold and dispose of any garbage or trash generated by a sick person. Change the liner often. Wear gloves when emptying trash and replacing the liner. As always, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after trash handling.

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