As COVID-19 lingers in our everyday life, cleaning and disinfecting is an important aspect of staying healthy. Wearing masks, social distancing, and staying away from others when you feel sick are all very important ways to avoid COVID-19 and other illnesses. 

Additional measures include sanitizing your hands, food, packages, and home. The following information will help you determine the most effective techniques and products to clean and disinfect everything from your hands to your home and everything in between.

Your Body

1| Wash Your Hands

All medical and science experts agree, including the CDC, the World Health Organization and the United States leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci that hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. This is because if you get infectious agents on your hands and then touch your face, they can enter you body through your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Luckily, there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be contracted directly through the skin (ref.), and so washing your hands helps eliminate the risk of it being contracted through the touching of your face with unclean hands. This is especially important after being out in public places, such as the grocery store and touching high traffic areas, such as public door knobs. 

How To Wash

  • Proper hand washing includes the use of soap and liberally lathering it all over your hands and in between your fingers for the amount of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. 

When To Wash

  • Regularly throughout the day
  • After spending time in public places and touching public surfaces
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • After going to the restroom
  • Prior to eating
  • Prior to preparing food
  • After contact with animals or pets
  • Whenever exposed to someone who is sick 
  • After caring for anyone, adult, or child

The WHO illustrates the hand wasing process here 

2| Hand Sanitizer

There may be many times throughout the day that soap and water are unavailable or inconvenient, so hand sanitizer is the next best thing. 

In the past hand sanitizer was one of those items you never thought twice about. You would pick some up at the grocery or convenience store once or twice a year. Since the pandemic hand sanitizer has become a hot commodity. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that hand sanitizers meant for public use should contain 60-95% ethyl alcohol or 70-91% isopropyl alcohol. Whatever brand you choose make sure it includes a drug fact label listing the active ingredients. 

Use the sanitizer as instructed on the package to ensure that you use the proper amount and in the correct way for best results. 

Hand sanitizers come in many different varieties. They come in large quantity bottles to small pocket size bottles. They come in foam, spray, gel, and even wipes. Some come in your favorite fragrances or unscented. 

They do contain different germ-killing substances and strengths. They range from ethyl alcohol to isopropyl alcohol with varying strengths. 

Hand sanitizers can be purchased online and in stores, though there is a shortage since the pandemic, so these are products are not as readily available as usual and may take some time and effort to find. 

How To Use Hand Sanitizer

  • Make sure to run it all over your hands, in between your fingers and on the back of both hands.
  • Allow your hands to air dry rather than wiping them off to properly sanitize and kill the germs. 

Precautions

  • Hand sanitizers are considered over the counter drugs. 
  • These products should be kept away from children and pets. 
  • Never drink hand sanitizer. Never allow children or pets to drink these products if this occurs please contact emergency health services or pet poison control immediately. 
  • The EPA recommends people not make home made because often it is ineffective or worse can cause injuries such as skin burns. 

Learn more at FDA – Safely Using Hand Sanitizer 

Disinfecting Products And Your Home

1| Disinfection Versus Cleaning

According to the Centers For Disease Control, there are two key terms to consider…

  • “Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.”
  • “Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.”

2| How to Disinfect Groceries, Food, and Packages

The virus that causes COVID-19 can live on certain surfaces for up to 72 hours. COVID-19 has people staying home and applying social distancing. But we have to have food and supplies to survive the quarantine. Shopping for groceries and supplies carries additional risks. 

When you are out shopping you are near other people and are in contact with many items and surfaces. These items and surfaces have also been handled and touched by others as well, often many others. Not only have they been handled but they have possibly been coughed or sneezed on. 

Don’t allow this to discourage you from shopping and purchasing the products you need for everyday life. What you can do is take extra steps to decrease the risk of spreading viruses and germs to yourself, other people, and surfaces in your home.

Science is not sure as to the role produce and food packaging play in transmitting COVID-19. According to the CDC, “The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person-to-person. Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” 

One thing is sure, it is better to be safe than sorry. And, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD, contributing doctor on CNN has reported that disinfecting food packaging is advisable.

How Long Covid Lives On Surfaces

Some surfaces may contribute more risk than others. Recent findings show:

  • Covid is detectable on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. 
  • On cardboard for up to 24 hours. 

Reduce Risk Of Infection While Shopping

  • Touch only products you are buying.
  • Wipe the shopping cart handle with disinfectant.
  • Use a hand sanitizer once you have finished shopping. 
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home. 
  • Purchase a box of disposable gloves online or your convenience store, wear them when shopping, pumping gas or handling items that may be contaminated. It is very important to remove and discard the gloves before entering your home, touching door handles, opening your car door, or driving. Remember to still wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after removing the gloves and when returning home. It takes twenty to thirty seconds for 60 to 70 percent alcohol to be effective.

When You Get Home

When disinfecting groceries and packaged products at home, have two separate areas, either on a table or kitchen island where you will place the items just brought home and another reserved for the cleaned items. Once you have finished the disinfection process, disinfect the area where you placed the unclean items with a virus killing disinfecting or bleach. 

Product Packaging

For containers, like plastic bottles of juice, milk cartons, boxes of garbage bags or any other boxed products such as cereal and others, clean with a disinfectant spray cleaner or wipes that’s label reads Kills 99% of viruses and bacteria

Items Shipped To Your Home

When you get items shipped to you, isolate the boxes they came in a decontamination zone for 2 days to allow the virus to die, or get rid of them in the trash. Any packaging from products shipped to you can be wiped with disinfectant prior to opening. Wash your hands thoroughly after opening shipments. 

Food Items

Currently, the FDA states there is no scientific evidence COVID-19 is transmitted via food. If you prefer to play it safe here are things you can do to clean your food. 

  • Thoroughly wash fresh produce, this is something you should always to anyway. Soak the produce for fifteen minutes, then scrub, rinse under running water, and put it on a clean cloth to dry.
  • Repack meat from the original package into your personal packaging (plastic wrap or freezer bags, plastic bowls, containers, etc.)

Food To Go

When you order take out, remove the food from the restaurant’s packaging and place it on your clean plates. Then wash your hands throughly before eating.

How To Disinfect Your Home

Since the prevalence of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to clean and disinfect your home regularly. 

3| Hard Household Surfaces

The CDC recommends to, “clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).” 

  • Always wear reusable or disposable gloves for routine cleaning and disinfection. 
  • Clean surfaces using soap and water before disinfecting them. Cleaning with soap and water cuts down on the number of germs, grime, and dirt on surfaces. 
  • Disinfect with an EPA approved product. These products come in sprays and wipes. Always follow the instructions on the label to ensure the safe and effective use of the product. Diluted bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface being cleaned. Check the label to see if the bleach is recommended for disinfection and has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5%–6%. 
  • Keep surfaces wet with the product as directed on the label. Take safety precautions such as wearing gloves and having good ventilation while using the product. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and proper ventilation.
  • Check the expiration date to ensure the product is not outdated. 

Soft Surfaces

  • For carpets, drapes and other cloth areas use cleaners designated for such surfaces.
  • Wash clothes as you normally do with laundry soap, use the warmest water setting possible for the fabric.

Electronics

  • Follow manufacturers cleaning instructions for computers, cell phones and other electronics. There are wipes made especially for cleaning electronics. 
  • Cell phones are some of the dirtiest items we own. If you have a cover on your cell phone that includes a screen glass, you can use disinfecting wipes or spray cleaner with a cloth or paper towel to disinfect the phone regularly. 
  • Use 70% alcohol-based wipes or sprays for touch screens. 

Precautions

  • NEVER drink or otherwise ingest disinfectant products.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia, vinegar, or any other cleanser. Mixing of different chemical cleaners can result in toxic vapors. 
  • Always follow the directions on the label of the product you use to make sure the procedure is safe and effective.
  • Protect your eyes from harsh chemicals. 
  • Make sure the room is properly ventilated. 
  • Store all chemical products out of the reach of pets and kids.