How to clean your house to stop the spread of coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is thankfully beginning to plateau, but if we are to keep this trend, it is even more important to keep your hands and your house clean. We all don’t want cases to spike again, so it is imperative that the right steps are taken to prevent the risk of infection in our households. In this article we look at the best ways to keep your house COVID-19 free.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

Before we begin cleaning, one of the most important things to discuss is exactly how COVID-19 is transmitted. Coronavirus is mainly transmitted from person to person via tiny droplets of saliva or other bodily fluids that float in the air after a cough or sneeze.

Contaminated objects and surfaces can also be important in the transmission of disease. It’s not entirely clear what role they play in transmitting this novel coronavirus, but transmission of the virus through objects and surfaces was an important characteristic of related viruses such as SARS and MERS, so their is concern that a similar method of transmission exists for COVID-19.

There are no absolute answers for how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces yet. If it is similar to other coronaviruses, it could survive a few hours or potentially up to several days. How long it survives could depend on temperature, humidity and what the surface is made of.

So, if someone at risk of having the virus has been in your home, cleaning to reduce the amount of contamination on surfaces may help cut down your risk of further transmission of coronavirus. (It will also cut the risk of transmitting other pathogens, and you get to have a clean home, so it’s a win-win situation).

What items in my house are most at risk of being contaminated?

This is a bit difficult to determine as it depends on your current lifestyle. There are, however, a few places that seem to be common hotspots:

  • Handles,
  • Kitchen areas (fridge doors, kitchen cupboards, tables and taps),
  • TV remotes, and
  • Electronics (phones, computers, etc).

What should I be using to clean my house?

There are two things which we know kill COVID-19: heat and detergents. Using both might seem like overkill, but better safe than sorry.

You’ll also want to be using disposable paper towels to clean while you go. While this seems wasteful, this is also a case of better safe than sorry. If you use a rag that could have been near contaminated materials, wasn’t cleaned correctly, or could otherwise carry COVID-19, you could easily spread the virus throughout new spaces.

If you are reusing a cloth, remember to wash it afterwards and let it dry. Laundering cloths in the washing machine with normal washing liquid is also likely to kill the virus, particularly on a hot wash.

What do I do?

Here’s how you start the clean: form a priority list. Maybe the kitchen is a big worry for you, so you’ll start there, or perhaps it’s the door handles, as several members of your household are still working. It doesn’t matter where you start, so do the areas you are most concerned about first. This will ensure they get the thorough clean.

Then you should begin the clean.

If a surface becomes contaminated or you think it could be, cleaning it with a common household disinfectant will kill the virus.

How you clean is important. You don’t want to “recontaminate” surfaces while cleaning. Working from one side of a surface to the other helps with this, using an “S” shape to clean.

Washing with hot water and detergent is fine for dishes and cutlery. A dishwasher is even better, because it can use hotter water than your hands will tolerate.

Use the warmest setting possible to wash contaminated laundry and make sure you allow it to dry completely. You may not want to ruin clothing or other materials, so always look at the manufacturer’s instructions.

You may feel like you need to do separate washes for sick people right now, however this is not entirely necessary. Laundry from someone who is sick can be washed with other items, you just need to take some precautions: it’s recommended that you wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person, and then discarding the gloves immediately after use. Clean your hands as soon as you take off the gloves. If you don’t wear gloves when you’re handling dirty laundry, make sure you wash your hands afterwards. Additionally, don’t shake dirty laundry; otherwise you might disperse the virus through the air. 

Items should be laundered per the manufacturer’s instructions and using the absolute warmest possible appropriate setting. It’s okay to wash dirty laundry from an ill person with other people’s garments, as washing clothes in a machine with detergent will kill the virus.

Remember to wash your hands after cleaning (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser) and avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

If you want more tricks and tips about achieving a thorough clean, read our tip list about spring cleaning correctly.

Written: 18 April 2020, Updated: 6 July 2020

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