As environmental professionals, we have been getting a lot of questions about how people can protect themselves, their homes and their loved ones from the rise of harmful viruses and pathogens. To try and help ease tensions, we’ve done the research and have some answers regarding the cleaning and disinfecting of your home. In addition to this article, we highly recommend that you visit Coronavirus.gov to learn more. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled everything you’ll ever need, and want, to know about COVID-19 there.
Since environmental issues are our specialty, we will mainly be talking about the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and items within the home. The information we’re giving you is coming straight from CDC’s guidelines and our own experience with home disinfection and environmental services.
Cleaning vs Disinfection
These terms tend to get used interchangeably, however they actually have very different meanings:
- Cleaning – is the removal of dirt, germs, dust, debris or other contaminants from surfaces. Cleaning does not actually kill germs or pathogens, but it removes them from the surfaces. It is a vital step that must come before Disinfection.
- Disinfection – is the process of using chemicals to kill germs. When disinfecting, you are not removing the germs, you are killing them and removing their infectious abilities.
Independently both of these processes will help to reduce the risk of spreading infection, however to have the greatest impact, they should be used together; Cleaning then Disinfecting.
Standard Cleaning and Disinfection
To be frank, this is the stuff you should be doing on a normal basis, but it is especially important now. Routine practices of cleaning common touch surfaces including tables, sinks, toilets, counter tops, light switches, door knobs and so on (If you have a toddler at home as I do, this list is basically endless). After cleaning these surfaces go back over them with an EPA-registered disinfectant that is labeled for the surface. Make sure that you follow the label instructions as they can vary from product to product and surface to surface. Don’t assume that because you can use a certain disinfectant on one surface it is safe for all. While you’re reading the label, also pay attention to the precautions, as the disinfectant you’re using will likely have specific steps to take to keep you and the other members of your home safe.
Current times may have tempted some people to purchase commercial use products, instead of the standard consumer use products that they are accustomed to using. If this is the case, please proceed with caution and care. Many of these products are designed to be used by trained professionals and can be very dangerous if not used correctly. Follow the label instructions to a “T” and do not deviate from them. If the product that you are using is a concentrate and requires dilution, make sure you follow those instructions perfectly. More is NOT better here, and more can be dangerous.
What if someone at home has COVID-19?
If someone in your home has or is suspected to have COVID-19, there are a few specific precautions that you should be taking to help keep everyone safe.
- Review the CDC Home Care Guidance article.
- Clean common touch surfaces daily within the home.
- Separate the ill person as much as possible from the other members of the household (caregiver included)
- Provide a private bedroom and bathroom for the ill person to occupy, for them and them alone. If a private bathroom is not possible the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by an ill person.
- Caregivers should provide the ill person with their own cleaning supplies, including cleaners, disinfectants, tissues and paper towels, provided the ill person is not a child or some other situation where this would be inappropriate.
- If a caregiver is needed to clean the ill person’s isolation room/bathroom, reduce cleaning to an as-needed basis to avoid contact with the ill person.
How to clean and disinfect
Ideally, wear disposable (nitrite or latex) gloves when cleaning and disinfecting. As the name would imply, disposable gloves should be thrown away after each use. If using reusable gloves, make sure that they are isolated and used only for cleaning and disinfecting of COVID-19 surfaces. Regardless of what type of gloves you’re using, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after removing them.
For all of your “hard” surfaces, clean then disinfect as described above. The good news is that most standard household disinfectants are expected to be effective against COVID-19 provided they have an EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claim.
Soft surfaces, including rugs, carpets, drapes etc, should be cleaned with the correct type of household cleaner based on the surface that you are cleaning. After cleaning, launder if possible and disinfect with a disinfectant approved for soft surfaces.
What about clothing, sheets and other items?
Make sure you’re wearing gloves and follow the instructions above regarding disposable or reusable gloves when handling an ill person’s laundry. Use a disposable bag liner in the hamper, or simply a garbage bag. Be sure to dispose of the bag liner after handling soiled laundry.
Follow the manufacturer’s laundering instructions, and when doing the laundry, use the warmest setting that is appropriate for the materials you are laundering. Make sure to dry all items completely. Clean and disinfect hampers and anything else that came in contact with the ill person or items they may have contaminated.
At the end of the day, the best way to help fight this rise of harmful viruses and pathogens is to stay informed. To make sure that you, and your loved ones, are following the appropriate guidelines set by the CDC and are practicing good hygiene. We would just like to reiterate that you can visit Coronavirus.gov to learn more, you can get a free bottle of disinfectant this Saturday and Mold Medics can provide professional disinfection of your home. Thank you for reading all the way through, and from everyone here at Mold Medics we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe.