A post-pandemic world demands a new look at home cleaning standards
June 29, 2020

In the wake of a worldwide pandemic, changes in public behavior are expected. From commuting to shopping for household necessities, our actions have changed to reflect the need for more cautious and germ-conscious activity. Our cleaning habits are changing as well, and the general public is is far more aware of the importance of cleaning as well as effective disinfecting than ever before.

Cleaning is not the only daily habit that could (and should) change for good after coronavirus. While hospitality and transportation industries are revamping their cleaning practices following the COVID-19 outbreak, professional cleaners may soon be required to be certified, similar to food handlers and hair stylists.

When considering coronavirus prevention, the first rule to remember is to keep your face covered when in public. Health authorities say the primary transmission method of COVID-19 is through respiratory droplets travelling from an infected person to another person, usually within six feet, through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Frequent cleaning of surfaces with a high rate of contact will help prevent the spread of illness but scrubbing your home entirely each day is an unrealistic expectation.

To date, there have been no documented cases of transmission of novel coronavirus through contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This should provide some relief for those concerned about high-touch frequency surfaces potentially infecting multiple people. While the virus does survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, personal hygiene and responsible behavior is are key to prevention.

At home, you should make a priority of creating healthy hygiene habits, as well as cleaning and disinfecting routines with your family. It's best to a daily habit of cleaning and/or disinfecting the following 10 items each day:

Your Hands

Frequent hand washing remains the best way to prevent coronavirus, as well as many other diseases. When flu prevention experts advise you to wash your hands, they don't mean a quick run under the faucet. It's important to use soap and warm water, and to rub your hands together for 15-20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol is often used to kill bacteria and viruses by breaking down cell proteins.

Cell Phones

People don't frequently share their phones with others, so direct transmission from shared surface contact isn't likely here. But you can easily transfer germs from your hands to your phone, which would then transfer easily to your face when you take a call.

To clean and disinfect your phone, wipe it down with a dry, soft cloth to remove any dirt or dust, and then disinfect the screen by spraying a paper towel or cloth with disinfectant and wiping down the area. Repeat as necessary to ensure the surface stays wet for the necessary time (check the product label).

Doorknobs & Handles

Among the most frequently touched surfaces in the home, doorknobs and appliance handles (refrigerator, microwave, etc.) should get daily cleaning and disinfecting attention. "The more often an item is touched, the more frequently it needs to be cleaned and disinfected," says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president at the American Cleaning Institute.

After cleaning the doorknob surface, using a fast-acting spray-application disinfectant will ensure that the surface remains wet for the proper time, so germs are thoroughly killed. People commonly use disinfecting wipes because they seem convenient, but they often require that surfaces remain wet for up to 10 minutes to to be effective. Many of these wipes contain alcohol, which can cause the liquid to dry quickly. This can make it difficult to keep the surface wet without re-wiping multiple times, so you're better off using a spray disinfectant cleaner.

Light Switches

Light switches are among the most bacteria-covered spots in your home. These frequent-contact surfaces allow easy transmission of the cold, flu virus, E. Coli, Salmonella, Norovirus, and more in your household, particularly when the average person's hands carry at least 3,000 different germs, according to WebMD.

An EPA-registered spray disinfectant can eliminate cold, flu, E. Coli, Salmonella, Staph and other illness-causing bacteria in 2 minutes or less, remaining wet and active on hard, non-porous surfaces long enough to do its intended job. Always allow for the time recommended on the product label.

Kitchen Counters

Salmonella is easily transferred from raw food to other surfaces by improper handling, as well as contact with kitchen surfaces and equipment. According to the CDC, Salmonella is the most common cause of foodborne illnesses in the U.S., with over 450 deaths and 1.2 million illnesses being reported each year as a direct result of Salmonella infection.

Make a habit of cleaning your countertop before preparing food, as well as immediately disinfecting after any use of raw meat, eggs, or dairy products. Follow these 7 essentials for Salmonella prevention.

Floors

Giving your household floors more attention than a daily sweeping may be tedious, but a twice-weekly cleaning and disinfecting routine could go a long way toward preventing the spread of infection.

A recent CDC report finds that floors and shoe soles had the highest concentrations of COVID-19 in samples taken at a hospital facility. It was determined that the virus was being tracked outside of patient rooms to other areas of the hospital, including into non-patient care areas. The presence of COVID-19 concentrations on floors is largely attributed to gravity and airflow, the report finds. Most virus droplets will float or fall to the ground, where they will be carried elsewhere by foot traffic.

Dish Sponges

According to the CDC, 77% of household dish sponges contain E. Coli or Salmonella bacteria. 90 Seconds in the microwave should be long enough to kill any dangerous bacteria, and you should replace it every 1-2 weeks.

Credit Cards

The one item you hand to strangers regularly, credit cards are a necessity when you're taking care of errands, picking up items for household needs and beyond. Drive-through cashiers potentially handle hundreds of different people's cards each day, andday and could easily transmit harmful bacteria to an uninfected person.

Clean and disinfect accordingly, taking care not to damage the magnetic strip or protective film many cards contain.

Keyboards

If you actively use a laptop or desktop computer, your keyboard could be a hotbed of bacteria from the various surfaces you touch between hand-washings.

First, check the manufacturer's guidelines on cleaning the device. Then unplug the keyboard and and shake it out upside down over a trash can to get rid of loose debris or food particles that are lodged in cracks and crevices. Use a can of compressed air to clear out the area between the keys, and wipe with a damp cloth treated with soap or an all-purpose cleaner. Then carefully apply disinfectant spray per label instructions. These steps should be done while the keyboard is upside down so that liquid and debris are not pushed further into the open spaces of the keyboard. It is an awkward, but possible procedure.

Bathroom Surfaces

When you flush a toilet with the lid up, microbes can travel up to 6 feet, landing on all of the surrounding bathroom surfaces. This "plume" phenomenon creates a potential germ hotspot in your bathroom, spreading germs far and wide. According to WebMD, 60% of toothbrush holders contain fecal particles due to the "plume" phenomenon.

Considering that bathroom sink faucets have an average of 6,200 bacteria per square inch, some of which can survive on hard surfaces for weeks, disinfecting becomes even more critical.

Learn more about the 10 most germ-infested spots in your home.