In a truly unprecedented event, the novel coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill within just five months. Amidst a global lockdown, economic slump, and the race to develop a vaccine, new facts about this virus keep emerging. One of the surprising things is that COVID-19 is a relatively mild infection. But that really is the key to its success. The virus goes undetected for a good number of weeks while it spreads, essentially giving it a massive head-start. Even though the fatality rate is low, the fact that it spreads like wildfire has driven everyone to go into quarantine indefinitely. It has come down to each one of us now to know the right facts, keep ourselves and our surroundings clean so that our combined efforts might, over time, help to put an end to this unfortunate pandemic.
A Healthy Cleaning Habit
While we are blessed with a rich and subtropical climate, we also have abundant humidity and dust, making it easy for airborne viruses to proliferate and settle on surfaces around us. According to a recent study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the coronavirus can last on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. This brings great concern over the everyday items we interact with. We don’t really have a measure of how often we touch our phones, gadgets, kitchen utensils, groceries that have just been delivered. The big challenge here is to break old habits and consciously disinfect everything within a reasonable time frame. While obsessive cleaning is not recommended, it would help to maintain a certain regularity.
This pandemic has come with many difficult challenges. Thankfully, neutralizing the virus from our surroundings is not one of them. It is common knowledge that simple soap does the trick most of the time when it comes to keeping your hands clean. For things around the house, water-based cleaning solutions are fairly effective when used regularly. They can be used for furniture and other surfaces where the virus has been found to survive. You can also use floor and glass cleaning products or bleaching powder to clean your house. Alcohol-based sanitizers are good for quickly disinfecting your hands in between handling different objects. It’s a good practice to clean electronic gadgets with alcohol pads regularly.
What to Sanitize
Of all things, the mobile phone should be disinfected with alcohol pads at least once a day. If you use a protective back cover, make sure you take it off and clean the back of your phone while it’s switched off as well as the inside of the back cover. The pads are usually coated with a 70% isopropyl solution which is great for killing germs without damaging sensitive components, and it dries up quickly too. They can be used for cleaning laptops, tablets, digital cameras, computer peripherals, and cables. They are also great for cleaning blinds, makeup brushes, and jewelry. Most of all, they are highly effective in disinfecting stainless steel, which would otherwise be able to hold the virus for almost 3 days according to NIH.
Another important thing to remember to clean is your wallet. Going cashless is being encouraged during this crisis, however, we often do need to pick up cash at the ATM, make cash payments, receive change while shopping, or even when we have items delivered. Paper money is notoriously covered in germs and can spread bacteria and viruses very quickly. While there is no proven way to completely disinfect cash without destroying it, the inside of wallets and purses should be thoroughly cleaned to minimize risk.
As a general rule, the more frequently touched surfaces around the house should be cleaned more often. Keys and doorknobs typically fall on top of the list, as do switches, taps, microwave door and controls, fridge, and cabinets. Jewelry and fashion items should also be cleaned, as well as bags and shoes. It is safer to leave your shoes outside in any case. If you usually don’t go out, and no one in your house has been tested positive for the virus, you may clean your clothes as you normally would. However, if you have been going out for grocery shopping, getting medicine, or other important things, it’s safer to wash your clothes and all your linens, bedsheets, and covers more regularly. The virus has been found to live on clothing for several hours or even up to a day, but thankfully any regular detergent should be sufficient to disarm it.
If you own a vehicle and have been using it for emergencies during this crisis, having it washed and cleaned is a good idea. The interior of cars needs particular attention. Be sure to wipe down the steering wheel, gear shift, door, dashboard, seat, door handle, seat belts, and any exposed surfaces using a damp cloth and a small amount of soap. Avoid cleaning agents with alcohol or bleach in this case, as they may dry the leather, causing it to crack and discolor. For motorbikes, wash with cold water, and then use mild soap, detergent or shampoo with a sponge to clean out the body, and use a toothbrush for the smaller, hard to reach places.
How to Go Out Safely
Although it is advisable to stay home, some of us do need to go out for necessities. Taking precautions while going out will help to keep us protected from this infection. Here are some safety measures to take:
- Always wear a mask and gloves and keep them on the entire time you’re outside.
- Always use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then dispose of it in a closed bin.
- If tissues aren’t available, use your elbow to cover your face before coughing or sneezing.
- Carry a pocket hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes, use them to disinfect surfaces you touch.
- If you have long hair, tie it up.
- Do not wear ornaments such as necklaces or earrings.
- Avoid touching your face at all times
- Whenever possible, avoid using cash. Use online or mobile payment instead.
- Sanitize your hands immediately if you do use cash.
- Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet or 1 meter from others, especially while queuing outside of grocery stores.
These should be quite effective in protecting yourself from infection. But additionally, you need to be extra safe while returning home, to minimize the chances of contaminating the space that you have given so much effort to disinfect. Here are some things to do while stepping into the house once again:
- Leave shoes outside the door.
- The mask and gloves are not meant to be reused, so dispose of them in a closed bin.
- Wash your hands properly before touching anything.
- Clean and disinfect any item that you carried outside with you, including keys, wallet, and mobile phone.
- Change your clothes, do not wear them at home again until they have been washed.
- Take a shower with warm water and disinfectant soap or cleaner.
We should still remember that it is not possible to disinfect everything completely, and there is always a small amount of risk no matter what we do. The goal here is to minimize the risk. As we continue to live our days in quarantine and look towards an uncertain future, we shouldn’t be afraid or panic while going about the above steps to meticulously clean everything. We should rather work towards integrating these practices into our usual cleaning routine, as they are generally good practices, with or without a pandemic situation. It is important that we stay healthy and clean, keep our environment safe, make use of our isolation time, and support each other as we fight this crisis together.
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