There has been an emphasis on personal hygiene since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the virus continues to spread, implementing a few stringent practices at home could also be helpful. Especially if you have someone in your household who is contiuing to leave the house for essential work.
While there is still conjecture about how long coronavirus can survive on surfaces, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We’ve compiled a few easy cleaning and hygiene rituals you can implement on a daily basis.
Don’t wear shoes inside
Whenever you enter the house, remove your shoes straight away as you don’t want to bring anything from the outside into your home. A study published in 2008 gave 10 participants brand new shoes. Researchers tracked the shoes for two weeks and found that bacteria like E. coli could be found on the outside of the shoes. And, these bacteria could then be tracked inside your home.
So, to avoid bringing anything from outside in, take your shoes off at the front door and slip into some slippers instead.
Go the extra mile and wipe your dogs feet before coming it comes back into the house after a walk.
Wash your hands as soon as you get home
The minute you’re through your front door, head for the bathroom to wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean (and away from your face!) is one of the easiest ways to help prevent illness.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hands can pick up viruses when touching surfaces. “Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.”
To avoid bringing outside germs inside, wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap when you arrive home. And, remember to scrub the back of your hands, your nails and your wrists for at least 20 seconds.
Leave your wallet and bag near the front door
Just as your hands can become contaminated, so can your purse, handbag or backpack, especially if you’ve had it resting on public surfaces. Research shows that bags can carry bacteria, with one particular study of 145 purses (80 from women and 65 from men) finding that 95.2% of purses were colonised by bacteria.
This study also found that synthetic bags were more likely to carry bacteria and the material of purses made a difference to the rate of bacteria.
“Rough surfaces and grooved materials increased the surface area and provided hidden sites, which could favour bacterial adhesions, compared to smooth surfaces. Furthermore, microorganisms adhered more to braided materials than to flat ones. The smooth surface of the leather purses could have limited the colonization by bacteria, while the increased bacterial growth on the synthetic purses could be due to their rough and grooved surfaces.”
So, when you arrive home, leave your bag near the front door (somewhere it can’t be seen from the outside). Avoid putting your bag on the dining table, kitchen bench or on your bed as you could risk contaminating your clean surfaces.
Sanitise your mobile phone every day
We literally take our mobile phones everywhere (from the bed to the bathroom) so it makes sense that it could be crawling with germs and bacteria. And it most definitely is. The biggest culprit in spreading bacteria to your phone is actually your hands.
“Because people are always carrying their cell phones even in situations where they would normally wash their hands before doing anything, cell phones do tend to get pretty gross,” Emily Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, told TIME.
Studies have had a hard time pinning down exactly how much bacteria is residing on your mobile phone, but researchers at the University of Arizona found that mobile phones can carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats, as reported by TIME.
The easiest way to effectively clean your phone is with an alcohol wipe. “The alcohol quickly evaporates from the surface of your phone and kills all the microbes,” Dr. Lena Ciric, a microbiologist, told The Guardian. “Don’t use Dettol wipes, or any other type that needs to be left on the surface for a certain period in order to work, because this will interfere with the phone’s functioning.”
Otherwise, if you can’t get your hands on alcohol wipes (because let’s be honest, you’ll be hard pressed to find any at the shops at the moment) you can also use soap and water. But, of course, don’t put your phone straight under running water — even if it says its water-resistant.
“Moisten a cloth or a paper towel with washing-up liquid or hand soap — something that foams, with a detergent in it, “Ciric told The Guardian. “Wipe it over the phone, then wipe that off with a cloth or paper towel moistened with water. You might have to do that a couple of times to get rid of the soapy bits. Then dry it — that will do the trick.”
Disinfect surfaces around the house
High traffic areas like door handles, remote controls, light switches and bathroom fixtures are a haven for germs so its important to clean and disinfect them regularly to avoid passing bacteria from person to person. Pay particular attention to kitchen benches, your dining table and desktops as well.
When cleaning, wear disposable gloves and dispose of when you’re finished. When choosing a cleaning product, go for a diluted bleach solution or something that contains at least 70% alcohol in order to kill germs. For more information on cleaning options, click here.
MIT Medical has warned against drying off areas that you have disinfected.
“Surfaces you are disinfecting need to stay wet for the amount of time listed on the label. The contact time with the disinfectant is what actually kills the germs.”
Change your clothes when returning home
The evidence on whether coronavirus can live on your clothes is pretty lacking but respiratory droplets and other microbes can survive on clothing.
“We know that the droplet can dry out under some conditions, which may be faster with natural fibres,” Public health specialist, Carol Winner, told HuffPost.
According to Winner, most research has looked at how the virus can survive on other surfaces like cardboard and plastic.
“The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has told us that some viruses can remain active after two or three days on plastic and stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard and four hours on copper,” she told HuffPost.
So, when returning from the shops where you have encountered other people and public surfaces, it could pay to change your clothes as soon as you return home. And, don’t pop these in your regular laundry basket. Instead, put them in a bag until you’re ready to wash them.
When it comes to washing, Winner recommends using hot water.
“Whenever possible, use the hot water setting, as it helps to kill the virus,” she said. “Extra heat, and time in the dryer, do make sense, as the droplets should dry out, which would likely inactivate the virus.”
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.