How to disinfect your home when someone has COVID-19

The novel coronavirus has continued to infect hundreds of thousands of individuals. The associated disease COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week.

Image Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

Spread of the virus – What we know

So far, we know the infection is spread from person-to-person when they come closer than six feet. The spread is often airborne with droplets of spit carried in the air when a sick person sneezes or coughs without covering their nose and mouth. The scientists have also found that infection does not spread when a healthy person touches a surface that has been contaminated by the respiratory secretions or contaminated hands of a sick person. The website of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) states, “Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through fomites. Current evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.”

What are the guidelines?

The CDC has provided an outline for the prevention of the spread of the infection. The CDC states, “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.” These new guidelines are recommendations to clean and disinfect the houses and homes of “Persons under investigation (PUI)” or persons who have been tested positive for COVID-19 or those who are under self-imposed isolation.

Terminologies

The guidelines state that cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, impurities as well as germs from surfaces. Cleaning merely removes germs without killing them. Disinfection, on the other hand, kills germs on the surfaces but may not clean dirty surfaces. Disinfection practiced after cleaning can prevent the spread of infections.

Recommendations for disinfection of the homes include –

  • Cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces that are frequently touched, including doorknobs, switches, taps, handles, railings, toilets, sinks, desks, tables, chairs, remotes, etc. This needs to be done using EPA-registered disinfectants that are recommended for surfaces.
  • Bedrooms and bathrooms for the use of the person with COVID-19 need especial care about cleaning and disinfection.
  • If bathrooms and toilets are shared throughout the household, they should be disinfected each time after the sick person has used them.
  • Gloves should be worn, and cleaning should be done with proper ventilation. Gloves should be discarded after use. Hands need to be washed after discarding gloves.
  • Cleaning of all surfaces with soap and water should be performed prior to disinfection.
  • Disinfection solutions used should include bleach, 70 percent alcohol-based solutions. Diluted bleach solutions need to be used, and bleach should not be mixed with ammonia. All instructions from manufacturers need to be followed carefully. Dilution of bleach could be five tablespoons or one-third of a cup in a gallon of water or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water, recommends the CDC.
  • For soft surfaces including carpets, rugs, couches, drapes, etc. cleaning should be done first by laundering and cleaners. Manufacturer instructions need to be followed if they are disinfected by EPA registered disinfectants. Those items that can be laundered must be washed before they can be disinfected. Temperatures should be set at high, and the articles should be dried thoroughly after washing.
  • All linen, towels, and other clothing need to be laundered in hot water. Gloves should be worn while handling dirty laundry. After putting them in the machine, gloves need to be disposed of correctly. Hands should then be washed with soap and water. While handling dirty laundry, they should not be shaken or moved much to prevent the spread of the infection. Clothes and clothing items of sick persons can be washed with those who are healthy. However, disinfection must be carried out for the clothes after drying.
  • Hand hygiene should be maintained by all the household members by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used if there is no visible dirt on the hands.
  • Hands need to be cleaned after using the toilets, before eating or preparing food, after contact with pets and animals, after coughing, sneezing or blowing the nose, before touching a baby or elderly or immunocompromised person and before and after touching a sick person.
  • Persons with COVID-19 need to be fed in their rooms, and their utensils and leftover food need careful disposal, wearing gloves. Utensils for patients need to be washed in warm water wearing gloves.
  • A separate trash bin should be present to dispose of the trash generated by the sick person. These should be handled with care and with gloved hands.
Sources:
Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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