Killing COVID-19: Important Advice On How To Clean and Disinfect Your Home

As part of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we at Westchester Health would like to share the following article from Northwell Health concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, written by Payal Sud, MD, associate chair of emergency medicine at Glen Cove Hospital.

In brief, the article discusses the importance of:

  • cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily
  • wearing disposable gloves
  • using detergent or soap prior to disinfecting
  • cleaning carpets, rugs and laundry
  • washing your hands

The full article is reproduced below.


If someone in your home is self-monitoring or quarantined, follow these tips to reduce further spreading the novel coronavirus

With more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) here in New York and across the US, stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices have taken hold. This is a good thing for containing further spread of the virus.

But what happens if you or someone in your home has become infected and are self-quarantining? It’s critical to have an action plan and continuously clean and disinfect the obvious and not-so-obvious surfaces the virus can live on.

The Centers for Disease Control defines “cleaning” as the removal of germs, dirt and impurities, but cleaning does not “kill” them. Disinfecting does. So make sure you are using the right products the right way.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency added 40 new products to its expanding list of registered disinfectant products, which is now up to more than 200. First, educate yourself of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Then, follow these tips to ensure your safety and the recovery of those in quarantine.

1. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily

One of the most germ-filled items we regularly come into contact with is our cellphones. They go with you everywhere, every day. Make sure you regularly clean your phone with phone wipes or, if they are unavailable, use a lint-free cloth dampened with water and rubbing alcohol.

Other common household areas include doorknobs, light switches, hard-backed chairs, remote controls and handles on toilets and sinks. To remain as virus-free as possible, try cleaning any surfaces you come in contact with a disinfectant or disinfectant wipes.

When a person in your home is quarantined, avoid unnecessary contact and disinfect surfaces, linens and other items in that room as needed. The infected household member should attempt to stay in one specific room. You can provide them with the proper disinfectant and cleaning supplies — paper towels, tissues and other items — by leaving them outside the door.

2. Wear disposable gloves

Make sure to wear disposable gloves when cleaning/disinfecting surfaces. And throw them away after each cleaning. This will help minimize the risk of germs and potentially the virus from hanging around.

You should also wear gloves when doing your laundry, especially when washing and drying the laundry of the infected person. After each cleaning, wash your hands thoroughly. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.

3. Use detergent or soap prior to disinfecting

Clean dirty surfaces with detergent or soap prior to disinfecting, which will allow your disinfecting to be more impactful. Make sure to use diluted household bleach solutions with at least 70-percent alcohol.

With cleaning and disinfecting supplies flying off of retail shelves, you can also prepare your own bleach solution by mixing 1/3rd cup of bleach per gallon of water.

4. What about carpets, rugs and laundry?

You should clean them regularly. But don’t hesitate if there is visible contamination. Clean carpets, rugs and your laundry with the EPA-approved cleaners, and wash these items when applicable.

When doing laundry, use the warmest appropriate water setting (in accordance with manufacturer recommendation). Make sure to dry them completely before placing these items back in your home. And do not shake your laundry. Keep it still while placing it in your machines.

Dirty laundry from an infected person can be washed with the other items from the healthy members of your household. Remember to clean and disinfect the hampers, baskets or bags the dirty laundry sits in while waiting to be washed.

5. Wash your hands!

This can’t be said enough. Whenever possible, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after touching any of the above surfaces; if soap and water is unavailable, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol.

If you are entering a public facility, it may seem like using your sleeve to open door handles is a good idea, but it may actually be a more risky option. Touching with your sleeve would make things worse because you cannot disinfect your sleeve the way you can with your hands. In that case, try using several paper towels or your hands and then promptly disinfect them.

And this new idea of touching elbows as a sanitary way to acknowledge someone – it may not be that virus-free. People are told to sneeze or cough into their elbows to mitigate the spread of germs to others. But then we’re taking the other side of that potentially sneezed-into elbow and touching it to someone else.

If you need to extend a greeting to someone, wave from the safe distance of six feet or nod in their direction.

Payal Sud, MD, is associate chair of emergency medicine at Glen Cove Hospital. She is a medical toxicologist and an assistant professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

Learn what Westchester Health is doing to protect our patients and staff against COVID-19

We are here to provide the care you need, when you need it. To learn what smart precautions we’re taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep you safe, visit our Coronavirus Digital Resource Center. To know how we’re responding to the outbreak and what to do if you’re feeling sick, visit our FAQ page (frequently asked questions). Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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