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Hospital official, cleaning expert tell how to keep homes clean, sanitized

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published March 22, 2020

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METRO DETROIT — COVID-19 has forced many people into their homes to help stop the spread of the viral disease.

With so much more time now spent indoors, homeowners might want to take stock of the best ways to keep their homes clean and sanitized.

Beaumont Hospital Trauma Injury Prevention Education Coordinator Donna Bucciarelli said the first thing a person should do when they’re coming into their home is to take their shoes off and, preferentially, clothing too.

Bucciarelli, who previously worked in a pediatric infectious disease unit for nearly 12 years, also said outdoor clothing should be kept separate from indoor clothing.

“Basically, have outdoor clothes … and indoor clothes so that you’re kind of trying to keep that separated,” she said. “The minute you come into the house, once you remove clothing and shoes, wash your hands. The goal is to minimize what’s coming into the house and then trying to keep the house as clean and sanitized as possible.”

Jay McMillan, owner of the commercial cleaning company Royal Services of Michigan, said the best way to keep your home clean and sanitized is to contact a cleaning company to do it for you, but for those who are going to be doing it on their own, people should be careful of what they’re using. For instance, his company uses a hospital-grade quaternary disinfectant cleaner, so he said it’s important to pay attention to the labeling for the correct dilution.

“They also may want to do a little research to see how long the disinfectant solutions should stay on the surface,” he said. “We usually cover a surface with the diluted cleaner, let it sit for four to five minutes and then wipe it down, and then we do a final wipe, of course, in a commercial setting. We want to make sure that we’re doing a final wipe.”

Once you’re inside your house, Bucciarelli said, it’s important to think about the places and things you touch most often, as they’ll need the most cleaning. This can include door handles, light switches, remote controls, desks, hard chairs, tables before eating, sinks, faucets, toilets, countertops and toys.

In addition to cleaning all these necessary areas, McMillan said to keep an eye on whatever your hands touch and to clean those surfaces as well.

“Once you get your home disinfected, make sure you wash your hands frequently,” he said. “Follow the guidelines — 20 seconds, soap and water, agitate and rinse off. Hand sanitizer can also be used at the same time. At home, I’ll wash my hands and then I’ll put a little sanitizer on my hands just for a little extra protection.”

An important note, Bucciarelli added, is that there’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. She recommended cleaning an area with warm water and soap first, and then afterward using Clorox or Lysol wipes to disinfect.

As cleaning products are starting to become in short supply, a diluted household bleach would work as well as a disinfectant, but Bucciarelli said that having a fresh bottle of bleach is important, as it starts to lose potency and effectiveness after 30 days. She recommended dating the bleach after opening it.

“The CDC is recommending just a simple 1/3 cup (of bleach) per gallon of water,” she stated. “It’s a much more reduced concentration than for other things (like mold), and that’ll also help to make that bottle of bleach that you might find last longer.” For a smaller amount, people can use four teaspoons of bleach per quart, she said.

Using common sense during this time is important, explained Bucciarelli, and boxing up nonessential items to clear off your counter might be for the best.

“A clear surface is a more easily cleaned surface,” she said. “So get rid of the clutter. Probably your soap, a box of Kleenex and that’s probably all you need on that counter, because now we’re recommending daily wipe downs, daily disinfecting. It’s so much easier. Same with the kitchen. If you don’t use your toaster constantly, maybe a toaster can go into a cabinet.”

McMillan said people should take into consideration how much they’re moving in and out of their homes when deciding how often they should clean and disinfect them. A family with kids should be doing so at a much higher rate because children will touch everything around them. The same advice to clean and disinfect at a higher rate goes for senior citizens, as he said they’re more susceptible to infections.

“It depends if they are staying at home mostly or if they’re in and out. If they’re in and out, I would say use proper protection, whether it’d be gloves coming in and out of the door,” he said. “Also you gotta think if you’re disinfecting the door handle, you should probably disinfect your steering wheel in your vehicles.”

The areas of the home people should focus the most on, Bucciarelli said, are their kitchens and bathrooms. Tips Bucciarelli shared related to the household’s kitchen and bathrooms is to not share food, forks and cups; wash your hands for 20 seconds before handling food or getting a drink; and change the towels.

“Those are the places where the counters should try and be clutter-free,” she said. “You’re wiping them down either with Clorox wipes, Lysol wipes. They are recommended, so they are thought to be effective against this virus. 

“This virus is so new that you have to go by what the CDC is telling us, because it’s almost too new to know, but they’re going with the information that they know about like-viruses.”