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How to clean your home to prevent coronavirus spread

23:00 10 May 2020

Our cleaning guide will help make sure your efforts are as effective as possible against Covid-19 at home

With so many people housebound as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it makes sense to use the extra time to clean your home. If you’re wondering how best to prevent the spread of Covid-19 around the house, a few simple guidelines can make all the difference.

Keeping surfaces free of coronavirus

New research has shown coronaviruses can stay on hard surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for anywhere from 3-9 days. That makes them sound quite invincible.

But there’s good news. It only takes 1 minute to inactivate the virus with a strong alcohol-based disinfectant that contains 60-70% alcohol, or bleach.

So, while a quick daily wipe down of hard surfaces is ideal, every few days will also suffice.

Pay extra attention to high-touch surfaces

There are ‘hotspots’ in the home such as door handles, banisters, grab rails and light switches that should be wiped down regularly.

In the kitchen, concentrate on the kettle handle, taps, fridge-door handle, and other knobs, oven and microwave touch dials.

In the living areas, you need to cover TV remote controls and computer keyboards as well. Cotton buds can be useful to clean between buttons and keys.

Vacuum and wash soft surfaces

For soft, porous surfaces such as carpeted floors, rugs and curtains, vacuum with the soft-brush attachment and use the cleaners indicated on washing instructions.

If they can be laundered then do so, use the warmest appropriate setting, including washable toys. The NHS recommends steam-cleaning carpets and furnishings.

Use the warmest setting on the label for washing clothes

You don’t want to risk colours running or shrinking items, so clean them using the warmest setting on the label and dry them completely.

The NHS recommends washing underwear, towels and household linen at 60C (140F), or at 40C (104F) with a bleach-based laundry product to prevent germs from spreading.

If someone is sick, wash their sheets and towels at 60C with a bleach-based product.

Liquid detergents don’t contain bleach, so choose a powder that contains a bleaching agent. Biological powders tend to have more bleaching agents than non-biological ones.

Clear the air – but don't shake out rugs and clothes

Open the windows and turn on extractor fans to help improve airflow wherever you can.

It’s easy to assume that good ventilation means shaking out mats, rugs and cushions. But this isn’t recommended by medical authorities as virus particles on these items, once shaken out, could disperse around you at a radius of 1-2 metres.

Wash your hands before and after handling food

Preliminary research shows the virus can survive on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic for 72 hours, so there’s a chance the virus could be on your food packaging.

But there are no current guidelines to wash or disinfect food packets and experts say it’s unlikely you can catch coronavirus from these.

As usual wash any loose produce and make sure you wash your hands before and after handling food.

When someone at home has had coronavirus

When someone in your family is ill with Covid-19, take extra precautions. Ideally, family members and the sick person should minimise contact between themselves, with the infected person trying to stay in one room with a separate bathroom for their own use.

Wherever possible, wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning and washing clothes. These should be double-bagged, stored securely for 72 hours, then thrown away in the regular rubbish.

If an area has been heavily contaminated with visible bodily fluids, consider using protection for your eyes, mouth and nose, as well as wearing gloves and an apron while you’re cleaning.

And the golden rule? Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before starting – and the same again after.

Cleaning my home to prevent Covid-19 – what should I do next?

  • Wipe down surfaces every few days with a disinfectant that contains 60-70% alcohol or bleach
  • Open windows and turn on extractor fans regularly
  • Resist the urge to shake out rugs and clothes before washing – this disperses virus particles

Reviewed by: Hemal Shah, Lead GP, Livi

Hemal Shah
Lead GP, Livi
Last updated:

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