From doing laundry to preparing meals — cleaning and hygiene tips to help protect your family against COVID-19

Woman Putting a Mask on a Young Girl
Can you catch the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from food? How should I do laundry now? What if the delivery worker is sick? Or the person who cooked the food? Is my stuff contaminated? Mundane household tasks have turned into a source of uncertainty and anxiety as families grapple with getting the basics done all while keeping their loved ones safe and healthy. Widespread misinformation about the virus puts everyone at risk and adds to the stress of having to filter fact from fiction.

While research into the COVID-19 virus is ongoing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the 2019 novel coronavirus is spread primarily when healthy people come in close personal contact with a person who has COVID-19 who is coughing or sneezing and is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person. (Hence, why social distancing is so important.)

But, they haven’t ruled out the possibility that someone could get the virus from touching something that’s been contaminated and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. (Hence all the hand-washing advice). The virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours up to several days. The good news? Simple disinfectants can kill it.

Now, what does this mean for your home? To give parents a helping hand, here is some latest expert information on what is known about COVID-19 and tips to help keep it out of your home.


How long does the virus live on surfaces?

A yet-to-be-published study conducted by scientists from the CDC, National Institutes of Health, and other institutions suggests that the 2019 novel coronavirus can live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to keep your home clean during this time. And if someone in your household is sick, it’s especially important to disinfect high-touch surfaces in your household every day. This includes doorknobs, handles, tables, countertops, keyboards, and light switches.

1. High-touch surfaces to clean and disinfect

Every home is different, but common high-touch surfaces include Door handles, tables, chairs, handrails, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, taps, toilets, light switches, mobile phones, computers, tablets, keyboards, remote controls, game controllers, and favorite toys.

2. What to use to clean and disinfect?

If a surface is dirty, first clean it with soap or detergent and water. Then use a disinfectant product containing alcohol (of around 70 percent) or bleach. Vinegar and other natural products are not recommended. Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used on some surfaces.

3. How to disinfect?

It’s important not to wipe cleaning solutions off as soon as you’ve applied them to a surface. Many disinfectant products, such as wipes and sprays, need to stay wet on a surface for several minutes to be effective. Always read the directions to make sure you’re using the products as recommended and to avoid damaging sensitive items such as mobile phones and other electronic devices. Consider using wipeable covers for electronics.

Woman Holding a Tomato

Is my food safe?

The 2019 novel coronavirus causes respiratory illness, not a foodborne illness — meaning it affects the lungs, not the digestive system. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there’s currently no reason to believe that the virus has been spread via food or food packaging. But officials still urge everyone to follow basic food safety guidelines that call for washing your hands before eating or preparing food, using clean utensils, and properly preparing and storing food. Restaurants and delivery services should also be following safe food preparation and handling practices.


What about that package that just arrived on my doorstep?

While previously mentioned, the not-yet-published study found that the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, the CDC asserts that chances are low that the virus spreads from packaging that’s shipped over days at ambient temperatures. The greater risk comes from being in close contact with other people while receiving a delivery. Make sure to wash your hands after receiving any packages and take a no-contact delivery.

Can the virus live on my clothes?

It is currently unclear how long the COVID-19 virus can survive on fabric, but many items of clothing have plastic and metal elements on which it might live for a few hours to several days. It’s still a good idea to change and wash your clothes regularly — especially if you’ve just come back home from the grocery store or are still reporting to work every day.

Good practices to consider include removing your shoes when you enter your home changing into clean clothes when you return home after being in crowded places, and washing your hands with soap and water immediately afterward. The CDC recommends using the warmest appropriate water setting for your clothes and drying them completely. (And save the shaking for when your laundry is clean, as it could potentially disperse germs from clothes when they’re dirty.) If you’re caring for someone who’s sick, you can wash their clothes along with yours, but wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves. And don’t forget to disinfect the hampers and the knobs on your washer and dryer.


Is it on my skin?

Germs can live on different parts of your body, but the main concern here is your hands. Your hands are what’s most likely to come in contact with germy surfaces and then touch your face, which is a potential path of transmission for the virus. So, while no one is suggesting that anyone take a hiatus from showers, you don’t need to scrub down your whole body multiple times a day like you should your hands.

Simple hygiene measures can help protect your family’s health and everyone else’s.

  1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately.
  3. Maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  4. Make sure to wash hands after you blow your nose, sneeze into a tissue, use the restroom, when you leave and return to your home, before preparing or eating food, applying make-up, handling contact lenses, etc.
  5. If using a hand sanitizer ensure that it contains at least 60 percent alcohol, ensure coverage on all parts of the hands, and rub hands together for 20-30 seconds until hands feel dry. If hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.

Cold water and warm water are equally effective at killing germs and viruses — as long as you use soap and wash your hands the right way!

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