Cleaning our homes has gone to a whole new level in 2020.

Now we not only do our regular cleaning, but it seems many of us are disinfecting our homes whenever someone ventures out for groceries or medicine. Here are some tips to add to your arsenal.

First, it is crucial to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is about removing dirt and disinfecting is about eradicating germs that make us sick.

The recommendation is that every day, as a regular habit, we should disinfect areas that we touch a lot. That would include light switches, faucets, door handles/knobs, toilets, sinks and appliances. Other areas you may want to include in this list that is not as obvious are hard-surface chairs, remote controls and game controllers and your purse.

You may have already seen articles with information about how long COVID-19 can survive on different surfaces. According to Harvard Medical School, “a recent study found that the COVID-19 coronavirus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”

That is why it is so important to not only clean but also disinfect. For non-electronic items, the best way they say to do this is to first clean with soap and water or a cleaning spray. Then to follow up by using a disinfectant. If you use rubber gloves, make sure to either discard or clean them after each use.

Be careful when selecting disinfectants. Not all antibacterial wipes may work. Remember that bacteria and viruses are not the same things. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published a list of disinfectants that are regulated and registered. According to the EPA, any of the items on this list will kill the virus. Any product that is on this list will also have an EPA registration number on its label.

When it comes to a disinfectant, do not just spray and wipe. At a minimum, it needs to sit for a few minutes, or it loses some of its effectiveness. It may even be most effective if we let it air dry and not wipe it.

Unlike north of the border, there are still many disinfectants available in stores here in Mexico. Should our shelves run dry, there is always the fall-back option of making a spray bottle of disinfectant with bleach and water. Please, if you do go this route, be cautious not to mix bleach with any other cleaning solution, wear rubber gloves and use bleach in a well-ventilated area.

There have been some questions about whether alcohol works well as a disinfectant. It appears that alcohol requires a minimum content level of 70 percent ethyl alcohol to kill the virus. That means not all alcohol will work. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is also not a disinfectant.

When it comes to mobile phones, experts recommend disinfecting with a wipe or with a cloth and alcohol solution. Remember to remove cases, clean screens, buttons, and back and sides of the phone. We should consider doing this daily from now on, not just during this pandemic.

Because laptop cases are usually plastic, many recommend using an alcohol solution rather than a pre-packaged wipe since the wipes may cause damage.   

As of this writing, the U.S. Food and Drug Association advises that we do not need to wash down every item we bring home from the store. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to wash fruits, vegetables, and unpackaged items as an added precaution. NEVER use bleach to clean food. It is very dangerous if bleach is ingested.

Without question, one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves and others healthy is to increase the number of times we wash our hands with soap and water every day. I am not an expert on the virus. As such, I am not endorsing that following these protocols will prevent illness. I share with you the information I have come across that I encourage you to investigate further.   

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Sheryl Novak

Sheryl Novak is an expat Canadian who has owned a home in Mexico for over 10 years. She is the owner of SOLutions Mexico — the online furniture store for your home in Mexico. She is considered the expert on sourcing all styles of furniture, for all sizes of budgets, in Mexico.