A Guide to Home-Proofing For Flu, Coronavirus And Other Illnesses

How to Disinfect Frequently Touched Objects and Deep-Cleans (Click for Full Article)
Written by the SafeHome Team Updated March, 2020

This guide explains why your home is an important front in the battle against germs and viruses, and covers best practices for cleaning everyday objects, keeping the home safe, and what to do before, after and during your family and guests visit.

No matter how organized and health-conscious you are, it can be tricky to virus-proof your home. Here’s why:

  • People are too familiar with their homes and easily miss danger spots.
  • Homes have many potentially risky surfaces such as kitchen sponges, desks, dishcloths, floors, soap dispensers and toilets.
  • Visitors may introduce germs and viruses into the home after you’ve cleaned.
  • No one wants to constantly clean.
  • You may be caring for a sick person in your home.
  • Keeping a home clean requires frequent handwashing. Even adults have a hard time summoning the energy to wash their hands seemingly every 30 minutes.

View from the Experts: Protecting Your Home Against Flu, Coronavirus and Other Illnesses

“If you’re sick, it does make sense to steer clear of household members as much as you can, though a strict quarantine is likely not necessary. It should also be emphasized that [just] as important as household quarantine is making sure that you stay home from work or school when you are ill to prevent spread to others.”

– Dr. Stacey Rose, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston

“You’ve got a lot more mucus production, coughing, et cetera. It sets you up for possibly a bacterial infection [such as bacterial pneumonia] on top of [flu symptoms].”

– Dr. Peter Shearer, Director of the Emergency Department at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City

“Soap and water works really well. It can dry your hands out a little bit more but when you do it, you want to do it right. That means getting your hands wet with warm water, cleaning them, getting all of the surfaces with soap for 20 seconds — that’s a full time through ‘Happy Birthday’ — and then also rinsing them off afterwards.”

– Emily Landon, Medical Director for Infection Control at the University of Chicago Medical Center

“Sanitizer might feel like a modern-day, scientific, and more clinical upgrade to soap. But I’m here to tell you that soap — all sorts of it: liquid, solid, honeysuckle-scented, the versions inexplicably only marketed to men or women — is a badass, and even more routinely effective than hand sanitizer. We should be excited to use it, as much as possible.”

– Brian Resnick, Senior Science Reporter at Vox.com

Your Home Is Both a Refuge and a Critical Line of Defense

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that an epidemic occurs when a community experiences a widespread, often sudden, outbreak of disease.1 Flu epidemics happen nearly every year in many communities. They last several weeks to several months. During these times, you’re at higher risk of getting sick with the flu. Vaccinations do reduce the danger but are not 100% effective. Plus, not everyone can get vaccinated.

The definition of a pandemic is when a disease is prevalent across an entire country or the world. COVID-19 is one such example.2 However, something much smaller than an epidemic or pandemic could throw your household into chaos. For example, noroviruses spread easily through contaminated food, water and surfaces. The American Lung Association points out that even the common cold can be worrisome, especially if someone in the household has a condition such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema.3 To protect your home, follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
    Experts across the board agree that handwashing is the best way to stay safe. Use paper towels or your elbow to turn the tap off after handwashing.
  • Stockpile two weeks to a month’s worth of nonperishable food, medications, soap, sanitizer, disinfectants and other supplies.
    If you end up not needing these items for an illness, you might for power outages, snowstorms or other situations.
  • Cough or sneeze into tissues or the inside of your elbow. Cover both your mouth and nose.
    Virus droplets can survive in the air for a few hours. On surfaces and objects, they may remain viable for up to three days.
  • Throw used tissues away in a lined, touchless can or wastebasket.
    Handwash right away for 20 seconds (yep, handwashing again!).
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least once a day.
    Clean first and circle around to disinfecting. Pay attention to cellphones, remote controls, light switches, doorknobs, countertops, desks, keyboards, toilets, toilet handles, sinks and taps, among other things.
  • Wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect.
    When taking the gloves off, peel them away from your body. Wash your hands after disposing of the gloves (yep, that again!).
  • Wash your hands when you get home.
    Also, take your shoes off before entering the house. Carry non-fabric (vinyl or plastic) purses and backpacks. Disinfect them after arriving home.
  • Ask guests to wash their hands or use sanitizer.
    Hang paper towels in bathrooms instead of cloth hand towels. Keep visits to one room, if possible. Don’t put out communal bowls of food.
  • Find another place to stay if your apartment building is poorly ventilated or uses recycled air.
    Bad ventilation can spread viruses and germs, causing many residents in a building to get sick.
  • Separate healthy people from sick people.
    Sick people in the home should have their own towels, bedding, utensils, e-reader, cellphone and the like. If logistics allow, they should use separate bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Perform a deep clean after a sick person recovers.
    Among other things, wash bedding, pajamas, clothes and stuffed animals that the formerly sick person used.

Please click link for extended tips and tricks for disinfection.

Show All Answers

1. What Do I Need to Know About The COVID-19?
2. How Is It Spread?
3. What Are The Symptoms?
4. What Can I Do To Protect Myself?
5. Is there local testing?
6. A Guide to Home-Proofing For Flu, Coronavirus And Other Illnesses