There has been much panic, confusion, isolation, hoarding and anxiety recently as a result of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Consumers have raided stores buying out bleach, alcohol, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, according to Marilyn Burch, Extension associate-foods and nutrition for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. This is all in an effort to keep families safe, virus-free and well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is mostly spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, they have no documentation of whether the disease can be transmitted from surfaces to persons. However, the virus may linger for hours even days on various items.

Frequently touched surfaces include tables, handles, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, faucets, toilets and electronics (phones, keyboards, touch screens, tablets and remote controls). These surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

“Cleaning removes germs and dirt from surfaces,” Burch said, “but disinfecting kills germs on surfaces by using chemicals.”

The CDC recommends the best household preventive cleaning practice is removing visible dirt followed by disinfection. This routine further lowers the risk of spreading infection and viral respiratory illnesses.

Apply caution to using do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent agency of the federal government designed for protecting the environment, warns that the use of some products may result in adverse respiratory effects. If you have a concern or question regarding whether a product is an effective disinfectant go to the following link: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.

“All disinfectants should be EPA-registered,” Burch said. “All labels should contain instructions for safe and actual use and precautions such as having proper ventilation or wearing gloves.”

The best way to clean electronics is by following the manufacturer’s instructions, she said. If there are no directions, the best way to clean them is by using alcohol-based wipes or spray made of at least 70 percent alcohol.

“Make sure to dry the surface carefully to prevent pools of liquid,” she said. “Researchers say that cleaning with chlorine bleach diluted with water is one of the top ways of maintaining a safe surrounding.”

Individuals may encounter cleaning and disinfectant challenges such as how to clean porous and non-porous surfaces, Burch said. Below are tips from the CDC to use when in doubt.

Non-Porous (absorbent) Surfaces

Wear gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. If using disposable gloves, discard immediately after use. Non-disposable gloves should be purposed for cleaning “only” and not used for other tasks. Make sure to properly wash your hands after removing reusable gloves.

Clean dirty surfaces with detergent or soap and water before disinfecting.

Household bleach diluted with water can be used on suitable surfaces. The solution mixture is 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per one gallon of water or 4 teaspoons (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) bleach per quart of water. Allow at least one minute of contact time. Additionally, make sure the area is well aired. Unexpired diluted household bleach is effective against coronaviruses. Warning: NEVER mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

Large surfaces (floors and walls) have not been related with the spread of COVID-19. Nor has the use of foggers and sprayers as evidence of being preventive. Continue using the suggested approaches for removing and killing germs.

Porous (absorbent) Soft Surfaces:

Soft surfaces (carpets, rugs, drapes) may be cleaned by removing any visible impurities with cleaners that are suitable for use. Read the label instructions.

Laundered items (clothes and linen) should be washed using the warmest water setting and dried completely. If caring for an ill person, wear disposable gloves and an apron when handling laundry and throw away after each use. If no gloves are used, be sure to wash your hands quickly after handling them. Try not to shake dirty laundry. Doing so will increase the release of viruses through the air.

Dirty laundry from an ill person may be washed with other people’s laundry.

Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to the guide above for the surface. Use disposable or washable bag liners in hampers as an extra safeguard.

“Proper hand hygiene should be practiced at home and work by avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands,” Burch said. According to the CDC, additional significant times to clean hands include:

After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

After using the bathroom.

Before eating or preparing food.

After pet or animal contact.

Before and after providing routine care for another person (child or elderly).

“These precautions and tips are necessary, especially during this time of crisis,” Burch said. “Stay safe, alert and be careful.”

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