If there’s an upside to a global pandemic, it might be that everything is cleaner than usual.
Greg Wilke of Mariposa Cleaning Services in Pendleton said the businesses his service cleans are stepping up their game, sanitizing surfaces every couple of hours and asking cleaners to come in multiple times a week.
“They’re being really careful,” he said.
There has been conflicting research and advice on exactly how long COVID-19 can live on various surfaces, but it seems the virus can at minimum remain a threat for infection for several hours, and more likely several days. A combination of hand washing and sanitizing surfaces can help prevent people from accidentally transferring the virus from a door knob to their nose or mouth.
Wilke said surfaces that are touched frequently by multiple people — door handles, light switches, keypads — are most important to sanitize several times a day. His business cleans the less frequently touched areas too, however, and does detail work like vacuuming furnace filters. He has also been trying to help customers stay stocked up on cleaning supplies as the stores continue to run low.
As people buy cleaning supplies they aren’t used to using, or substitute common household items, such as bleach or vinegar when the stores run out, reading labels is an important part of using the products safely and effectively. Bleach, for example, can create dangerous gases when mixed with cleaning products containing ammonia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives advice for proper household cleaning on its website. Best practices include wearing gloves while cleaning, washing hard surfaces with soap and water first to remove dirt, and then sanitizing them using an Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectant as directed.
“As directed” usually means letting the liquid sit on the surface while it does its work. Spraying a cleaner on a surface, and then immediately wiping it off with a dry paper towel reduces its effectiveness at killing germs.
Lysol wipes and Clorox wipes, for example, direct users to let the surface remain visibly wet for at least 10 seconds to sanitize the surface, and at least four minutes to disinfect it. (The CDC considers sanitizing reducing germs to a generally “safe” level while disinfecting kills all the germs on a surface).
Stephen Dean is an industrial hygienist in Hermiston, who consults with companies on the best ways to keep workers and customers safe from illnesses like COVID-19. He said businesses should consult the guidelines put out by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
“Those are best practices from the best hygienists in the industry,” he said.
Those guidelines include recommendations, such as cleaning break rooms at least twice per day and providing sanitizing wipes for workers to wipe down their workspace on a regular basis.
Dean said at home, people should take the same sort of precautions in frequently sanitizing surfaces they touch often, particularly with unwashed hands. Those areas can include things like door knobs, steering wheels, keys, cellphones and handles on sinks and showers. People should also avoid sharing things like utensils and water bottles.
If you don’t have sanitizing sprays or wipes, washing hard surfaces with soap and water works great too.
“Hand soap kills the virus,” Dean said.
He said germs and allergens can get caught up in furnace and air conditioning filters, so now is a good time to change those too.
If someone sneezes or coughs, those germ-laden droplets often settle onto the floor, where other people can step on them. Dean said people should be taking their shoes off before entering their home where possible to avoid tracking germs into the house. They should also change clothes when they get home from public places like the grocery store.
“You don’t want to wear the same clothes at home as you do in public,” he said.