Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

Spring Cleaning in the Age of Coronavirus

Traditionally, the spring clean season is a rite of passage that involves deep cleaning a home from top to bottom. This year, however, spring cleaning has taken on a whole new meaning with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, says Linda Cobb, former cleaning and disaster restoration company owner, Queen of Clean Media Group president and best-selling author of her eponymous books, based in Phoenix.

"I think the important thing to understand is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. You can clean without disinfecting, but you can't disinfect without cleaning," she said. "Cleaning removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects and works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs, bacteria and viruses on surfaces or objects."

Seventy-eight percent of American households spring clean annually, according to the American Cleaning Institute's 2020 National Cleaning Survey. But with the shelter-in-place practices across the nation, and more people at home focusing on cleaning, ACI suspects even more will be spring cleaning this year, says the organization's spokesman, Brian Sansoni, based in Washington, D.C.

"Clearly, the benefits of good, targeted hygiene and cleaning are top-of-mind for many of us as we make our way through this coronavirus crisis," he said. "Great household hygiene starts with soap and water. Simply put, just wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. It is the easiest action you can take to help stay healthy, especially during the coronavirus crisis."

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released cleaning guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Sansoni advises regularly cleaning and disinfecting "high-touch hot spots," such as light switches, remote controls, door handles, kitchen and bathroom faucets, game consoles and appliance handles.

"Don't use social media as your go-to on the coronavirus. Many things that normally work to disinfect do not work on the coronavirus," Cobb said. "Many DIY disinfectants, such as those made with essential oils, do not work on this virus. Just because the label says 'disinfectant' doesn't mean it works on this virus."

Unexpired bleach and at least 70% isopropyl alcohol solutions are two household items that will disinfect as you deep clean, according to CDC recommendations. A diluted bleach solution of 1/3 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart of water is effective for virus disinfection. Do not dilute solutions made with isopropyl alcohol, which is a disinfectant that is generally safe to use on all surfaces, according to Cobb.

"Wear gloves while using bleach, and never mix it with ammonia or anything except water," Cobb said. "Bleach can also corrode metal over time, so do not get into the habit of cleaning faucets and stainless steel products with it. Because bleach is harsh for many countertops as well, you should rinse surfaces with water after disinfecting to prevent discoloration or damage to the surface."

After continual disinfecting, your home may get a clean bill of health, but the rite of spring cleaning also encompasses decluttering. ACI's 2020 survey found that Americans prioritize their bedrooms (25%), closets (23%) and kitchen (22%) most frequently for spring cleaning, Sansoni says.

"Decluttering frees up space, especially when you get rid of items that are only gathering dust," he said. "Focus on priority areas instead of taking on the entire house at once. A room-by-room strategy works for many spring cleaners ... essentially, map it out, then carry it out."

Try to look at your home with new eyes. Walk backwards into a room or lie down in a bedroom for a fresh perspective. Tasks that make the checklist should include dusting cobwebs out of ceiling corners, cleaning light fixtures, vacuuming under furniture, scrubbing shelves and washing windows and their respective window treatments.

When starting the spring cleaning process, think of literally cleaning a space from top to bottom, because dirt from light fixtures and dust from furniture will fall onto the floors, which will be cleaned last. Invest in microfiber mops and cloths that capture the dirt instead of spreading dust around. Change the bag in the vacuum or empty dirt out of the canister before cleaning a room.

"Spring cleaning should be a clean and purge," Cobb said. "Donate, repurpose and toss the things you don't need. You can cut your cleaning time drastically by having less to move each time."

After making a clean sweep through a house, it's important for families to clean and disinfect as messes are made, especially during this time of self-isolation at home, Sansoni says. "Family life runs more smoothly when there is a shared responsibility for the housework. Whether it's a simple effort like putting dirty clothes in the hamper or a major job like washing the kitchen floor, almost every family member can contribute in some way that fits his/her age and other responsibilities."

Clean Sweep

-- CDC Cleaning Guidelines www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html

-- American Cleaning Institute's Cleaning Tips: CleaningInstitute.org

-- QueenofClean.com