How to Maintain a Safe and Healthy Home
Christine Dimmick, founder and CEO of The Good Home Company, author of Detox Your Home, and IIN visiting teacher
Cleaning your home during COVID-19
I’m going to shed light on how we can maintain our health, especially during this time, without overexposing ourselves - and our environment - to toxins during the pandemic. With so much misinformation and marketing flying around, I, too, have been confused as to what the best steps may be. Through my research looking at respected medical websites, such as JAMA and The Lancet, while also looking at what our friends in Europe are recommending, along with my own 25 years of experience as a manufacturer of natural cleaning products, I’ve compiled considerations and recommendations to stay as healthy as possible as we enter the next seasons, which includes cold and flu season as well.
How frequently do I need to clean my home?
It depends on your exposure to others. If you are having people over to your home, you should thoroughly clean surfaces they may have touched or had access to, like the toilet/bathroom areas, your kitchen, and all doorknobs/handles. If you or someone in your home is working outside the home daily, upon arriving at home, wash your hands immediately with warm soap and water, and do it thoroughly. Cleaning the entire home would not be necessary daily, but daily cleaning of your doorknobs (particularly the front door), kitchen surfaces, kitchen table, cell phones and phone cases, and toilets and toilet knobs are a good idea. If you have a lot of people in your home, washing the hand towels you dry your hands with daily makes sense or use disposable paper towels. I prefer the first as it is less waste.
What do I use to clean my home with?
COVID-19, the flu, and other cold viruses can be cleaned using old-fashioned soap and water. You do not and should not use bleach daily. Bleach has been shown to increase respiratory illnesses and should only be used occasionally. A good pure soap, like castile, or plant-based cleaner with warm water can and should be used. The real concern is how you clean. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus should be seen as a germ that has sticky hands, like a child who put their hands in the honey jar and decided to touch everything in the house. A little bit of a wipe isn’t going to remove the honey.
So, spray your soap cleaner liberally – don’t be stingy – and give it a good scrub. Right now, using a sponge or a scrubber with a nubby side to it is a good idea. A homemade vinegar and water solution is great, but make sure there is soap added to it; soap is key as vinegar alone is not enough. You can use a bleach cleaner spray when needed. A toilet seat would be a good place for this as it has been shown that the virus can spread through human waste sometimes. I do not use it in the bowl as no one’s hands should be in there and bleach in our waterways is not a good thing.
How do I clean each surface and item in my home?
It still looks like this virus (along with others) can last on surfaces anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. With that in mind, consider the following when it comes to cleaning each surface and item in your home:
- Stainless steel and plastic – Plastic and smooth surfaces, like stainless steel, tend to hold the virus longer. Make sure to spray them thoroughly and scrub well.
- Toys – Children’s toys should be cleaned daily in warm soap and water if the children are playing with others outside the home or going to school. If you cannot submerge the toys in warm water or run them through a cycle in the dishwasher, spray them with 70% ethyl alcohol, wipe, rinse with water, and wipe again before giving back to your child to play.
- Phones – I clean mine upon returning home every single time. I use 70% ethyl alcohol and cloth.
- Floors – I use a steam mop with a spray cleaner. It is still being debated whether steam effectively kills viruses and germs. Some say it does kill 99%. I like that it does not leave a chemical residue for my pets, which can cause dermatitis on their skin. If you prefer soap and water, use castile soap. A chemical-based sweeper is not good for any animal – human or otherwise – that crawls or sleeps on the floor.
- Clothing – If you are out and about, your clothing and disposable masks should be washed in warm to hot soapy water. Those with less outdoor exposure can use cold water. All reusable masks need warm to hot machine washing.
- Windows – Regular vinegar and water is fine.
- Rugs and dusting – A good vacuuming every week is needed. I would say vacuuming is very important as we inhale a lot of toxins via the dust in our homes. Vacuuming and dusting twice a week can help reduce this exposure. Make sure to get under your bed, chairs, and book shelves.
- Bathrooms – Clean the sinks twice a week, and all handles, including the toilet, should be cleaned daily.
- Food – I wash my fruits and veggies in a veggie wash before eating, always making sure to rinse thoroughly. You can also soak them in water for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly. DO NOT use a household cleaner or bleach to clean your food under any circumstance.
- Shoes and packages – Leave shoes outside the home or take your shoes off once you enter and leave them in a designated spot. One really shouldn’t wear shoes in the home as they track dirt all throughout it. For packages, always clean the surface where the box had been after you open it and put the box in the trash. Then wash your hands.
- Air – I recommend purchasing air purifiers for each bedroom. There are reasonably priced ones that do help clean the air. Air fresheners do NOT clean the air and can leave behind residue from chemicals and perfumes that cause more harm than good. Also, keeping your windows open as much as possible is good. Even if you live in a city, try to open them once a week.
Do I need to use disposables?
If cleaning your own home, you do not need to wear gloves, unless cleaning the toilets, which is mainly for other diseases you could pick up. Rags can be used over and over and washed after each use in hot soapy water in the washing machine. COVID-19 does not enter your body through your skin, but rather when you touch your eyes, ears, or mouth with your hand that was exposed to COVID. If you are cleaning someone else’s home, always wear gloves and a mask and dispose of them when you’re finished.
Just like a cold or flu, the most important things we can do is wash our hands with soap and water really well (remember the honey analogy) as soon as we enter our home, wear a mask when around anyone not in our household, and not touch our eyes, nose, or mouth. I carry tissues now in case I need to scratch my face or rub my eye, etc. This practice has protected me from getting a cold or flu for several years now.