The coronavirus has sent many people home to ride this pandemic out. All the increased food preparation, laundry and cleaning puts family members — as well as houses and apartments — under increased stress.
There are things you can do in this time of heightened awareness to help keep germs under control and make the most efficient use of home appliances.
Washing your hands with either liquid or bar soap for 20 seconds is effective. Some people may prefer liquid soap because otherwise you’re sharing the bar soap with other people
We have been speaking to experts to address some of these issues. Here are some highlights.
— Don’t stand with the fridge door open as you contemplate your next WFH snack
With all the traffic opening and closing refrigerator doors, warm air could lower the temperature, which is not good for the food. It also wastes energy.
A good temperature is 36 or 37 (definitely below 40), but refrigerator temperatures do fluctuate based on when the defrost cycle kicks in. Asking your family to figure out what they are eating before they open the door.
— Check to see whether you have a sanitising cycle on your washing machine
Many newer washing machines, dryers and dishwashers have a sanitise-cycle option. Some consumers may not be aware of these cycles or know how they work, said Steve Hettinger, GE Appliances director of engineering for clothes care.
These cycles offer the hottest temperatures available in your appliances, making them the best choice for anyone concerned about germs. World Health Organisation statistics show that temperatures of 140 to 150 degrees are enough to kill most viruses.
If your washing machine has a sanitising cycle, you might want to use it for bedding or clothing you have worn outdoors, Hettinger said. Standard hot-water cycles in washers tend to be as warm as your hot-water heater setting, traditionally about 120 degrees.
A sanitising cycle can vary in different brands and models but may include hot-water temperatures that reach 140 degrees. (Both bacteria and viruses are germs, but machines are only tested for killing bacteria.)
— Make use of that dishwasher
If you have a dishwasher, this may be the time to use it on a regular basis vs. washing dishes by hand. During the sanitise cycle in GE Appliances dishwashers, the water will reach at least 150 degrees to kill 99 per cent of germs, said Adam Hofmann, GE Appliances director of engineering for dishwashers.
The water temperature in a normal dishwasher cycle is 125-135 degrees, and hand-washing temperatures are even lower and vary based on the tolerance of the person washing dishes. The company statistics say that a sanitising cycle kills 99 per cent of bacteria. (There are no statistics on viruses.)
— Your bathroom needs extra attention
Bathrooms are now being used all day by family members who used to leave to go to work or school, so clean touchpoints frequently: faucets, light switches and doorknobs.
Towels are getting used more than ever, she says. Change out bath towels every few days, and hand and dish towels every other day. Make sure to hang towels up between uses so they dry.
Take care of your plumbing, too. Disposable disinfecting wipes or paper towels should not go in the toilet, unless you want a sewage backup. (Even “flushable” wipes aren’t a great idea.)
Instruct your family to clean out the drain or hair catcher in the tub or shower after every use.
— Careful about the toothbrush
Also be aware that your toothbrush can spread germs. If anyone has been sick, toss their toothbrush or toothbrush head for safety.
If you want to clean your toothbrushes during this time of increased concern, soak in a mixture of one ounce of 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide mixed with five ounces of water for about 10 minutes.
Then toss the solution and rinse with tap water. If you share one bathroom, a person who is sick should keep their toothbrush in another place.
It would be a good idea to have some extra toothbrushes or toothbrush heads on hand at this time.
— Any soap is good soap
Some stores are reporting a shortage of disinfecting or any liquid soaps, so now may be the time to bring out that bar soap you have in your linen closet or bathroom vanity.
Washing your hands with either liquid or bar soap for 20 seconds is effective, said Brian Sansoni, senior vice president at the American Cleaning Institute. Sansoni said some people may prefer liquid soap because otherwise you’re sharing the bar soap with other people.
Although some research has found that bacteria can stay on frequently used bar soap, a widely cited American Journal of Public Health report from 1965 found that the bacteria don’t seem to transfer to the next user. “So the greater threat is not washing your hands thoroughly,” Sansoni said in an email. “Use whatever type of soap you prefer.”
— Open the windows for a nice breeze — but don’t expect it to blow the germs away
“That’s what we used to do, open the all the windows in the house,” said Glenn Wortmann, director of infectious diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “You’d see that in the old TB sanatoriums. They made sure to always let the air come through.”
Fresh air can be a mood booster, but there is no science showing that it can blow away germs. “A lot of this is just whatever makes people feel better,” Wortmann said.
While on cold days it isn’t really an option, he adds, now that spring weather is here, “there is no downside in doing it.”
Jura Koncius is a home and design writer reporting on interiors, decluttering and organising