Cleaning Your Hands and Home for Coronavirus Protection

by Pam Farrare-Wilmore, B.S., MT(ASCP), CIC, Director of Infection Control and Prevention
April 9, 2020

Keeping your hands clean is the best way to protect you and your family from COVID-19. Here’s a quick look at best practices you can implement right away.

Hand Soap or Sanitizer?

Either one! Both are equally effective for coronavirus protection if you follow the proper steps for use.

For handwashing:

  • Run hands under water (any temperature) and use enough soap to work up a good lather to cover your hands
  • Vigorously scrub every surface of your hands and fingers for 20 seconds minimum (you probably already know that’s the Happy Birthday song, sung twice!)
  • Pay careful attention to often-missed spots, like the back of your hands, your fingertips, and your fingernails
  • Rinse well, but don’t turn off the faucet yet! (Remember: Your hands weren’t clean when you first turned it on)
  • Dry your hands well with a clean towel, THEN use the towel to turn off the faucet…and to open the door, if applicable

Extra Tip: I personally recommend placing paper towels by your sinks if more than a couple of people share them. Otherwise, replace your cloth hand towels daily.

For hand sanitizing:                                                                                                       

  • Choose a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol
  • Dispense enough into your hands to cover all parts of your hands and fingers
  • Scrub every surface as you would for hand washing (see above)
  • Continue to rub the sanitizer into your skin until it dries completely

Extra Tip: Check the expiration date on your hand sanitizer. If it’s expired, the alcohol content may be reduced, so it may no longer contain the minimum 60% alcohol concentration needed to effectively kill germs.

Hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent transmission of diseases such as #coronavirus. Hand soap or sanitizer? Either one if done properly, says infection control expert Pam Farrare-Wilmore. https://bit.ly/2USn2Ly via @MedStarWHC
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Six Feet, Really? Even If I’m Not Sick?

Yes! We all know that a cough or sneeze can send respiratory droplets into the air. But people also spray these tiny droplets just by talking. Because COVID-19 is widespread in the region, people may be contagious before any obvious symptoms appear. So play it safe and keep your distance.

The six-foot separation is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on scientific studies of how far respiratory droplets typically travel by air before dropping.

Housecleaning Every Week? Every Day?

You don’t have to do a full housecleaning every day, but make sure to wipe off high-touch surfaces with a disinfecting agent frequently—especially surfaces other people touch. COVID-19 can linger on certain surfaces for up to two or three days once it lands there.

Don’t forget these frequently touched surfaces in and near your home:

  • Table and counter tops (wipe clean before disinfecting)
  • Backs of chairs
  • Faucets and flush handles
  • Doorknobs, kitchen handles, drawer pulls
  • Banisters/railings
  • Remotes and touchpads
  • Light switches
  • Pet leashes and cages
  • Car handles, knobs, steering wheels
  • For electronics—phones, tablets, laptops—look up the manufacturer’s recommendations to clean safely

Many brands of ready-to-use, household “disinfectant” or “germicidal” cleaners or wipes will provide effective cleansing. To ensure a product is proven effective for novel coronavirus disinfection, review the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. Products on this list always carry an assigned “EPA registration number” on their package.

Extra Tip: You can make your own highly effective disinfectant solution with bleach and water. The CDC recommends mixing 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

Are Stronger Cleaning Solutions Better?

Not necessarily. It’s important to remember that the water component of any hand sanitizer or disinfecting cleaner is important as well! Water is an essential ingredient in these solutions; higher concentrations are less potent because proteins are not denatured easily in the absence of water.

So avoid using straight alcohol on your hands or undiluted bleach on household surfaces. It’s not as effective for coronavirus protection and can also be harmful.

What Can I Learn From What MedStar Washington Hospital Center Is Doing?

Maintaining a clean and safe environment is a priority for our patients, visitors, and associates. In addition to routine environmental cleaning, we are keenly aware of high-touch surfaces, such as railings, door handles, tabletops, and bathroom fixtures. We clean these areas frequently each day. This is the same approach you should take in your home.

A few years ago, we also started using a technique known as no-touch disinfection. This technique uses ultraviolet light technology as an added measure to decontaminate surfaces in patient rooms, procedural areas, and public restrooms. Of course, you can’t do that kind of thing at home. But staying on top of a regular cleaning routine—and doing a thorough job of it—can go a long way to protect against virus transmission.

Category: Healthy Living, In the News     Tags: coronavirus protectioncovid-19hand sanitizerId-2binfectious-diseaseswash-your-hands