Life Wellbeing Locked away from the infectious world? The virus may be hiding with you
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Locked away from the infectious world? The virus may be hiding with you

Cleaning is the new black. Soapy water followed by disinfectant will kill the virus on your kitchen bench. Photo: Getty
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Of all the hoarding going on, the most damaging – and selfish – is that of disinfectant. There appears to be none in stock. And we all need a bottle to prepare our homes properly for life under siege.

Ordinary spray cleaners won’t kill the glaze of COVID-19 that can live on your kitchen bench and around your bathroom sink for days. You need a combination of both a spray cleaner, followed by a dose of disinfectant to kill the bug that has so far infected thousands of Australians.

So if you’ve got a dozen bottles of disinfectant under your sink, hang on to two of them and give the rest away to people who don’t have any. You can pretend you were being a hero all along.

I’m self-isolating, is the virus keeping me company?

You might have heard that Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US found the coronavirus alive and well on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship nearly three weeks after the passengers hobbled off.

Not quite true – it was detected in cabins that hadn’t been cleaned, but it was just remnants of the virus, which don’t pose a threat.

However, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the coronavirus can remain active or stable for up to 72 hours (three days) on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel. In other words, on sinks and bench tops.

It can also remain stable for up to four hours on copper. And up to 24 hours on cardboard.

Creepily, the researchers found the virus could be detected in aerosols (droplets from sneezes and coughs) for up to three hours. This means if you have visitors (which you are meant to avoid) keep your home well ventilated just in case they’re infected.

Develop new habits

Congratulations and thank you, you’re a great citizen, locking yourself away from the infectious world. There’s no point sitting there like a mushroom and assume your self-protective moves are complete.

For example, every time you go to the supermarket or chemist or for a walk in the park, you risk picking up the virus on your clothes, your shoes, your hands and face.

  • When you arrive home, leave your shoes at the door.
  • Head straight to the bathroom and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • You’ve scattered your shopping on the bench. You’ve rested your hands there. Put on rubber gloves. Wipe down the items with soapy water or detergent. Wash fresh produce.
  • Wash down the bench with hot soapy water, then wash down with disinfectant. Relying on disinfectant alone won’t do the job.
  • Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, taps and sinks are all high-touch surfaces. Regularly wipe them down: soapy water, followed by disinfectant.
  • It pays to behave as if you have brought a sick person in the house. For details on how to handle laundry (don’t shake it as you normally do) or washing soft surfaces like carpets, drapes and couches, check out the CDC or the World Health Organisation.

 You don’t have any disinfectant?

  • Please avoid YouTube “life hacks”. Patchouli oil mixed with the tears of butterflies simply won’t save you.
  • Natural products such as vinegar have some effectiveness against viruses, but not as much as commercial cleaners.
  • Got any old-fashioned bleach? Check that it hasn’t expired (which means it may not kill the coronavirus).
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  • Put on your rubber gloves, open the windows, and mix four teaspoons of bleach with each litre of water.
  •  Check that each surface is appropriate for bleach.
  • Can’t find any packaged alcohol-based cleansers? They need to be at least 70 per cent strength.
  • Cheap and effective is methylated spirits: it’s a great household cleaner and stain remover. Because it evaporates quickly and doesn’t streak, methylated spirit works well on hard surfaces such as metals, glass, floor tiles and counters. But it’s hard to get at the moment, too.
  • Remember to leave the surface wet with the disinfectant for a few minutes, as this allows it to properly kill your unwanted guest.
  • If you start swearing like a sailor at all the greedy hoarders out there, don’t forget to wash your mouth out afterward.

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