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Here's How Often You Should Disinfect Surfaces During Self-Quarantine

With social distancing in effect to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, you’re spending a lot of time at home. Even if you’re not bringing in new germs from the outside daily, it’s important to keep up with your cleaning routine. According to experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here's how often you should disinfect surfaces during self-quarantine.

The CDC released a statement on how to clean any surfaces that may have come into contact with the coronavirus, which can potentially live on different surfaces for as little as a few hours and as long as multiple days, although the longest amount of time is currently unknown. According to Karen Levy, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, the virus has been shown to survive on plastics and metals for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. When it comes to fabrics, the length of time the virus can survive depends on how porous the material is.

So, how should you adjust your cleaning routine to keep the germs away? "The key is to think about how an object might get infected," Levy explains. "We are being careful with anything that comes in from the outside world. I would recommend passing a disinfecting wipe over packages that get delivered, and over the outside of takeout food containers." For these types of surfaces, you'll want to wipe them down immediately anytime you come into contact with them. It’s also recommended to throw away containers brought in from the outdoors.

To cleanse surfaces in your home and packages you bring in from outside, the CDC recommends a two-step cleaning and disinfecting process. Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre, microbiology professor and director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at Mt. Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, says any common disinfectant — even water and regular soap — is enough for routine cleaning.

In an ideal world, everyone would practice perfect social distancing and you wouldn't need to continually disinfect the items in your home. However, many people have roommates or may come into contact with the virus by going to the grocery store or running other errands.

In this case, Dr. García-Sastre says it’s important to make sure to regularly clean and disinfect objects you or other people may frequently touch with bare hands to make sure no one is bringing the virus into your home. As an extra precaution in the case of roommates and visitors, Dr. García-Sastre adds, “Ventilate the rooms to avoid the presence of the virus in closed spaces.”

According to Dr. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a preparedness fellow at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a good rule of thumb is cleaning the items you tend to touch the most and, in some cases, that you might bring with you into the outside world. She cites cellphones, doorknobs, and remotes as surfaces you'll want to wipe down pretty frequently with a disinfectant to make sure you aren't inadvertently bringing the virus into your home.

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For electronics and other hard surfaces, the CDC recommends wiping down any visible dirt and impurities with a damp cloth before using chemical cleaners, such as diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants. If possible, the CDC recommends using disposable gloves for cleaning any items that might be contaminated and washing your hands afterward.

Considering coronavirus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets, it's also important to keep your pillows and other linens clean. The CDC recommends using a disposable bag liner to carry your dirty laundry and to avoid shaking it during transport, as to not spread the germs in the air. When you clean your sheets and clothing, use the hottest water and drying settings that are safe for your machines.

While it's definitely tough being separated from your loved ones, Piltch-Loeb emphasizes the need to self-quarantine and practice social distancing to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. "As a society, our health care institutions are dependent on functioning supply chains, an expectant number of patients at a time, standard levels of resource consumption ... when these norms change, the health care system is likely to break down, which can have severe consequences on the treatment of patients and health of populations," she says.

Piltch-Loeb explains: "You are less likely to become infected and pass the virus to others by staying home."

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.

Experts cited:

Karen Levy, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of environmental health at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health

Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre, microbiology professor and director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at Mt. Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine

Dr. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, preparedness fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health