Will Face Masks Protect You From the Coronavirus? (0:38)
UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information on March 26, 2020 - 2 p.m. EST.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has caused mass panic in many areas of the country. With grocery stores being sold out of soap and cleaning products for days, and some hand sanitizers being sold on the internet for $50 or more, people are scrambling to protect themselves and their families. Taking COVID-19 seriously is important. As of Mar. 26, 2020, 2 p.m. EST, there are over 510,000 cases confirmed globally with over 75,233 of those cases among 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This virus is a global health crisis that, as of now, has no end in sight. Taking proper sanitation procedures is a small, effective step for prevention. One thing you can do right now is learn how to clean your phone, as well as other common household items, in order to better defend yourself against this virus.
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How to Clean Your Phone
Your smartphone is seven times dirtier than a toilet, reported USA Today in Feb. 2019 based off of several research studies. If you think about it, it makes sense. We are attached to our phones and bring them everywhere — even on the toilet. According the Journal of Hospital Infection, coronaviruses can live on glass, aka what’s on the surface of your smartphone, for up to nine days, so it’s important to disinfect it regularly.
Use a solution of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol to clean your phone. Turn off your phone first and avoid any charger or headphone ports (if liquid gets in those it could damage your phone). Use a cotton swab to rub disinfectant solution on the phone, but squeeze out any excess to avoid dripping. Wipe the phone dry with a clean cloth immediately. If you have an iPhone this is still a good way to clean your phone. Admist novel coronavirius concerns, Apple updated its cleaning guide to say you can use "70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox disinfecting wipes" to clean your iPhone as long as you're careful to avoid openings in the phone.
If you have a plastic case, take it off your phone and wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe.
Disinfect Your House
It’s important to both clean and disinfect your house, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While its tips are for those who were at risk of developing, or already have a confirmed case of, COVID-19, they are good guidelines to follow for extra prevention. Clean surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect with chemicals in order to kill any remaining germs. The CDC recommends frequently cleaning “high-touch” surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, tables, toilets, and sinks. You should wear disposable gloves throughout the process to avoid coming into contact with COVID-19 if it is on your surfaces and wash your hands immediately after disposing of the gloves.
When disinfecting, all cleaning products used should have 70% alcohol content, which is more than the CDC recommendation of 60% alcohol for hand sanitizer. Most disinfectants sold in stores meet these requirements, but check the label before buying.
Avoid Touching Gas Pumps, Door Handles & More
While COVID-19 is still being studied, the CDC has reported it might be possible to catch it from touching a surface with the virus and then touching your face or mouth. If you want to take extra precautions, be mindful of what you touch:
- Keep a pair of gloves in your car for when you have to pump gas
- Wipe down your grocery cart handle with available sanitary wipes
- Press elevator buttons and ATM pin pads with your knuckle instead of your finger
- Open bathroom doors with a paper towel
- Avoid holding onto public surfaces, like public transit poles
- Don’t shake hands with people, fist-bump instead
Put disposable latex gloves on if you are concerned about touching surfaces. Keep hand sanitizer, with 60% alcohol, in your car or purse to use if you won’t have immediate access to a sink. Above all, wash your hands as frequently as possible and avoid touching your face and your mouth.
What If I Can’t Find Cleaning Products?
If store shelves have been cleared out and you don’t know how to gain access to cleaning products, there are few things you can do. First, use what you already have in your house in the interim. Chances are you have cleaning solutions and disinfecting wipes laying around in some capacity. You can also call your local stores to ask about when specific items you’re looking for will be back in stock. Employees should be able to indicate when shipments will come in.
You can make your own disinfectant solution if you have bleach. The CDC recommends mixing 1/3 cup of bleach per one gallon of water for an effective cleaning solution. If you can’t find hand sanitizer, just wash your hands; it is not recommended to make your own.
“[Infected surfaces are] not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” says the CDC, it is believed to be spread the most from person-to-person contact. So while these precautions are definitely good to take, other ways to defend against COVID-19 include stop touching your face, avoid those who are sick, stay home if you're sick, and continue to wash your hands.