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Sanitizing During COVID-19: How Far Do You Need to Go?

March 9, 2021
Sanitizing During COVID-19: How Far Do You Need to Go? - Lark Health

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The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world for over a year. The advent of vaccinations against the novel coronavirus is like a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is a way to go before enough people are vaccinated before the threat of COVID-19 will be diminished. Until then, it is still safest to continue taking precautions to avoid being infected with the virus and spreading it to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend frequent hand washing, wearing face coverings, and practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Along with these measures, are there additional ways to slow the spread? Here is what you should know about cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting foods and surfaces to lower your risk for getting infected.

Cleaning Your Home

Though it is rarer than person-to-person transmission, infection due to touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 is possible, according to Harvard Medical School

Research published in journals such as The Journal of Hospital Infection and the World Journal of Clinical Cases has looked at whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as related viruses, can survive on various surfaces. The unfortunate news is that yes, they can survive for minutes to hours or even days, depending on the type of material and environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. Steel, wood, glass, and plastic have all supported their survival for multiple days.

The good news is that sanitizing and disinfecting can be quite effective. Ethanol and peroxide are common household agents that be used to disinfect surfaces and kill the majority of germs within seconds or minutes. The CDC has some guidelines for cleaning your home to protect against COVID-19. 

  • Laundries should use the warmest possible water setting and detergent. Remember to disinfect hampers regularly.
  • Surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water before disinfection.
  • Reusable or disposable gloves should be removed right after cleaning, and hands should be washed with soap and water.
  • Vacuuming can proceed as normal.

The American Chemistry Council has a more extensive list of commercial products that are known to inactivate viruses. You can also use diluted bleach, either by following the instructions on the package or by mixing ‚1/3 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water at room temperature. When cleaning, the bleach solution should remain on the surface for at least one minute before being wiped away.

Never mix bleach or disinfecting products with other disinfecting products. They can create toxic fumes if mixed in certain combinations.

Surfaces that are frequently touched may have the most germs. According to Kaiser Permanente, some household surfaces to consider sanitizing are: 

  • Light switches
  • Door knobs and door edges
  • Toilet handles and toilets
  • Light switches
  • Tables


Phones, computers, laptops, tablets, remote controls, and televisions are some electronic devices that can be touched frequently and should be cleaned. Yale University suggests checking the manufacturer's instructions to safely clean products without damaging them. A disinfectant wipe or solution with 70% ethanol alcohol can be appropriate.

Some other tips include:

  • Using a removable cover for cellphones and keyboards that can be washed more easily.
  • Unplugging devices before cleaning.
  • Avoiding using liquid cleaning products near porous surfaces.
  • Not using abrasive cleaners or cloths.

Food and Groceries

Thankfully, the CDC has proclaimed that there "no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming foods is associated with COVID-19." There is no reason, so far, to believe that COVID-19 has spread via touching food packages or shopping bags. It is also not known to spread through drinking water.

 The general recommendations from the CDC are to take normal food safety precautions to avoid getting sick, and to choose a nutritious diet to boost your immune system and physical and mental health. Lark's coaching includes focusing on nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and nuts, which can not only assist with weight control and health management, but also supply nutrients to support immune health.

Best practices for handling foods and surfaces that touch foods include:

  • Rinsing fresh produce with water, and not with soap, bleach, or other product, and scrubbing firm produce with a brush.
  • Refrigerating perishables such as meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy products within 2 hours of purchasing them.
  • Laundering reusable bags in warm water if they become dirty.
  • Checking to make sure meal delivery kits that need to be refrigerated or frozen are under 40 degrees Fahrenheit when they are delivered.

As always, frequent hand washing can help protect you.

Getting delivery and takeout lets you stay out of stores, and the CDC suggests using these options when you can. Some tips to minimize the risk of COVID-19 include:

  • Paying with a credit card online or over the phone while ordering.
  • Opting for contactless pickup or delivery.
  • Washing hands or using sanitizer after unpacking.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated daily life, and cleaning has become a hot topic over the past year. By knowing what to clean and how to do it, you can help keep your home and your family safer.

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