Despite the current guidelines for physical distancing, it is sometimes necessary to leave the house. Discover the ABCs of effective disinfection.
How can I become contaminated outside of my home?
People infected by COVID-19 can spread the infection through respiratory droplets produced during coughing or sneezing.
The droplets can contaminate another person especially if a minimum two-metre distance is not respected and if the infected person is not wearing a mask. Droplet contamination is involved in the vast majority of cases.
However, droplets can also contaminate nearby surfaces and objects. The amount of time the virus can survive on surfaces depends on various factors (e.g., type of material, temperature, ambient humidity), and ranges from about three hours to a few days.
A person who touches the contaminated surface risks being infected if they bring their hands to their nose, eyes or mouth before having adequately washed them. In order to enter your body, the coronavirus has to pass through these mucous membranes. Avoid bringing your hands to your face at all costs when you are in a public place or in contact with other people.
What are the steps to follow when you return home?
To avoid contaminating your living environment, it is prudent to transform the entrance area into the house, for example the vestibule or the garage, into a decontamination area. Shoes, coats, bags, keys, sunglasses and other items are left there.
The next step is a thorough hand washing.
Don't forget to disinfect your cell phone with a disinfectant wipe, a soft cloth dampened with 70% alcohol or a damp cloth with a little soap.
If you are returning from a visit to a higher risk location such as a health center, it is a good idea to take a shower as soon as you return. If the clothing you are wearing may have come into contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, it is best to remove it before going further into the house and wash it. A dirty laundry basket can be left in the hall.
What should I wash my hands with?
When you go to a public place, like a grocery store, it may be more difficult to wash your hands often. You can bring hand sanitizer with you that is at least 60% alcohol-based to disinfect your hands. Health Canada has listed more than six hundred effective disinfectants on its website.
Regular soap and water are sufficient for a thorough handwashing when you return home. It is important to clean everywhere and to pay particular attention to the tops of the hands, the nails and the spaces between the fingers. Cleaning should be quite vigorous and last at least twenty seconds.
What products should I use to disinfect objects and surfaces?
There are several effective cleaning products you can use to clean potentially contaminated objects that must absolutely be brought into the house or inside the car. In fact, Health Canada has listed roughly two hundred proven hard-surface disinfectants on their website.
It is also possible to prepare a homemade solution with diluted bleach (e.g., 100 ml of bleach for 900 ml of water) or use rubbing alcohol to disinfect surfaces.
Caution: white vinegar, which is often used as a natural alternative for cleaning purposes, is not recommended to eliminate all traces of the coronavirus.
How do I wash potentially contaminated clothing?
Clothes can be washed with regular detergent. It is recommended to use hot water (60 to 90 degrees Celsius) and to dry them carefully.
What about food brought in from the grocery store?
As indicated by the MAPAQ (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec), although it is possible to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or an object where the virus is found, then bringing your hand to your mouth, nose or eyes it is not the main mode of transmission.
There is no need to clean all of your purchases. The key is to wash your hands frequently, especially after returning home and after storing items and food. As always, wash your hands before you cook and before you eat.
For fruits and vegetables, there is no need to use a special soap to clean the food. Fresh fruits and vegetables should always be washed before consumption, as is usually the case. A wash with water by rubbing the surfaces is enough. No need to add detergent.
Cooking being a disinfection method in itself, meat can be eaten without worry if it is well cooked.
These preventive measures will help to protect you and your loved ones from a potential COVID-19 infection. They are easy to do and can greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus as well as many other germs. Apply them!
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information on how to maintain health during the COVID-19 crisis.
This advice was written based on information available at the time this document was written.