Your home is the foundation for good physical and emotional health. Now that many people are finding themselves, and their families, home for longer periods of time because of COVID-19, we wanted to pass along a few tips to show you how not to turn your home into an indoor chemistry experiment.
DO Open the windows. Fresh air will dilute contaminants in indoor spaces, including viruses and CO2 (which is what makes your house feel stuffy and causes foggy thinking!) Ideally, keep a few windows on opposite sides of the house and each floor cracked open (½ -1”) all the time (you should feel airflow on the back of your hand). Otherwise, open them 5-6x a day for at least 15 minutes. Make this part of your new stay indoors routine. Open blinds and curtains too to let in natural light.
DO Limit chemicals. Common household chemicals — in cleaners, laundry products, and personal care products — add to the “VOC (volatile organic compound) load” in your house and the “chemical burden” on your body. Being home more and doing more activities (like frequent cleaning) can increase your exposure and, in people who are allergic, asthmatic, or chemically sensitive, may cause respiratory issues. Make low-toxic choices wherever possible. This is a good time to skip scented candles and room deodorizers as well.
DO Run the bathroom exhaust fan (and close the lid)! Several studies show that people, including children with mild infections, can shed virus in feces for over one month. Other research, not specific to COVID-19, shows that flushing fecal waste generates bioaerosol that can remain in the air for longer than 30 minutes after flushing. Closing the toilet lid before you flush and running the exhaust fan can help reduce airborne concentrations. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, just let the bathroom breathe for a bit before the next user goes in. Also good to run the fan during and for 20 minutes after showering to reduce the moisture load indoors.
DO Increase filtration. Swapping out your furnace filter for a MERV 13 or higher can help reduce virus-carrying particulates. If this isn’t possible, an inexpensive alternative is a DIY filtered box fan (Click here for a quick “how to.”)
DO Use soap. Plain, unfragranced soap and water is sufficient for regular cleaning and is one of the most effective defenses against invisible pathogens. It also doesn’t add extra chemicals and fragrances to your indoor environment.
DO Leave shoes outside (or at the door): You track in lots of contaminants including the COVID-19 virus, which can live for several hours (possibly up to a day) on fabrics. Leaving shoes outside, preferably in the sun, for a few hours mitigates risk that you bring it indoors.
DO Run your kitchen exhaust fan. More people home can mean more cooking and more gasses, moisture and particulates from the stove which can degrade your indoor air quality. Run the range hood extractor fan every time you cook (boil, bake, roast, or fry!).
DO Keep up on routine maintenance. While you may hesitate to bring workmen into your home, and in some cases it may be a challenge to find people, this isn’t the time to let routine tasks go undone and small problems, like leaks, get bigger.
DO Consider outer layer of clothing as “contaminated” after working. If you are an essential worker, consider your outer layer of clothing/uniform as contaminated. When you get home, put clothes into a laundry basket and take a shower. If you’ve just been to the grocery store and were able to maintain social distancing, this isn’t necessary, but if you feel better doing it, you should.
DO Follow the recommendation to wear a mask. A good rule of thumb is to treat your mask like underwear – change it daily or whenever something happens to necessitate a change. Launder cotton or fabric masks routinely. Put on and take off masks using the straps and avoid touching the mask itself as contaminants collect on the outside and wash your hands after touching the mask. Dispose of PPE properly, ideally in a secure waste can or trashbag.
DO change furnace filter regularly. Wear a mask when you do this. Put the used filter into a trashbag as soon as you remove it, don’t walk it out to the garbage uncovered. Wash your hands immediately.
DO home improvement projects with care. While you may find you have time to do the projects that you’ve been putting off use care when you do the projects so that you don’t inadvertently impact your indoor air quality. Choose no- or low-VOC paints and ventilate well during and for at least a few hours after painting. Choose less-toxic products for each project. Construction dust can be particularly problematic, so take steps to minimize dust while doing the project and be sure to clean up thoroughly using a HEPA vaccum followed by wiping with a damp or electrostatic cloth.
DON’T Flush wipes. Even if they say flushable, its best to toss these in the trash. You don’t want to risk clogging the toilet and having to call an emergency plumber.
DON’T Mix chemicals. If you do opt to clean with chemicals including bleach, ammonia, rubbing alcohol, and/or hydrogen peroxide, never mix them or even use one after another. If you do use any one of them, do so in a well-ventilated space.
DON’T Add ozone to “clean” the air. There are lots of air cleaners on the market that use ozone to”clean” the air and allegedly remove contaminants. The science is well-established, ozone is toxic. It reacts to the skin and lining of the lungs can be linked to short- and long-term health problems.
DON’T Forget the Basics:
Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds.
Clean surfaces, especially those that are high-touch/shared.
Practice social distancing (6″).
For more information and tips regarding Coronavirus, read our article Advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19).
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