The importance of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces has become the new national pastime. In the past month, we’ve all viewed tutorials and become experts on how to properly wash our hands for 20 seconds or more, but what about our groceries, shoes and mail-order packages? You’re likely wiping down some surfaces with disinfectant, but are you wiping down all the right surfaces?
If keeping your home safe from COVID-19 is the priority, what comes after 6 feet of social distancing and a liberally applied hand sanitizer? Some say it entails a lot more.
Cooking for those outside of your own home
In this time where so many of us are cooking for more than just our own households, it’s important to follow the strictest safety guidelines. Whether bringing food to elderly relatives, neighbors or donating food to local first-responders, precautionary guidelines should be followed before cooking.
Doctors advise that before sanitizing the kitchen, utensils and dishes you plan to use, the cook should don latex gloves and a mask or bandana covering the mouth, nose and neck. A hat is always a good idea, too.
All in all, cold or room temperature foods are more of a risk for the elderly or immune deficient. Any food that can be reheated in the microwave for one minute is the best bet. This is not the time to prepare potato salad for those outside of the home. Think single-serve breakfast burritos, stews, Bolognese, lasagna, red beans or bread puddings ready to be zapped.
The microwave is great at killing any possible germs or virus on both the dish you bring and the food. Hint: a warm bread pudding or not quite fully cooked molten brownie cake or peach pie that grandma can heat for a minute is much safer than a cupcake.
Did you know? Shoes can track the coronavirus into your house
That’s right, shoes and bare feet can walk viral particles right into your house and down the hall. 2020 may well be the year that America learns to mimic Japanese culture and remove our shoes at the door.
My doctor advises leaving shoes outside or at the door and spraying the soles, insides, and tops of the shoes with disinfectant each time they are worn outside the house, especially after visiting businesses such as groceries or drugstores.
If you’re new to these measures, today is also a great day to also mop the floor old-style like our grandmothers did. Wearing kitchen gloves, fill a bucket with a gallon of hot water and disinfectant floor cleaner (or 3/4 cup of bleach) and mop. Replace the water after a few rooms and start with a fresh bucket or cleaner and water. If you use a bleach solution to clean, then when done, mop again with clear water to rinse.
I just explained the concept of mopping and then rinsing to a 28-year-old. When you’re done, go old-school Uptown, rinse the mop, then the prop the mop on the fence to dry in the sun (the sun kills germs).
How to sanitize groceries like a scientist
Whether your groceries, sundries or supplies arrive via mail, delivery or are purchased in the store, experts say the items should be sanitized before they enter your house, pantry and refrigerator. The best method is to create a “dirty” staging area, such as a section of the patio or porch, outside the house. If that’s not possible, then choose a counter or table where items that are not yet sanitized can be staged for cleaning.
After the plastic containers and metal cans are wiped down with a disinfectant solution, and the produce is rinsed with water or vegetable wash, move them to the “clean” area before they make their way inside to the pantry or refrigerator. Bags and boxes should be left outside and discarded. Before and afterwards, of course, wash your hands.
Going out … just like Jesse James
The CDC has expanded its precautionary measures and is advising that Americans should be wearing protective masks in public places, especially those places where social distancing is impossible such as at the grocery and drugstore. If masks are not available, doctors are recommending that we tie a bandana around our noses and mouths. Old West outlaw fashion can now be seen at the local Whole Foods.
Going to the doctor
While most routine doctor visits are canceled, some of us still must go to clinics and labs for visits and tests unrelated to COVID-19. Before heading for lab work last week, my doctor called me and advised me to wear gloves, a hat and a face-mask. I was instructed to touch nothing, not to sit down in the waiting room, and to use my elbow to open doors and push elevator buttons.
To prevent the virus from transferring into my car after leaving the medical building, I removed my mask (by the straps according to mask protocol) and gloves and placed them in the trunk of my car in a garbage bag. I then sanitized my hands and forearms before entering the front of my car.
Upon arriving home, I was advised to remove the clothing worn to the hospital inside the front door and toss it directly it to a washing machine with hot water, laundry sanitizer and bleach if possible. Then to jump in the shower and wash my hair whether it needed it or not.
Precautions continue to change
Official precautions continue to change, and we will adjust as they come and hopefully go, but for now, establishing personal sanitizing systems and routines are the best practices to ensure we keep our house, families, and ourselves healthy.
Kristine Froeba is a journalist and 10th-generation Louisianian whose varied background includes food and travel writing, military writing, celebrity ghostwriting, public relations, social media management, fundraising, and preservation. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, historic renovation zealot and full-time dabbler.