Plus, the scientific reason why you should always (always!) close the toilet lid.

By Katie Holdefehr
April 15, 2020
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During the current coronavirus crisis, many of us have come to see cleaning our homes in a whole new light. While we've always strived for homes that feel clean, calm, and organized, we've suddenly doubled down on disinfecting, and scientific studies and CDC recommendations became our guides. Spring cleaning in the time of coronavirus isn't just about creating the appearance of clean, but it's about actually sanitizing or disinfecting surfaces.

The truth of the matter is, this type of cleaning may actually be less satisfying than, say, organizing your closet. After all, when you disinfect a doorknob, the difference is on a microscopic level. No one, not even you, can see or admire the change. But during cold and flu season, and especially during the current public health crisis, it's these types of cleaning habits that help prevent the spread of disease. Here are five little everyday habits learned during the coronavirus outbreak that, if adopted, may make our homes cleaner forever.

I'll be honest: I've never been one for taking off my shoes when I walk in the door. But recent research on the coronavirus has changed my tune. According to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shoes may potentially function as carriers for the virus. In a study of hospitals in Wuhan, China, half of the samples taken from the soles of medical staff's shoes in the ICU tested positive for the virus, leading to the recommendation that the staff disinfect their shoes when walking out of wards with COVID-19 patients.

But even before the current crisis, studies have shown that our shoes are capable of spreading germs around our homes. Luckily, the solution is simple: just get in the habit of taking off your shoes when you walk in the door. Consider setting up an entryway shoe rack and leave a pair of comfy slippers by your front door to slip into, so this new habit feels like a cozy ritual. If you have to use your hands to take off your shoes, follow up with a thorough hand washing.

Close the Toilet Lid Before You Flush

If you've been waiting for the scientific proof that your family members should close the toilet lid—here it is! Studies have illuminated the risk of "toilet plumes," or aerosols that are produced when you flush a toilet. If you leave the lid open when you flush, the aerosols that are released into the air can land on nearby surfaces that others may touch. Yuck! To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (and other germs and bacteria), always close the lid, then flush.

While you're at it, store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.

Learn the Importance of Contact Time

It's one of the most common cleaning mistakes people make, but if you truly want to disinfect those frequently-touched surfaces in your home—doorknobs, counters, remote controls—you have to commit to each cleaning product's recommended contact time. As the CDC points out in its coronavirus house-cleaning guide, most disinfecting sprays and products have to sit on a surface for a certain length of time in order to effectively destroy germs or bacteria. Dry the kitchen counter too quickly, and you could be leaving it covered in germs.

Get in the habit of checking how long that Clorox spray or bleach solution needs to sit before wiping it away, and a little patience will make your home much cleaner.

Stop Taking Your Phone Into the Bathroom

Many of us have become so inseparable from our phones, we even bring them with us into the bathroom. If you read the above messaging about terrifying "toilet plumes," then I don't need to go into details about how much bacteria could be winding up on your tech device. Assuming you don't disinfect your phone after each time you use the loo, you could be exposing your (hopefully) freshly washed hands to germs the second you pick up your phone.

It's a tough habit to break, but the solution is straightforward: avoid bringing your phone into the bathroom.

Clean Your Reusable Shopping Bags (and Don't Put Them on the Counter)

One lesson we've learned during the current coronavirus crisis is the importance of washing our reusable grocery bags. If you don't have a dedicated bag for transporting raw meat and fish, you could be spreading E. coli or salmonella to the rest of your groceries. And if you set those bags down on the kitchen counter, the same bacteria could wind up on your food prep surface.

Thoroughly cleaning our Trader Joe's bags is of particular importance right now, but it's a good habit we hope to continue.

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