In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are rethinking how they disinfect the surfaces in their homes and workspaces.
Based on what currently is known about the novel coronavirus, it could remain viable on surfaces for hours or days, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist.
“Understandably, there has been a large demand for cleaning supplies and some shoppers are coming up empty handed at local stores,” Peek said. “It’s easy to make a simple disinfecting solution at home with just bleach and water. The diluted bleach solution can be used if appropriate for the surface for disinfecting purposes. Getting your home clean and disinfected doesn’t require commercially prepared or name-brand disinfecting products.”
To prepare a large amount of bleach solution, mix one-third cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. To prepare a smaller amount, mix four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. Do not use scented bleach, it will not disinfect. Peek warns consumers never to mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. For easy application of a bleach/water disinfecting solution, put the mixture in a spray bottle. If the bleach has been sitting on the shelf in the laundry room for longer than a year, buy a new bottle. Bleach naturally breaks down over time.
Peek said there is a difference in cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but instead removes them, which lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to using chemicals on surfaces to kill germs. Peek said this process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove the germs, but kills the germs on a surface after cleaning in. This also helps to further lower the risk of spreading infection.
“Tables, doorknobs, countertops, light switches, handles, desks, faucets, sinks, toilet handles and toilet seats are high-touch surfaces in the home and office,” she said. “When cleaning and disinfecting, wear disposable gloves to protect your skin and discard after each cleaning. If surfaces are dirty, clean them first and then disinfect. Be sure to allow for proper ventilation.”
In addition, Peek reinforces the importance of people keeping their hands clean. She said to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that is not an option, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol, can be used.
Peek offers more information about making a bleach disinfecting solution in a video that can be viewed at https://okla.st/2J9wMM5. She also demonstrates the proper way to use hand sanitizer in this video that can be found online at https://okla.st/3dicb6h.
Shopping for food safely during coronavirus pandemic
Most everyone is familiar with stocking up on a few extra essentials during storm season. However, with cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, people are finding themselves social distancing for longer periods of time.
Undoubtably, many Oklahomans have made the trek to the grocery store to get supplies, which is a good idea, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Extension food specialist.
“While most folks are stocked up for a several days, or even a couple of weeks, they will eventually have to go back to the store for more supplies,” Brown said. “Be sure to keep safety precautions in mind before venturing out of the house.”
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the house. Obviously, people will come into contact with a lot of different surfaces while they shop, including shopping carts, credit card keypads and products others have touched. Shoppers may ask themselves if the fresh produce and other food items are safe.
“No washing method completely removes or kills all microbes which may be present on produce. However, studies have shown that thoroughly rinsing fresh produce under running water is an effective way to reduce the number of microorganisms,” she said. “Washing fruits and vegetables not only helps remove dirt, bacteria and stubborn garden pests, but also helps remove residual pesticides.”
Brown suggests waiting to wash produce until it is ready to be used. Washing produce before use may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage, so it is recommended to wait and wash fruits and vegetables right before using.
For those who may want to go ahead and wash the produce before storing, Brown said to be sure and dry thoroughly with clean paper towels.
Try to maintain social distancing as much as possible. Move away from people who are coughing, especially those who fall into a higher risk category. Wearing gloves while shopping is an extra layer of protection, too.
Once the groceries are bagged and people are ready to leave the store, take advantage of hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes at the door if they are available. And, try not to touch your face. Once back at home, consumers should give their hands another thorough washing.
Brown said at this point there is no scientific evidence consumers need to wipe down all of the groceries when putting them away.
“This really is a matter of preference, and an extra measure of caution certainly won’t hurt anything,” she said. “But if items are going to be stored for a week or more before being used, there isn’t a need to wipe them down before storing.”
Another option for consumers in some areas is home delivery. There are several companies that offer this service, and it could be a very handy alternative, especially for those consumers who are at higher risk of becoming infected. Brown said the same safety precautions apply in that consumers should wash their hands thoroughly after accepting the home delivery.
Being vigilant about cleaning does not apply just to groceries. Be sure to regularly wipe down counter tops, faucets, doorknobs, cabinet pulls, refrigerator handles and toilet handles with sanitizing wipes, soap and water or a spray bleach solution.
“This whole scenario is new to us and information is changing every day,” Brown said. “Don’t be afraid to go to the store, but be sure to take all of these precautions to help ensure your health and safety.”
Getting through financial emergency
Very rarely there are financial emergencies as serious as the one our nation is seeing now with the economic downturn influenced by the CoVID19 virus. Some people won’t feel the effects of the economic slowdown much while some folks will be greatly impacted.
No one knows for sure, but experts say the economy may be impacted for months while we wait for the CoVID19 virus to run its course. If you have a financial emergency due to lost wages there are a few ways to lessen its effects.
First, prioritize your budget to provide the essentials for your family. Shelter, food and transportation are the first bills that should be paid. Secondly, keep health, car and homeowners or renters insurance up to date. A sickness, fire or car accident without proper insurance would be devastating to an already strained budget. But you can call your insurance provide to see if there are ways you might save some money on premiums by raising your deductible or eliminating add-ons you may be able to live without.
Eliminate (if you need to) any non-essential. Cable or satellite TV, streaming services, subscriptions to gyms or the local coffee shop can be eliminated. Since some retail shops are closed such as restaurants, bars, gyms and salons shopping less might be easy. Many restaurants are still offering take – out or drive through however, and eating at home is easier on your budget. (an added benefit is you know who prepared the food.)
Find out if there is a food bank in your area if you feel food-insecure. Don’t be embarrassed to use a service being provided for just this very reason—an emergency. Some utility companies have announced that they will not cut off services for a time. Check to see if your particular utility provider is one of these and if necessary you might delay an electric or gas or water bill. (Those amounts will be due at a later time, however.)
If you can’t pay ANY bill remember that good communication is key! Call the creditor and explain your situation. They may be able to help by letting you skip a payment or two (adding those payments on to the balance) or by letting you make a partial payment. Be sure to get those agreements in writing so you can refer back to them in the future if needed.
Avoid putting extra charges on your credit card if possible. And if it is really necessary, be very careful about what you charge. Remind yourself of your credit limit and do not exceed it. Be aware also, of your interest rate.
If you still have some income, you might adjust or temporarily stop payroll deductions to savings or retirement but don’t be tempted to cash in your retirement account. You will be hit with penalties and taxes which could take away a big part of your account.
If you have an emergency account, this is the time to use it. This is a genuine emergency for many people. But remember, this is a temporary situation. Be strong and know that you are capable of cutting back on spending for a time.