ISO: reasonable sanitizing routine for a condo dweller with a toddler
March 2, 2020 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I have some hand sanitizer, some bleach wipes, some Lysol spray, and of course soap. What's my routine for keeping myself and my toddler (and grandmas who don't live with us but we see plenty) healthy? Both now and if things get bad later?

Obviously the first thing we do everytime we come in is wash our hands. I was thinking I should hold off on locking the door until after I've washed my hands (to avoid making the lock germy). Press elevator buttons, streetcar buttons, and turn door handles with elbows.

But then what do I do with the bleach wipes and Lysol? SHould I be wiping down the bathroom taps? How often/when? What's the lysol for? What about our out-in-the-world-clothes, should we be changing them when we come in? SHould I sanitizer the stroller handle any time I take it out (maybe 1-3 times a week)? What else should it be standard practice to sanitizer?

If I were to sanitizer the place as much as I could now, can I just wash my hands when I come in and consider my place clean from then on?

Bearing in mind that I don't want to waste all my wipes and hand sanitizer* before I need to, but also that I know that the time to go-all-out-hygeine-freak is two weeks before things go nuts, but that obviously we don't know when that would be.

I will go out tomorrow and buy non-perishables to tide us over for at least a couple of weeks if necessary, maybe longer.

TL/DR: What should my sanitizing routine look like now. What should it look like later if things get bad around here?

*Note that both local drugstore chains are out of hand sanitizer at the warehouse not just the store. I bought out the last of the Lysol spray** and the last of the store brand soap** at my closest drug store.

** I just bought 4 bottles, not like 50 or anything, but they were the last 4. And the soap was on sale, so that could be why they sold out of that.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: People with a better knowledge of pediatric and geriatric health will probably be along soon, but I would say - as someone in Hong Kong, where the epidemic is serious but under some control in some ways:

- practise social distancing to the maximum extent possible to protect your child and elders from you carrying illnesses that do not result in symptoms for you but would be dangerous for them; reducing exposure is the best protection and will reduce the need for you to sanitise compared to if you maintained your normal routine

- soap (all soaps, not just hand soap, but dish soap/detergent/etc) has a damaging effect on the viral envelope of coronaviruses; don’t feel like you need the highest-power caustic soap to have a positive effect, but do spend time making sure folks in and around your home are washing their hands correctly

- sanitise surfaces where contact between people’s bare skin, especially their hands, and objects are higher-risk (the bathroom, the kitchen, door handles, remotes, phones, wall switches, toys your child likes to chew...)

- save your wipes snd santiser, which are portable but are also expensive per use compared to simple bleach and dilutions of bleach and water on a paper towel or something, for times when it is absolutely impossible to sanitise a high-risk surface out of the house (like an airplane seat-back TV) you know your child will want to touch
posted by mdonley at 7:01 PM on March 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So should I mix up a spray bottle of bleach solution and use that to sanitize phones/doors etc? Also, I'm looking for a good sense of how often? Every time we go out and come home? I don't think we can really just not see grandmas for months.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:33 PM on March 2, 2020

Part of this depends on who is coming in and out of your house. If you don't have guests, and wash your hands promptly on entry, then the only surfaces you need to really worry about are the door knobs between you and the bathroom, and the taps. *Note: this means worry about for the coronavirus (although the ability to contract from a surface as opposed to aerosol doesn't actually seem to be established yet). Everyone can still get unpleasantly ill from fecal contamination even if you are completely quarantined, but bathroom hygiene is not observed.

If you have, on the other hand, nine million little kids coming and going, then it makes more sense to sanitize high-use surfaces.
posted by praemunire at 8:48 PM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Be sure to include your phone in your sanitising regime.
posted by hazyjane at 8:58 PM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Everything is so hands-based -- I realize that our hands are what brings the virus to our face and our face is how the virus gets in. But shouldn't I be worried about say, virus on our clothes (from coughing people, touching against surfaces etc.) then getting on other things (the couch etc.) around the house? Also, how much should I try to shield my son and I from EACH OTHER (this seems hopeless with a toddler, but should I try)? Either one of us could get it outside of our home, obviously?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:00 PM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Btw, I occassionally have guests and intend to ask them to wash their hands immediately upon entry.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:01 PM on March 2, 2020

Best answer: Bleach solutions degrade I think? Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle may be better. Test it on your painted surfaces first tho.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:18 PM on March 2, 2020

I was thinking I should hold off on locking the door until after I've washed my hands (to avoid making the lock germy)

I don't know where you live, other than a condo in a building with an elevator, but I think you should stay in the habit of immediately locking your door. Otherwise, you're just trading one hazard for another. After you wash your hands, you can use a clean cloth and a cleanser to quickly wipe down surfaces, including the doorknob.
posted by kbar1 at 10:00 PM on March 2, 2020

Best answer: But shouldn't I be worried about say, virus on our clothes (from coughing people, touching against surfaces etc.)

The NHS has some details on how long different viruses live on various surfaces. It has no information particular to the corona-virus, but should give you an idea. In general, non-porous surfaces are more friendly to viruses than porous ones like cloth.

From my experience of toddlers, I would concentrate more on trying to make sure that they aren't touching their faces/putting random things in their mouths (including their own fingers) rather than being too worried about clothes to sofa transfer. (Particularly if it's winter where you are, and you will be wearing coats outside.)
posted by scorbet at 2:41 AM on March 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yes, a 1:10 bleach:water solution degrades after 24 hours, so make it fresh.
posted by Anonymous at 2:56 AM on March 3, 2020

Best answer: The NHS page I linked to seems to have disappeared in the last 40 minutes which is a bit weird, but the Mayo Clinic does say something similar though with less detail.
posted by scorbet at 3:26 AM on March 3, 2020

Best answer: A personal pet peeve that is also very relevant now that everyone is going ham on sanitizer: if by bleach wipes you mean Clorox wipes, those are NOT bleach based. They are basically disposable towelettes moistened in 409. Clorox is just the brand name. I don't know if 409 is sold out yet, but you can dupe the effect of a Clorox wipe with a paper towel and a spritz of 409.

Lysol wipes, on the other hand, are towelettes moistened in what's basically Lysol. (Lysol still isn't bleach.)
posted by phunniemee at 4:22 AM on March 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I read somewhere official that if someone in your home does get the virus, you should sanitize the toilet/bathroom every time they use it, to try to keep from infecting others in the household. So I’m saving my Clorox-type wipes to use for that, in case I’m too sick to be up for using anything more complicated.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:58 AM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Take your shoes and your kid's shoes off at the door. And put them in something that will keep your baby from playing with them. Better yet, leave them outside the door. And make all of your guests do the same. Perhps the grandmas could each leave a pair of indoor shoes or slippers at your house.

There's a huge fad of spitting these days, not sure why, it's gross. You cannot be aware of every inch your feet tread on outdoors.
posted by mareli at 5:33 AM on March 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you buy bleach, make sure it says "disinfecting bleach" on the bottle. I bought what I thought was just a standard bottle of Clorox the other day for cleaning my humidifier, and the label says it is not for disinfecting. I guess certain formulations of laundry bleach are different? This wasn't even the color-safe stuff. I don't know the chemistry but just passing along what the label says so you don't repeat my error.
posted by misskaz at 8:43 AM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

misskaz: I'm not sure if the "disinfecting" bleach is different from "standard" bleach, but i do know that "no splash" or "splashless" bleach is not effective for sanitization--it is thicker, which keeps it from splashing, but the % of sodium hypochlorite in splashless bleach is less than 5% which is too low for sanitization.

So basically: make sure whatever bleach you buy, regardless of what marketing term is used, has at least 5% sodium hypochlorite in the ingredients label.
posted by alleycat01 at 11:14 AM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I've just wiped down everything in my condo that seems like a frequent touch thing. I might do his toys after he goes to bed tonight.

I'm wondering about my wallet (which is all my cards held together with an elastic). Can I just un-eleastic the cards and soak them in the day's leftover bleach solution for a few minutes? That includes RFID cards (i.e. my transit cards) chip and pin cards, and of course magnetic cards. And they're plastic with some other little plastic coating, presumably.

I'm finding that paper towels are just completely falling apart with the bleach solution. I'm thinking maybe I should use a cloth rag (which would be laundered, after, of course). How safe would it be to use a cloth rag instead of disposable paper towel?

Anyway, here's the question I actually came to ask: If I wanted to do a regular wipe-down routine, should I do it while my toddler is at daycare (so he will come home in the evening to a sanitized home) or should I do it after he goes to bed at night (i.e. after we've spent the day dirtying it)? or both? Or what?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:30 AM on March 3, 2020

I've been in a deep rabbit hole of research about this (I also live in a condo with a toddler and baby in a dense urban area with community spread popping up, what fun) and thought I'd add a few things:

1. you can make your own hand sanitizer with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol + aloe vera gel. Ration is 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol to 1/3 cup aloe vera gel. Your rubbing alcohol should be at least 91% alcohol content to be effective (bc the end product needs to be at least 60% alcohol per CDC to disinfect, so that mixture gives you a gel that's just over 60%).

2. if you use rubbing alcohol to disinfect directly, it's actually better that the alcohol content be closer to 70%. (Apparently the extra water slows evaporation, which helps the alcohol sit on the bacteria long enough to kill it rapidly. "sit on" = you can tell i'm not a scientist.)
Solutions > 91% IPA may kill some bacteria, but require longer contact times for disinfection, and enable spores to lie in a dormant state without being killed. A 50% isopropyl alcohol solution kills Staphylococcus Aureus in less than 10 seconds (pg. 238), yet a 90% solution with a contact time of over two hours is ineffective.
I presume you can just dilute a "too-high" % with water, but again, not a scientist. Anyway I'm literally about to leave my apt to go try to find some.
posted by alleycat01 at 11:36 AM on March 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

When we sanitize the toys at work, we use an old rag that gets laundered at the end. We uses a bleach/water mixture, let it sit a few minutes, and then wipe down with plain water with another rag. I'm not sure the ratio of bleah:water because it depends on the strength of the bleach. We do it either during nap time or after hours.

Remember that you have to remake your bleach solution every day because it breaks down.
posted by kathrynm at 3:58 PM on March 3, 2020

A personal pet peeve that is also very relevant now that everyone is going ham on sanitizer: if by bleach wipes you mean Clorox wipes, those are NOT bleach based.

A personal pet peeves that is also very relevant now that everyone is going ham on sanitizer: The active ingredient in Clorox and Lysol wipes, benzalkonium chloride, is a potent sensitizer. I'm allergic to it now because for years I used it to clean surfaces in my home and wiped down walls of multiple apartments with it. So I'm very much not looking forward to everyone going wild with the wipes. All-natural wipes from Seventh Generation are what I use now. Do consider that you could be exposing your family to a potent sensitizer in an enclosed space if you buy a bunch of the Clorox and Lysol wipes.
posted by limeonaire at 5:36 PM on March 3, 2020

alleycat01: thank you! yes, this was splashless bleach - definitely my bad. good thing to know.
posted by misskaz at 7:01 AM on March 4, 2020

Best answer: I'm wondering about my wallet (which is all my cards held together with an elastic).

It probably is best practices to be cleaning things all the time. But what I actually do is have outside things that I don't expect to be especially sanitary that I put away when I'm at home. So my purse gets put away when I get home and the contents of my purse remains however germy or ungermy it got while I was out. I wash my hands when I get home and after I touch outside things, if I need to while at home. I only clean stuff that I use a lot both at home and while out, like my phone. I try to not worry about the lock or my keys, since I only use them when I'm going out. (If you don't have a place to put it's things where your toddler can't get them, that might mean more cleaning.)

As for cleaning the apartment frequently-- I guess the question is whether you think it's likely that if one of you got sick, you could possibly keep the other from getting sick. Because I'm not sure it's even possible with a toddler, to not get their illnesses and for them to not get yours when you're still needing to be their caregiver. If it's not possible, don't make yourself crazy bleaching all toys everyday. Just clean the house before and after times friends visit. For every day, just clean toys and equipment that have left the house, that you'll use at home.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:24 AM on March 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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