More on the Covid-19 pandemic

Spring is at our doorstep, but there’s no stepping outdoors for the foreseeable future. Which makes right now the ideal time to celebrate the change of seasons with spring cleaning and give your entire house a scrub down. That indefinite future date you’ve been scheduling all your cleaning and tidying up chores to – it is here. We’re home all day, every day and it’s time to cross out tidying up from your to-do list.

It’s also your chance to mimic the country-wide disinfection drive and free your digs from every last smidgen of germs, dirt and/or virus tracked in from dashes to the supermarket.

A study by the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the coronavirus survives on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours. That’s three entire days. On stainless steel, the same study detected virus a good 48 hours after and when it came down to cardboard it was 24 hours.

Those are materials that constitute a lot of furniture, appliances and objects that populate our house. It’s a gargantuan task to pull off on your own, especially if your regular house help’s services have been suspended because of social distancing.

The good news: You don’t need fancy industrial appliances or make multiple visits to the supermarket to buy disinfectants and cleaning supplies. You also need not toil away at it alone – rope in your kids and family members to become your housekeeping crew and make a task-oriented bonding exercise out of it. In case you’re looking for more motivation, you can clock in some NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) while sweeping the floors and burn off some calories and restless energy in the process.

Cleaning and disinfecting go hand in hand

Before you go on a sanitising spree, tackle dust and dirt. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) highly recommends cleaning surfaces first before disinfecting them as dirt and impurities can reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants. They also recommend using a diluted household bleach solution, or an alcohol-based solution with at least 70 per cent alcohol.

The Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek’s executive housekeeper Sheeja Sasidharan reminds that when wiping or spraying the surface with disinfectant, make sure it remains wet for at least 30 seconds.

Besides your regular household disinfectant, isopropyl alcohol can be an effective disinfectant against many pathogens as long as the alcohol concentration is 70 per cent.

The forgotten places

Floors and walls get our undivided attention during cleaning sprees, but there are inaccessible areas of the house where dust bunnies, the occasional cobweb and dirt thrive: hard-to-reach ledges, light fixtures, vents and door knobs are some of the commonly overlooked areas, remind experts.

‘Door handles are one of the dirtiest areas and need good attention,’ reminds Sheeja. As tempting as it might be to douse these surfaces in bleach, a simple disinfectant wipe will do the trick and kill pathogens, says Sheeja.

The same goes for doors, our gateways into the house and its many rooms, so wipe down doors and doors frames too.

A household unsung hero are garbage cans. Wipe out and sanitise rubbish bins, recycling bins and wastebaskets, reminds Abdulrahman Mohammed Rais, owner of Al Leefa Cleaning, a Dubai-based professional cleaning service. White vinegar, he recommends is a great natural cleaning agent that will free it from odours.

Vents and air-conditioning units are other invisible areas that tend not to make it on the everyday cleaning radar. It’s vital to keep these clean as they circulate the air we breathe, explains Sheeja. ‘AC filters need to be removed and cleaned. If you have old AC units that come with trays that collects water, those can breed fungus and algae formation if not cleaned out regularly.

‘If your unit has a metal or plastic frame, wash it and put it back in.’

GE appliances website recommends vaccuming filters with the brush attachment. Followed by a wash in warm water and mild detergent to ensure better airflow. If you’re in doubt about what works best for your appliance, check the user manual.

With vents, unscrew grills and brush off dust and dirt and wipe in with a wet cloth, says Abdulrahaman.

Kitchen clean for kitchen queens

In areas like the kitchen, stovetops and sinks get a daily wipe down as part of spot cleaning. But one of the most hardworking appliances, the oven, is a hotbed of grease and gunk.

Abdulrahman recommends removing oven racks and everything else inside and sponging it clean. 

Refrigerators and freezers will need a doubling down during this quarantine period as we store up on food, which means it’s imperative they’re clean and in condition and won’t spoil food or transfer odours.

‘Use warm water and rub the gasket around the fridge door, throw away expired items, and wipe both inside and out,’ says Adulrahman. To deodorise fridge from stubborn smells of items like strong cheeses or a dish gone rancid, an open container of baking soda left for at least 24 hours in the fridge works wonders. For an extra punch, put in a plate of coffee grounds and they’ll absorb odours.