Five Ways To Work Safe During The Corona Virus Epidemic

A woman sneezing into a handkerchief.
Photo credit: mcfarlandmo

Self-employed house cleaners don’t have a “remote work” option. We have to be in our customer’s homes to provide value and get paid.

During this time of Corona Virus (COVID-19), working in our customer’s homes brings special risks to both us and our customers. However, there are ways to reduce the risks as we clean our customers homes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main way Corona Virus (COVID-19) is spread is through coming in contact with droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be inhaled into the lungs of others.  A less common way to spread the virus is through touching virus contaminated surfaces and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.

That is why public health officials constantly remind us not to touch our faces with unwashed hands and to cover all coughs and sneezes.

Cleaning, Sanitizing And Disinfecting

Some people use the terms “cleaning”, “sanitizing” and “disinfecting” as though they are the same. However to the CDC, there is a clear difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. The CDC defines them as:

Cleaning removes dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but removing them on dirty surfaces lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing kills germs to levels considered safe but does not completely eliminate them. Sanitizing is good for food contact surfaces like kitchen countertops, bathroom sinks and shower stalls.

Disinfecting kills nearly all germs on surfaces. Disinfecting may not clean dirty surfaces. However, killing nearly all germs on a surface after cleaning, can lower the risk of spreading infection.

Hard Surfaces

When cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces like tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets and sinks, wear gloves. Be sure to toss disposable gloves after cleaning in each of your customers homes.

Also wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after removing disposable gloves.  Try to keep an extra bottle of hand sanitizer in your car, purse or backpack.

Dirty surfaces should be cleaned using your usual cleaning solutions and water before disinfecting. Follow the cleaning with the disinfectant liquid you already use for bathroom and kitchen cleaning. You can also use diluted household bleach solutions and alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.

Diluted bleach in a spray bottle is an inexpensive disinfecting standby for childcare centers and restaurants. Sanitizing solutions use less bleach than disinfecting solutions. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning chemicals like ammonia, commercial disinfectants, rust removers and acids (like vinegar or grout cleaners).

Disinfecting bleach solution recipe with US and metric measurements.
Photo credit: Bleach bottle Stikeseff

Soft Surfaces and Laundry

If you are cleaning and disinfecting soft or porous surfaces like rugs, carpets and drapes, first clean away visible dirt. Then wash those items in the warmest water you can use for those surfaces. If they can’t be washed, spray those soft surfaces with disinfectant spray (not bleach or bleach solution).

If you offer laundry care as part of your cleaning service:

• Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry (a good idea all of the time).

• Toss disposable gloves after each use.

• If you are wearing reusable gloves, those gloves should be for COVID-19 cleaning only. Wash your gloves with soap and water like you wash your hands after handling the laundry. Then wash your hands when you remove your gloves.

• If you don’t use gloves when handling dirty laundry, be sure to wash your hands afterwards.

• Do not shake dirty laundry. You want to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus through the air.

• Wash laundry using the warmest possible water setting. Dry the laundry completely. It is okay to wash clothes from an ill person with other people’s laundry.

• Clean and disinfect clothes hampers. If you can, line the hamper with a disposable bag or one that can be washed.

Keeping Your Hands Clean

Try to wash your hands when arriving at your customer’s home, prior to leaving their home and use hand sanitizer frequently during the cleaning. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

CDC handwashing poster in English and Spanish.

While facial masks are crucial in preventing the spread of the virus, for working house cleaners, gloves are very important.

Disposable latex or nitrile gloves should be worn when you are making beds, dusting, cleaning mirrors (especially bathroom mirrors), shower doors and handling trash and recycling containers.  Facial masks are most important when working around customers present in their homes while you are cleaning. 

That goes double if they are over sixty or have underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma or weakened immune systems.

Be sure to toss disposable gloves after using them in each customer’s home. I have been using two or more pairs of disposable gloves in each customer’s home since COVID-19 became a concern.

One pair for dry work like dusting. Another pair for wet work, like cleaning and sanitizing kitchen countertops and appliances.

That is in addition to the heavy duty reusable gloves I always wear when cleaning bathrooms and kitchens.  Disposable gloves can be found in any grocery store in the cleaning goods aisle, hardware stores or your favorite janitorial supply store.

Pay Attention To Your Own Health

The most important person to take care of during this time is you. If you are sick, you can’t take care of your family or run your cleaning business. Stay aware of how you feel day to day and do what you can to stay safe.

Get medical attention immediately if you have any of the emergency warning signs. Symptoms and emergency warning signs of COVID-19 include:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
• Confusion or inability to arouse
• Lips or face turning blue
Abdominal pain
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

Get bed rest if you feel ill with COVID-19.

If you do get sick, slow down and call your healthcare provider. Let them know about your symptoms. Tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help your doctor take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. Follow CDC instructions for how to take care of yourself at home.

All of these tips are especially important if you have customers who are at higher risk for getting very ill from COVID-19. These higher risk persons include:

• Adults over 65 years old
• People with chronic medical and auto-immune conditions like:
◦ Heart disease
◦ Diabetes
◦ Lung disease
◦ Lupus
◦ HIV-AIDS
• Pregnant women

COVID-19 is a serious public health risk.

As I write this, many countries throughout the world and states in the USA have closed schools, bars, restaurants and other public spaces. Also, many private companies, from car manufacturers to banks have shut their doors to slow the spread of the virus.

As a self-employed house cleaner right now, it is important to do extra disinfecting and hand washing. Both will take extra time and effort.

Getting into those habits will be hard. Yet, taking the time to do those extra steps now may keep your customers and your family safe in the near future.

Most important is staying aware of your own health and your customers health. You are your cleaning business. You do the work. Your customers pay the bills. Without you or your customers you don’t have a cleaning business.

Take care of yourself. We can get through this.

What are you doing to keep safe during this epidemic? Share your tips in the comments below. ⬇︎

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