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How the pandemic has changed cleaning

Brian Sansoni has had a very busy year. As senior vice president and chief spokesperson at the American Cleaning Institute, he has been on top of the changes in the way America cleans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the institute's 140-plus member companies are the manufacturers and formulators of soaps, detergents and cleaning products used in household, commercial, industrial and institutional settings. Sansoni, a 20-year veteran of the association, kept on top of the latest developments as the virus spread and gathered information on proper hygiene, cleaning and disinfection practices.

Sansoni joined The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

A: Targeted hygiene practices can go a long way to help keep families and communities safe. You do not need to "panic clean" around-the-clock. Even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is to clean and disinfect as needed. Clean frequently-touched surfaces, like door handles and light switches every day and wipe down food preparation surfaces frequently. If someone in your home is sick, you will need to increase your cleaning practices.

Q: Once everyone in my household has been vaccinated, do I still need to clean everything often?

A: Proper cleaning and disinfecting practices are proved to help protect against the spread of germs and viruses. Even after you are vaccinated, the cleaning and hygiene habits adopted at the onset of the pandemic will continue to play a crucial role in helping prevent the spread of future illness. Our recent survey found that 85 percent of Americans are likely to maintain the same level of cleaning practices even after the pandemic has passed. Smart, targeted hygiene and cleaning practices will continue to play a crucial role in protecting our families and communities.

Q: I've hoarded disinfect wipes since the pandemic started. Do they expire?

A: The shelf life of disinfectants is approximately one year from the manufacture date. The expiration date is there because the active ingredient may degrade or become less effective over time. Try to use up your supplies by the expiration date or donate some of your stockpile so it doesn't expire before use. If you need to dispose of an expired product, unused amounts can generally be safely disposed of down the drain or in the trash, but check the label (and local laws) for safe disposal instructions.

Q: I've noticed a lot of popular home organizers storing cleaning products in decorative containers. Is this advisable?

A: The growing trend displaying detergent as decor is not advisable and also not safe. Storing liquid laundry packets and other laundry detergents in clear glass or plastic jars can open the door for potential accidental exposures. Liquid laundry packets and detergents should be stored in their original containers, up high out of sight and reach of children.

Q: How can you get the best deals on cleaning products?

A: I'm a coupon guy; I scour the weekend coupons and will often try to find deals at local supermarkets that will double the coupon offer.

Q: Can you refill bottles of hand sanitizer?

A: You should only refill hand sanitizer with the same product that was originally in the bottle. This is especially important for public settings, where bulk refillable dispensers must adhere to Food and Drug Administration policies. Not adhering to these practices poses serious risks to health and safety related to misbranding, product integrity, product stability and traceability.

Q: Can you discuss the newly revised CDC COVID-19 cleaning guidelines which no longer recommend regular disinfecting of high-touch surfaces in homes unless there has been a known or suspected person with covid in your home in the last 24 hours?

A: The American Cleaning Institute has consistently echoed and amplified the advice shared by the CDC on cleaning and disinfecting. What's important to note here is that proper use of disinfectants plays an important role in everyday life for millions of people. As noted, CDC continues to recommend disinfection "where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours." For too many households across the country, that situation is still a reality.

Q: Is it necessary to use a bleach wipe whenever you clean the counter after cooking, or is soap and water sufficient?

A: Depending on what your countertops are made of, bleach could discolor or damage them. Be sure to check the product label and use a product safe for the surface. For the most part, you can clean countertops with soap and water or a surface cleaner after cooking. You may want to take the additional step of disinfecting the countertops, especially if someone in the home is ill.

Q: Is it okay to use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands?

A: When the pandemic first broke out, 78 percent of Americans reported regularly washing their hands, but as the pandemic progressed, there was a decrease in handwashing and an increase in the use of hand sanitizer. While there are some instances when handwashing isn't possible, using soap and water is most effective to clean your hands. When you wash your hands correctly, the soap molecules surround bacteria and viruses and rupture their membranes, making them useless. Water washes these ineffective bacteria and viruses down the drain. Follow proper handwashing practices by scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not handy, using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is your next best option.




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