May 28, 2020
We have entered the Dance. Well, really we have been in the dance for a little over a month. We will be in the dance, whether we like it or not, for a long time and house cleaning has now come up in no less than three conversations during this last week.
I imagine that many people reading this are fortunate enough to have someone cleaning their house for them. Likely, since March you haven’t had this luxury. So, is there a way to get our houses cleaned and limit the risk? Well, I think there are a number of things we can do that will decrease risk.
We won’t be able to completely eliminate the risk, of course, the only way to completely eliminate that risk is to clean your house yourself. But, the Dance, assuming hospitals aren’t being overrun, is all about your individual mortality risk, your personal risk tolerance, and risk/benefit ratio of whatever activity you want to go do. Some people will decide to do it themselves. Others may want to roll the dice.
Disclaimer: The below is not based on any studies or recommendations from experts that I have read; it’s based on common-sense from a medically and scientifically minded person.
So, let’s talk about a situation where you can still have the benefit of someone else cleaning your house but attempting to eliminate as much risk as possible.
Move out - this is likely the best thing to do. If you have a second home or a place you can move into for 1-2 days after they clean, then that is a no brainer. The longer you move out the better. But, likely after 24 hours the risk of getting an infection from a surface is getting really low.
Wear masks - Make sure the cleaning people are wearing masks (correctly and the entire time) and that they clean their hands before entering and frequently while they are in the house.
Get out of the house - If you can’t move out, then leave and go somewhere safe (or do the grocery run or other necessary errands that you were already going to do) when they are there.
Divide the house into two parts - If your house is big enough or configured in a way that you can do this, move into a part of the house that they don’t clean (have them clean that area the next time they come). After, they leave if you can continue living in that part of the house for 24 hrs or more than even better.
Clean up after the cleaning people - I get it, at first you are thinking, what’s the point then? But wait, we clean up (really put things away) before they come and for good reason... so they can clean. So, this advice is along the same lines. I am not talking about recleaning everything they just did. I’m talking about a quick 10-15 minutes Clorox wipe wipe-down. All you need to focus on are the areas you are going to touch… door handles and the door edge, light switches, handles (sink, shower, bath, and toilet), and the flat surfaces you touch a lot (kitchen/bathroom counters, desks, and nightstands). It may seem a little weird but, you are not “cleaning.” You are simply decreasing viral contaminants on surfaces you are likely to touch. It will literally take you a few minutes.
Advanced maneuver: Maybe open up the windows and air your house out for some time when you get back?
What do we do? We are fortunate to have a place where we can be for 24hrs+ after the house is cleaned. If we are going back in after 24 hours, then we do a 5 min wipe down. If its been 72hrs+ since they cleaned we really don’t worry about the wipe down. Is this perfect? No, but it’s likely getting down to winning the lottery kinda odds.
Alright, that’s my two cents on how to decrease the risk of getting your house cleaned. If you have any other ideas, let me know.
Stay emotionally connected and physically distant,
PS: I have heard/read that about 10% of infections come from the environment (touching surfaces). This article says 6%. They are inferring this percentage from contact tracing studies. Fascinating and related to the topic at hand.
PPS: Nice short coverage of a study that talks about high-risk scenarios (indoors, big crowds, and long exposure times) and low-risk scenarios (outdoors, a limited number of people, and big rooms with good air movement). To me, the stat that really hits home is that a supermarket customer’s risk of getting COVID in the supermarket was 0.02% but the supermarket employee’s risk was 9%. The risk of getting COVID from a COVID + family member is 12%.
PPPS: This is a Corona decay estimator. It provides a little insight into two variables that affect the half-life of Coronavirus when it is outside a host. You can see that Corona does not like hot and humid. Since this letter is about cleaning houses, I’ll mention that I use an Austin based service call NuWash to get my cars cleaned. We have been employing them for about a year and we just used them for the first time in the COVID-era. We allowed the cars to bake in the sun for 24 hrs after being cleaned. If you happen to be in Austin and want to try out the service, this is my referral code (we both get a little credit). You can imagine, if the temperature is 130-160 degrees in the car, the virus will decay even faster than the 95 degrees on the decay calculator. So, if you get the car cleaned on Wednesday morning, I believe it’s “safe” to get in it by Thursday afternoon. If you then decided to wipe down the handles, steering wheel, and nobbly bits you’re getting into some really small risk numbers.