The holidays are here! Whether you are traveling, or guests will come to you, you want to be prepared, especially this year. Our holiday cleaning guide gives you tips on how to be safe and keep your home clean during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether you are traveling or hosting.
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Update for 2020 – COVID-19
Whether traveling or hosting, this holiday season is different. Holiday cleaning has taken on a whole new meaning. The CDC has recommended that everyone limit potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by using good hygiene including frequent handwashing, social distancing (6 feet apart), and wearing masks.
“The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading.”1 If someone has been exposed to COVID-19, they should both quarantine and isolate themselves. Quarantine means no contact with anyone outside your home. Isolation means to have no contact with anyone either inside or outside your home to prevent others from getting sick. Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone within the last 14 days should NOT travel or host a gathering.
“Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.” Be sure to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before eating, drinking, smoking, or touching your face. Be considerate of others and keep your distance (6 feet). If it is not possible to keep your distance (when using public transportation for example), be sure to wear your mask, and wash your hands when you arrive at your destination.
Larger gatherings are inherently more risky than smaller or virtual gatherings. Consider carefully: how many people to invite, where they can gather, what restroom facilities will be used, and how often facilities might need cleaning. Gatherings where people wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines, and frequently wash hands are lower risk than those that do not. To learn what products the Environmental Working Group says are effective against COVID-19 and other viruses go to 16 Effective and Safe Products To Guard Against Coronavirus.
To learn even more about hosting and traveling this holiday season, be sure to check out the CDC’s in-depth post Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings.
Tips for Travelers
Especially if you have allergies or special health needs, knowing how to keep healthy while traveling is essential. It is important to respect your host, and not ask exceptional demands of them. Our tips can help you travel well, and have a great time!
If you have allergies or asthma, it is imperative to be prepared and to prevent attacks if possible. Contact your host before you arrive, and ask about pets and other allergens including: food allergens like nuts or eggs, or airborne allergens (pet dander, flowering houseplants).
Traveling with Food Allergies
Especially if you have food allergies, offer to bring food to share, or bring food that is okay for you to eat. It is more polite to bring your own than to expect the host to prepare food just for you. You can also ask your host to label foods according to the ingredients. A simple index card with the name of the dish, and possible allergens listed is invaluable as a guest! As a host, be assured guests will enjoy learning more about what is being served, and your thoughtfulness may even spark conversation.
Traveling with Pet Allergies
If pet allergies are severe, ask your host, ‘Will pets be present in the home? Can they be removed from the rooms I will be entering?’ Especially if you will be spending the night, talk to the host about sleeping arrangements. Speaking to your host long before arriving gives them more time to accommodate your needs and shows courtesy. Remember that you are a guest in their home, and your host wants you to have an enjoyable stay.
For more information about traveling with allergies and asthma go to: Traveling With Asthma and Allergies | AAFA.org.
For more information on being a good guest go to: How to Be a Good Houseguest and Holiday Houseguest Manners by the Emily Post Institute.
Tips for Hosts
You want your home to be clean, inviting, and safe for guests. Have you remembered those things that should be cleaned or maintained regularly? What household chores are only done periodically, and tend to be forgotten? Here is our list of all things dirty, and how to clean them!
Change Air Filters
A great place to start cleaning is with your air filter. Every 3 months be sure to change the air filter in your HVAC system. If the filter has mold growing on it, it may be time to have the system cleaned. Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on your system helps remove more allergens and keep the air clean. To learn more about mold and your HVAC system check out our post How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC System.
Dust builds up everywhere, but especially long uncleaned places such as the tops of cabinets, refrigerators, ceiling fans, window frames, walls, air conditioner grills and vents, light fixtures, and ceilings, especially popcorn ceilings. A long pole duster helps reach high places, but a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is best when dusting. The filter keeps the dust particles from returning to the air. To learn more about HEPA filters go to What is a HEPA filter? | Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) | US EPA.
Rarely Moved Furniture And Appliances
At least once a year, pull out your refrigerator, so that you can vacuum and mop under it. Be sure to vacuum the coils as well. The same for furniture and washers and dryers. You wouldn’t believe all the dust, dirt, and mold that can hide behind and under them! To learn even more about cleaning appliances check out our posts: Eliminate Washing Machine Odor for Good and Monstrous Mold.
We look out our windows all the time, but do we really look at them? Take a glance at (rather than through) your windows, and you may find they need a good cleaning! First vacuum sills and window treatments. You can make your own window cleaner with vinegar and/or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Essential oils of lemon and orange are antimicrobial, and have been used for centuries for cleaning. Lemon, orange, lime, and other essential oils of citrus fruits can cause photosensitivity, so be sure to wear gloves when using them. To learn more about essential oils and how to use them safely check out our post: Essential Oils For A Healthy Home.
Carpets and Rugs
Carpets and rugs are a haven for dust and dirt. The best thing to do with carpets, is to get rid of them. The bottom line is… carpet will always collect allergens and irritants, and they are impossible to fully clean. Hard surface flooring is always a better option because you can completely sanitize and disinfect it if needed. To learn more about carpets and why they are a bad idea, check out our post: What’s Hiding in your Carpets?
If you’re not quite ready to ditch the carpet, vacuuming often with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is best. Using a HEPA filter on your vacuum helps remove particles smaller than 0.3 microns or larger (the size of most allergens) and helps keep the air clean. Vacuuming often is important, especially for those with allergies, but at least once a year, steam or deep clean carpets. This can be a DIY project. You can rent steam or buy steam cleaners, and make your own cleaning solutions. Check out How To Deep Clean Carpet Yourself from Apartment Therapy to learn more.
Beds and Bedrooms
Wash mattress pads and pillows in hot water (if possible) to remove dust and dust mites. If your washing machine has an ‘allergen’ cycle, use it! Be sure to follow manufacturer’s washing instructions. Wash curtains and vacuum drapes and blinds. Vacuum floors, furniture, and behind beds.
This is a great time of year to go through clothing and decide what to keep and what to donate. There are several great local organizations that help your donations get to people who need them, including: ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving) and Habitat for Humanity. Remember to dust and vacuum in the closet as well!
Clean out the pantry and fridge and toss any old food or expired items. Clean appliances such as the dishwasher, refrigerator, coffee pot, toaster, microwave, stove top, etc.
You can make your own homemade cleaning solutions for a fraction of the cost and with much safer ingredients. Check out our post Cleaning Products – Homemade vs. Store Bought to learn more.
Clean the microwave by adding a very damp rag to the microwave and heating it for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let the steam loosen all the stuck on food for a few minutes. Then, wearing gloves, wipe down the microwave with the hot, damp rag. For stubborn stuck on food, spray with white vinegar and allow it to sit for a few minutes before wiping. Wash the turntable plate with soap and hot water.
Empty the refrigerator if possible, spray and wipe surfaces with white vinegar. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge to keep it smelling clean and fresh.
This particular appliance gets its own section because of the dangerous and toxic chemicals that are sold as oven cleaners. Most commercial oven cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can potentially cause cancer, reproductive harm, skin allergies and irritation, along with allergy and asthma symptoms. The self cleaning feature many ovens have today is not much safer. The oven temperature is raised to 600F, and any food or grease are supposed to turn into ash. However, this can cause the oven to smoke and release a terrible smell.
To safely clean your oven, you only need two simple ingredients – baking soda and water. Make a paste of baking soda and water and add it to the oven walls, door, and floor. Allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 12 hours. Wipe down the oven with a damp cloth, removing all the baking soda. As a final step, after all the baking soda has been removed, spray the interior with white vinegar and wipe dry.
Clean showers, tubs, sinks, and floors. Wash mats, and dust or replace decorative items. Be sure to ventilate the room routinely to prevent mold growth. To learn more about why bathroom ventilation is so important check out our post: Bathroom Exhaust Fans – All You Need To Know. Check out our post A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold to learn how to DIY and when to call in the professionals.
Personal Care Products
Makeup, lotion, and other personal care products expire and should be replaced.22 Check the dates on these products every 6 months to a year. Clean all makeup brushes, and replace them if needed. To learn more about the personal care products you use, and how they are largely unregulated by the FDA go to Cosmetics by the Environmental Working Group. 22, 24, 25
Smoke Detectors, Fire Extinguishers, and First Aid
This is a good time to test those batteries! Smoke detectors can save your life, but only if they work. Fire extinguishers should be checked to determine that they are in working order, and be conveniently located near or in the kitchen. First aid kits should be checked for expiration dates and missing items replaced. To learn more about what should be in your kit, check out First Aid Kits – Mayo Clinic.
Dust (vacuum) electronics, and be sure all wires are connected properly and safely. No wires should be where people could trip and/or pull them out. Clean your computer keyboard and mouse using compressed air to remove crumbs, dust, and other particles. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the keys and mouse down. Cell phones are havens for germs! Following the manufacturer’s instructions, remove the case for your phone, and clean it at least once a month.
Basements and Crawl Spaces
These perhaps little used areas of your home are important to clean and inspect periodically. If your basement or crawl space has a musty smell or you can visibly see mold growing, it is definitely time for cleaning, and perhaps time for a mold inspection. Keep reading to learn more about cleaning mold yourself, and when to call the professionals.
Mold: An Unwelcome House Guest
While cleaning your home if you see mold or smell musty smells, it might be time for a home inspection. Mold is dangerous for your health and not something you want in your home at any time, especially the holidays!
It’s easy to take care of mold as a homeowner, but it’s also a good idea to know when to call in the pros. Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations such as in drywall, under sinks, and in carpet. If the area of mold covers more than about 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue.
You may be able to clean surface mold on the walls, ceilings or floors of your home that are less than ten square feet by using gentle detergents and water. If you see areas larger than ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call Branch Environmental.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
We hope we have given you some great tips on keeping your home truly clean and inviting, and on enjoying your visit with friends and family.
From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Considerations for Events and Gatherings – CDC
- COVID-19: Holiday Celebrations – CDC
- COVID-19: When to Quarantine – CDC
- Isolate If You Are Sick – CDC
- What is a HEPA filter? | Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) | US EPA
- HEPA Filters: What They Are & How They Work – Allergy and Air
- How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC System – Branch Environmental
- Traveling With Asthma and Allergies | AAFA.org
- How to Be a Good Houseguest – Emily Post Institute
- Holiday Houseguest Manners – Emily Post Institute
- Spring Cleaning – Environmental Working Group
- Finding the Best Oven Cleaner: 8 Homemade Natural Oven Cleaners Tested & Rated – Brendid.com
- A Simple Guide To Cleaning Mold – Branch Environmental
- Mold Exposure Symptoms – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Eliminate Washing Machine Odor for Good – Branch Environmental
- Monstrous Mold – Branch Environmental
- Essential Oils For A Healthy Home – Branch Environmental
- How To Deep Clean Carpet Yourself – Best DIY Way to Shampoo Dirty Carpet at Home – Apartment Therapy
- Spring Cleaning Checklist – Merry Maids
- First-aid kits: Stock supplies that can save lives -Mayo Clinic
- Shelf Life and Expiration Dating of Cosmetics – FDA.gov
- Cleaning Products – Homemade vs. Store Bought – Branch Environmental
- Environmental Working Group – Weak Regulation of Cleaning Products
- EWG Not so Sexy – Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne
- 16 Effective and Safe Products To Guard Against Coronavirus – EWG
- ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving)
- Habitat for Humanity