5 Easy Steps to Decontaminate Yourself at Home

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The number of people infected with the Coronavirus keeps climbing all the time, with more and more cases showing up here at home, now that testing is becoming more widespread.

While the US has taken the number one, worldwide, in total cases, we can expect that to increase, surpassing even the number of cases that China is willing to admit to.

We are rapidly reaching a point where it will become dangerous to go out in public, due to the high number of people walking the streets who are infected and spreading the disease, even though they may not be symptomatic.

New York City, which is now considered an epicenter of the disease, with over 5% of the total cases worldwide, is probably already at that point. When 1/8 of the population is diseased, you can’t safely make contact with anyone outside your home.

But this doesn’t eliminate the need to leave the house now and then. If nothing else, we are all going to have to replenish our stocks of food and other critical supplies as the lockdown continues. That means going out in public, and if the stores continue with the current restricted hours, there will be no time we can go shopping and not expect to encounter other people.

Okay, so how can we go out in public, without bringing the disease back into our homes when we return?

We’re going to have to start decontaminating ourselves, the moment we arrive home before we make contact with anything.

Ideally, this decontamination should be done outside the family home, say on the back patio. If you have a gate in your fence, allowing access to the backyard, it would be good to set up a decontamination area there, allowing you to decontaminate in some level of privacy, yet still, be outside.

When we get to that point, we should also decontaminate anything we bring home with you.

How do you know that the box of breakfast cereal you just bought wasn’t coughed on by someone with COVID-19? You don’t. Since the virus can survive for up to nine days on hard surfaces, it would be good to decontaminate it, along with decontaminating yourself.

There are three basic ways of decontaminating, although only two of them are practical for our needs. The third method, using heat, requires getting the object hot enough to kill off germs.

But that’s also hot enough to kill us; not a desirable outcome. So we’ll leave that one aside for now. The other two are ultraviolet (UV) light and disinfectants.

Decontaminating with UV Light

Ultraviolet light is uniformly fatal to viruses, breaking down their molecular structure. This is extremely handy for us, as sunlight contains a lot of UV.

That UV isn’t blocked by clouds either, although rain will make it hard for it to get through.

To disinfect with UV, every surface must be exposed to the light. While UV can kill bacteria in as little as 10 seconds, for safety sake we need to work with a time frame of three to four minutes.

So the first step in our decontamination process is to stand in the sun for three to four minutes, turning slowly so that the sunlight can reach all sides of our body.

Of course, there will always be parts of our bodies that are shaded, unless we are going to stand on our heads. So this form of decontamination isn’t going to be enough by itself.

However, it can be enough for decontaminating packages, whether delivered to our door or purchased in one of our local stores.

Decontaminating Packages with UV

If you receive a package delivered to your home, pick it up with disposable rubber gloves on and move it to your decontamination area in the back yard.

There, set it in bright sunlight, arranging it in such a way as to ensure that the most possible surface area is exposed to the light. Leave it there for a few minutes, then turn it over, so that whatever sides were not exposed to the sunlight can be exposed.

If there’s a chance that the package is contaminated, we have to assume that there’s a chance that the contents are as well; that the person who packaged the shipment is infected and had coughed on the package. Therefore, it’s a good idea to open the package outdoors and expose the contents to UV light as well.

The package itself can be disposed of in the outside garbage can.

Once you have allowed all sides of the shipment to be exposed to UV light, remove your disposable rubber gloves, and dispose of them, before picking the item(s) up. If you were to pick them up with the gloves on, you might very well re-contaminate the package.

Decontaminating with Disinfectants

Even if you decontaminate yourself with UV, it’s still a good idea to use chemical decontamination as well, especially for the parts of your body which are shadowed when standing in the sun, such as those shaded by your arms.

You’ll need some sort of disinfectant for this, such as:

  • A commercially manufactured disinfectant spray
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol – must be at least 60%. Do not use denatured alcohol, as it has additives which make it poisonous for human contact
  • Hydrogen peroxide – must be at least 3%
  • Chlorine bleach – most bleach is 6%; dilute it at a ratio of 1/8 cup + 4 teaspoons per gallon of water
  • Tincture of iodine (however, this tends to stain)

Whatever type of disinfectant you choose to use, it’s best to have it in a spray bottle for convenience, speed of decontamination and to reduce waste. If possible, adjust the spray bottle for a fine mist. To disinfect:

  1. Spray the disinfectant over your entire body. You’ll need an assistant to help you get your back, as it’s really hard to spray your back and you can’t see if you’ve done a thorough job.
  2. Allow the disinfectant to sit for a minute, and then rinse off of any parts of your body where you feel it is necessary. Note: In most cases, it isn’t necessary to rinse off, as it will evaporate.
  3. Wash your hands for a minimum with normal hand soap and water. Although you can use antibacterial soap, it isn’t necessary and won’t help with eliminating Coronavirus any better than normal soap will.
  4. When you enter the home, change your clothes, putting the clothes you’ve been wearing in the hamper to be washed.
  5. Wash your hands again, after removing your clothes.

Please note that no system of decontamination is totally perfect; but the more thoroughly you disinfect, the less chance that you will bring any virus into the home. In a sense, this is a game of odds and what you’re trying to do is tilt the odds in your favor. You’ll know you’ve lost or won by whether or not anyone in your family comes down with the disease.

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