Spring Cleaning Tips During COVID-19

Let’s clean up — not clean out this spring.

Spring is here and in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is now more important than ever to clean, disinfect, and sanitize. However, now is not the time to do a big purge, which would result in leaving items on the curb to be picked up. As people #StayHome, waste collection systems across the country are experiencing a strain due to increased residential waste. Any items left on the curbside that can’t be picked up can create litter and become an unintended hazard. To keep our communities and trash haulers safe, please focus efforts on cleaning up, not cleaning out. Here are ways to spring clean without creating excess waste:

  1. Clean Up: According to the CDC, COVID-19 can live on surfaces for an extended amount of time. By sanitizing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including doorknobs, sinks, desks, computers, and phones, we can all keep our homes clean and help stop the spread of the virus and other germs. Sanitizing reduces the growth of germs and bacteria while disinfecting “kills” the germs and bacteria. Click here for a list of cleaning products that are effective against the virus, according to the EPA.
  1. Donate: With the closure of some donation centers, hold off on cleaning out and discarding items you no longer want. If you do clean out closets, attics, basements, pantries, etc., it is recommended to box up any unwanted items and store them until you can take to your local donation center. Some items, including diapers and food, may still be accepted at shelters and food banks. Other items to consider donating include old ski goggles to be used as PPE, which is in short supply and can be used by health care workers. Be sure to check locally.
  1. Spruce Up the Yard: While some communities have already made changes to recycling regulations, several are also suspending yard waste, bulk item pickup, and special collection services until further notice. To avoid adding extra trash, consider postponing any plans to collect and throw away yard debris, such as leaves or dead grass. If you do clean up your yard, consider starting a compost pile or bag up and store the debris until your local hauler is collecting again.
  1. Upcycle: Several items that you may already have in your home can be upcycled and made into masks to help slow the spread of the virus and reserve PPE for essential workers. The CDC is advising people to wear masks and/or cloth face coverings in public settings. If you can sew, there are patterns available online to use. Household materials, such as bandanas and t-shirts, can also be transformed into a mask without sewing by using rubber bands or hair ties. To protect yourself from the virus after use, it is advised to use a material that can be regularly washed. Some tutorials also include using coffee filters or HEPA-certified vacuum cleaner filters to insert into the cloth face covering. Learn more about how you can protect yourself and how to make masks at home here.
  1. Freshen Up: There are also many spring-cleaning activities you can do while you are at home that won’t result in excess waste. Some activities to freshen your home include cleaning windows; dusting; organizing seasonal clothes or décor; washing cold-weather items, like sweaters and heavy jackets, before storing; organizing the fridge and pantry; flipping your mattress; wiping down blinds; and sweeping under large appliances.

Take the Keep America Beautiful® Spring Cleaning Challenge
Sheltering in place is healthy, helps flatten the curve, and it’s a great opportunity to sort through and organize. Post a before and after picture to show how you’ve transformed your space. Tag Keep America Beautiful on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use the hashtags #BeautifulSpringCleaning and #DoBeautifulThings.

When spring cleaning, do your part to limit the amount of excess trash created and box up and store any unwanted items until they can be donated. Check locally for donation center closings, as well as changes to local recycling and special collection services. For information on how to recycle during COVID-19, click here.

Keep America Beautiful also advises against using PPE to manage recyclables or waste in your homes as they are in short supply and desperately needed by the medical community.

Please note: COVID-19 is reported to live on surfaces for an extended period of time, according to a recent study:

  • As an aerosol, for up to 3 hours (e.g. sneezing, coughing, etc.)
  • Clothing – from several hours up to a day
  • Up to 4 hours on copper
  • Up to 24 hours on cardboard
  • Up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel
  • Up to 4 days on glass surfaces like a smartphone

General health and safety:

  1. Exercise physical distancing and wear a mask when required to interact with others.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food. (CDC)
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (CDC)
  4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. (CDC)

Sign up for the Keep America Beautiful newsletter to receive more tips here.