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When it comes to coronavirus (COVID-19), a few small actions can make a big difference. Cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands regularly and practice social distancing (stay two big steps away from others). Most importantly, if you are sick stay home and get tested.

Those small actions don’t stop once you get home. To help slow the spread of germs, especially if you live with others, here are our top tips for home hygiene.

Clean common areas

Clean frequently-touched surfaces with a wet cloth and detergent at least once daily. Pay special attention to areas like remotes, doorknobs, handles, light switches, touch screens, desks, toilets, and sinks.

If you live with a lot of people you might even need to disinfect regularly-touched surfaces. Disinfectant is different to routine cleaning, as it uses chemicals to kill germs. A combination of cleaning and disinfecting is most effective in removing traces of COVID-19. Check out these cleaning guidelines.

Clean up after meals

Clean up immediately after meals using hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to kill any germs on used items like bowls, plates, knives, and forks. Also make sure to wipe down areas which are often touched during mealtimes, like tables, chairs, and benches. This makes sure the areas are clean and ready for the next meal.

No share plates

Right now, it’s best not to use share plates or food platters. Instead, serve food on to your own plate using clean utensils. This lowers the risk of spreading germs by touching food that others will be eating. It’s also safest not to share drinks.

If possible, use your own cutlery, plates and cups

In most large households, people often share plates, mugs, and other utensils. But it’s safest to only use your personal items and avoid sharing. If you do need to share items, make sure you wash anything you use immediately after use with hot, soapy water or put it in the dishwasher.

Eat in shifts

In some homes, particularly those with a large number of people, you may find that it gets busy at mealtimes. To help slow the spread of germs, try eating in smaller groups so there is enough distance between people. All surfaces touched during a meal should be wiped down before the next group comes in.

Handling food

When preparing food for yourself or others, good hygiene is key to limiting the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and water before touching or preparing food, and regularly throughout the cooking process.

Always maintain good food safety by thawing, cooking, and storing food correctly. Avoid cross-contamination of bacteria on surfaces, and keep food at the right temperature.

Wash your hands, even with limited water

If water is limited, there are still things you can do to keep your hands clean and safe. If you don’t have easy access to water, use an alcohol-based rub (hand sanitiser). You can also wash your hands by turning the tap on then off to quickly wet your hands, then rub soap into them for 20 seconds, then turn the tap back on to rinse the soap away.

Socially distance in shared spaces

Social distancing in share houses or group homes can be easy. Try to keep 1.5 metres (about two big steps) between yourself and others (this doesn’t apply to family members that you live with).

Keeping your distance means you avoid being close enough to another person to have their sneeze or cough spray land on you – which is how viruses spread. If need be, make a roster for when people can enter shared spaces like the living room and kitchen.

When living with young children, try setting up a separate entertainment area in a bedroom or other part of the house.

When sick, stay isolated

No matter the size of the household, if members are feeling unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19, they should get tested immediately.

Housemates or family members who have any illnesses should isolate in their personal sleeping areas. When this isn’t possible, maintain good hygiene practices like washing hands regularly, avoiding touching your face (or others’ faces), and covering coughs and sneezes. You should also wash shared sheets often, using soap or detergent.

If possible, those who are sick should use separate bathrooms and other shared areas. When someone who’s sick does need to use a shared area, use disinfectant afterwards to remove germs on any surfaces they have touched. Wash your hands with soap and water immediately afterwards.

If children are unwell, parents should disinfect areas where the kids have been, and isolate with the kids at mealtimes to protect others in the house.

Disinfectant should always be used when people are feeling sick or showing signs of illness, whereas routine cleaning (when members of the household are well) does not require daily disinfectant. Never swallow bleach or other harsh cleaning product as this can lead to serious health issues or even death.