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Category: Health

“Cleaning in the Time of Coronavirus” Video Series

  • Jamie San Andres Workplace Justice - Safe and Just Cleaning Campaign Coordinator
  • Deysi Flores Supervisor of Health & Safety Programs

Cleaning in the Time of Coronavirus

The video series “Cleaning in the Time of Coronavirus” was created to inform immigrant, Latinx household cleaners and communities of NY about safer cleaning and toxic chemicals commonly found in cleaning products. Every week there will be a new video featured talking about: 

  1. The difference between cleaning and disinfecting, 
  2. What are QACs and how to identify them in cleaning products, 
  3. What household cleaners can do prior to returning to work,
  4. What household cleaners and our communities can do to protect their health while cleaning,
  5. What household cleaners and our communities can do to protect themselves after they’re done cleaning,
  6. How household cleaners and our communities can care for their mental health during the pandemic

These videos were home made during the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration between Make the Road NY, Queens College, the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Super Cleaners group at Make the Road NY. 

Cleaning in the Time of Coronavirus (Video 1)

We know that COVID-19 has raised many concerns about how we clean our homes. But did you know that many cleaning products could be harmful to your health?

  • Chemicals found in these cleaning products can cause skin and breathing problems, such as asthma.
  • It is important to distinguish cleaning from disinfection.
  • We recommend that you use less toxic products whose active ingredients are hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid, or citric acid.

Learning About Disinfectants (Video 2)

What are the chemicals found in most disinfectants? How can it impact our health? And how do we know if the product we use has toxic chemicals?

  • Many disinfectants have quaternary ammonium compounds or QACs.
  • QACs can be found in various types of household cleaning products such as: disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, antibacterial soaps and some toilet cleaners.
  • Let’s learn how to use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website to see if a disinfectant product has toxic chemicals.

The information we provide comes from the interpretation of our Safe & Just Cleaning research team and sources such as those listed below:

  1. Disinfectant Overkill Focus on Quats
  2. Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A toolkit for Early Care and Childcare

Returning to Work During a Pandemic (Video 3)

We know that many domestic workers are concerned about getting coronavirus whether it’s at work, on the road or on their way back.

How do we communicate with our employers to establish coronavirus-related agreements to protect our health and theirs?

  • Ask your employer to ventilate their home by opening the windows before you arrive.
  • It is preferable that employers are not home while cleaning. However, if this is not possible, explain to your employer about the importance of wearing a mask inside the house.
  • Ask your employer to let you know if anyone experiences any symptoms of COVID-19. If they must cancel at the last minute, please consider paying you a percentage of what you would have received otherwise.
  • If you experience any symptoms, ask if they would be willing to pay you for that day of illness. 
  • This can be a good time to share with your employer about your rights to paid sick leave.

Protecting Ourselves from Coronavirus and Cleaning Products (Video 4)

Household cleaning workers are at higher risk of having respiratory or skin problems, and they do not always have an option over the cleaning products they use in their work. But good cleaning practices can help protect your health and reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals. For example:

  • Never mix cleaning products or use one product on top of another, as mixing chemicals can cause very dangerous reactions.
  • Avoid spraying chemicals into the air or spraying on surfaces.
  • Have good ventilation. Open the windows and turn on the fans to dissipate toxic fumes.

What to Do When You’re Done Cleaning (Video 5)

To keep you safe, we share eight tips you can do after cleaning to reduce your exposure to coronavirus and the toxic chemicals found in cleaning products and disinfectants. Here are some of the recommendations we’ve shared:

  • Wash your hands with the gloves on, with soap and water, to remove any viruses that may have been placed in the gloves
  • Take the non-disposable cloths and sponges and wash them with soap and water.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. All this soap and water wash with soap and water should last for 20 full seconds. 

Caring for Our Mental Health in the Context of Coronavirus (Video 6)

As household cleaning workers, your mental health is important too. Let’s explore together: What is mental health? What are the symptoms of stress and other conditions?

  • Mental health refers to our psychological, emotional, and social well-being, which has an impact on the way we think, feel, and act.
  • You may have experienced stress during the pandemic. Some of the most common symptoms are: changes in sleep and eating habits, difficulty concentrating, irritability, excessive concern for your health, among other symptoms.
  • Good practices that we share can help you cope with stress and take care of your mental health.