Health

Can I let cleaners into my house? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

From face-washing to the safety of blowing bubbles, here's what you’re asking us

While cleaning people may be allowed in your home, there are some precautions that both clients and cleaners can take to make sure everyone stays safe. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca, and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on News Network. So far we've received more than 40,000 emails from all corners of the country. 

Is it safe for cleaners to come into my home? 

With many provinces entering reopening phases, Canadians like Jeremy S. are wondering if they can invite their cleaning service back into their homes. 

If you live in Ontario, for example, the province entered its first phase of reopening this week, allowing domestic workers such as housekeepers, nannies and cooks to resume work — even though Ontarians are technically still required to limit contact to those inside their own households. 

So while cleaning people may be allowed in your home, there are some precautions that clients and cleaning staff can take to make sure everyone stays safe, including maintaining physical distance.

"If you can avoid sharing airspace while someone is in your house, and everyone avoids going out when they're ill, it should be reasonable," said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta. 

"Especially if you can be out of the house when [they] come in and you don't spend time in the same area, it seems reasonable to me to have that happen." 

Jeff Pedlow, a workplace safety consultant in Ontario, agrees and says if leaving the house is not an option, a client could self-isolate in a room that's not being cleaned. He also stressed that both the client and the worker must be free from any COVID-19 symptoms.

"It really is a partnership for protection," he said. 

People who work in household services are often going into multiple houses in a day — especially in the case of cleaning services.

Pedlow said it's important that all the tools used, like mops and sponges, be disinfected or replaced after each use and between each residence. 

"Vacuums should only be owned by the company and not the homeowner," Pedlow said. "But if it is the homeowner's, then they need to be disinfected before they're used."

You might also want to keep windows and doors open, suggests University of Winnipeg microbiologist Kevin Coombs.

"If the weather permits, keep open ventilation," which can reduce the buildup of contamination, he said. 

The Ontario Ministry of Health pointed us to these best practices guidelines that include limiting the number of people in a workspace at any given time — and, of course, maintaining proper hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face. 

They also say using personal protective equipment (PPE) should be "a last resort" because PPE is only effective if people wear it correctly. 

"Workers need PPE training that includes the fit, use, care, maintenance, cleaning and limitations of the PPE," the document says.

If you have underlying medical conditions, you may want to talk to your doctor before inviting your cleaning service back into your home.

I wash my hands when I get home. Should I also wash my face?

"Wash your hands and don't touch your face," has been the public health mantra since this pandemic started, but Ted S. is wondering if you should go a step further and wash your face, as well. 

"Wash your face, absolutely," said infectious diseases specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, of Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont. "But there is no need to do it any more often or in a different way. Do it like you normally would do, with something that is safe for use on your face." 

Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton said that "normal facial hygiene is fine."

"You're much more likely to contaminate your hands [than] your face," when you're in casual contact in public, said Chagla — even when you're maintaining physical distancing. 

Chagla cautions that people should be "very careful when taking off a mask to not contaminate one's face while taking it off." 

So you don't need to rush to wash your face when you get home from the market — unless, perhaps, there's a chance you touched it with dirty hands.

Can perfume spread the coronavirus? What about soap bubbles? 

The short answer to both questions is probably not, and here's why. 

Fragrances and bubbles are "typically tiny aerosols that the virus dehydrates in quickly," Chagla explains.

"Many of these contain detergents and alcohol, which are toxic to the virus," he said. 

Chakrabarti agrees and says "there is no good evidence for spread of coronavirus" through perfumes or soap bubbles.

"So wear your Christian Dior and blow bubbles with your kids to your heart's delight," said Chakrabarti.  

We're also answering your questions every night on The National. Last night, you asked: Will Arctic ice, glaciers refreeze because of the reduction in emissions? Watch below:

Bob McDonald, host of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on climate change. 6:01

On Friday, we answered your questions about borrowing library books and the proper way to wear a mask.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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