Most of the country is staying home right now, but thanks to predetermined closing dates, some new homebuyers are changing homes. Moving to a new home is always accompanied with a certain amount of stress; moving to a new home during a pandemic amplifies that stress. In order to help manage some of the COVID-19 moving anxiety, we compiled the following cleaning tips to help you move safely during the coronavirus.
Karl Forell, an agent with thirty years of experience in Lansing, Michigan, and Danii Sedillo, a Certified Residential Specialist in El Paso, Texas, have pinpointed some key strategies to keep your move as safe as possible. In addition, Tracy LaMonica, a move-in cleaning expert in Melbourne, Florida, offered time-tested advice that’s invaluable for homeowners during this pandemic and beyond.
Get familiar with virology
Virology is the study of how a virus behaves. In the case of COVID-19, researchers are still working to observe and document the properties of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the virus typically spreads through human-to-human contact and through respiratory droplets in the air. Additional research published by the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that the virus may live for up to three days on surfaces.
What does that mean for your move? Most importantly, it means that you should practice as much social distancing as possible. If you must meet in person (for closing or to pick up supplies), be sure to stay at least six feet away from other people. It also means that you’ll need to be extra careful with cleaning practices in order to limit your contact with potentially infected surfaces.
Consider delaying move-in
Knowing a little bit more about viruses may influence when you want to move in. In some cases, timelines are tight and cannot be adjusted. However, if possible, you may want to delay moving into your new home for three days or longer — enough time to significantly reduce your exposure to viruses.
Sedillo mentions that you may also be able to have your real estate agent negotiate with the seller for early access to the home. That way you can get started on some deep cleaning before you are scheduled to move in. Your agent may also be able to coordinate staggered closings, depending upon the other parties involved (sellers, lenders, title agents, and so on).
Stock up on supplies
Be sure you have enough cleaning supplies before moving, and keep those supplies handy. Don’t pack them away! If possible, purchase hand sanitizer along with antibacterial wipes, sprays, cleaning soaps, and hand soaps. Anticipate what you will need for whole-home cleaning — but don’t buy too much. Remember there are others in need, too.
You’ll also want to have enough moving supplies to safely pack and transport your belongings. Of course, plenty of boxes are always important. But during this time of pandemic, you may want to take advantage of additional supplies as a precaution against viral spread through contact. For example:
- Use plastic wrap around upholstered furniture.
- Use mattress bags to protect bedding.
- Use kraft paper around wooden furniture.
- Use bubble wrap to protect art, lamps, and breakable items.
Communicate moving expectations
If you’re planning to hire movers, don’t be afraid to clarify your standards prior to the move. Asking movers to wear gloves and masks is not out of line, especially because they want to stay safe just as much as you do.
You may also want to ask about truck sanitizing procedures. If you feel concerned, you can always ask to disinfect the truck yourself before the movers begin packing your belongings into it. Finally, ask about the cleaning of any moving pads and blankets.
Those who plan to rent a truck and move themselves will want to ask about the timeline of when this particular truck was last used. No matter what, you’ll want to clean it, but if the truck was used fewer than three days ago, you’ll need to be extra careful.
Use antibacterial wipes on all cab surfaces, and ask about acceptable cleaning practices for the cargo area. It would be best to sponge or mop the cargo area with an antibacterial cleaning solution, then hose it down and let it air dry. However, you’ll want to double-check with the rental provider to ensure that method will not cause damage to your particular model.
Consider renting an airtight storage unit
In order to further limit exposure, some new homebuyers may prefer to move in two stages. Divide your belongings into essential and nonessential items, then pack the nonessential things into an airtight storage unit. By moving a limited number of essential items at first, you not only limit the time that movers will be in your home, but you also allow yourself more space and opportunities for thorough cleaning.
In a month or more, you can unpack your nonessential items. This strategy allows time for the virus to die if it’s living on any of your surfaces or belongings, and it also helps to reduce that initial moving stress.
Leave doors open
As you and the movers are carrying stuff into your new home, keep the doors open and lights on as much as possible. The CDC recommends fresh air circulation during times of illness, so allowing the breeze to flow through your home can only help. In addition, leaving the doors open helps to reduce contact on doorknobs and doorframes where germs tend to spread, and nobody will have to fumble for lights on walls if they’re already shining.
Wipe down boxes packed in your old house
Even if you cleaned out the truck yourself, it’s best to be safe and use some kind of disinfectant to wipe down the outside of the cardboard before you put everything away. After your boxes are empty, break down the cardboard and set it in a stack outside for recycling. If you’d like to offer boxes for reuse, it might be best to do a free “curb alert” on social media, in order to limit contact with strangers, but be ready to dispose of them yourself.
Some professional cleaning services offer move-in specials, which will do a complete deep clean for you. LaMonica says that hiring a professional can reduce overall moving stress, which translates into greater peace of mind for new homebuyers. However, she adds that right now some cleaning businesses are basically shut down due to stay-at-home mandates, and others may be experiencing a shortage in supplies.
Considering possible pandemic restrictions on professional cleaning, you should be prepared to accomplish the job yourself. Here’s a checklist to get you started:
- Dust all surfaces, starting at the top: fans, fixtures, shelves, blinds, sills, and so on
- Wipe down windows
- Clean inside cabinets
- Clean inside appliances
- Deep clean bathrooms
- Clean baseboards
- Wash floors
Beware of commonly overlooked areas. Forell says many new homebuyers forget to clean the washer and dryer (if they convey with the property), which can be a hotbed for bacteria. He also recommends spraying basement areas with potent cleansers, if possible.
Sedillo says that many homebuyers forget to clean closet shelves, electrical outlets, and mini blind cords. She also points out the need to clean mailbox handles, another commonly touched surface. LaMonica notes that many people miss the areas behind appliances and sliding-glass-door tracks.
After doing a basic cleaning, it’s best to disinfect surfaces with a substance designed to kill germs. Focus on areas that are commonly touched, including cabinet hardware, countertops, doorknobs, light switches, plumbing fixtures, and any touchpads or dials.
Disinfecting wipes work well for this process, though wipes can be hard to find right now. If necessary, you can make your own wipes by soaking paper towels in a mixture of 2 cups distilled water, 1 cup alcohol, and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.
Remember that the CDC recommends bleach or 70% alcohol solutions for the most effective cleaning, and don’t forget to read labels thoroughly before beginning your disinfecting process. The last thing you want to do is ruin something in your brand new home!
Maintaining a safe space
As you’re settling into your home, be vigilant about the cleanliness of your new space. You’ll have plenty of work to do unpacking boxes and organizing closets, but remember to periodically take a break to wash your hands and disinfect key surfaces. Wipe down doorknobs, counters, plumbing fixtures, and banisters regularly in order to keep your home germ-free.
Since you’ll likely be on the computer setting up utilities and deliveries, it’s a good idea to disinfect your keyboard as well. And don’t forget to disinfect your phone! According to TIME magazine, it’s got ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat!
Take special care at your entryways, where infection could unwittingly sneak in. Wipe down new packages and disinfect door knockers, handles, and doorbells after each delivery or outing. If you have to go out, be sure to take off your shoes before entering your new home, and change your clothes before settling in to relax.
Don’t let these strange times rob you of the joy and excitement to be found in your new home. Be careful and responsible, follow these cleaning tips for moving, and enjoy making new memories in your home.
Header Image Source: (CDC / Unsplash)