Leaving the House? Here Are 6 Safe Practices to Follow When Returning Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

In addition to adhering to social distancing guidelines, follow this protocol to keep your home safe.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we've all learned not to take freely going outside for granted. Although more of the country is slowly beginning to reopen, leaving the house won't come without some level of risk of exposure and infection, at least for a while. Of course, there's not much you can do about being exposed to the virus, but there are things you can do to minimize the risk of bringing it into your safe space. According to Purvi Parikh, MD, an immunologist and allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network, the best way to do this is to develop an established ritual. If you have to venture outside, whether it be for grocery runs, work commutes, or even a bit of fresh air, here are some precautionary steps in your "going-out ritual" that experts recommend you take.

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Leave your shoes and bag at the door

The number one thing you should do when returning home is to keep your shoes outside (if you can) and your bag at the door, says Dr. Parikh. Since leather can be damaged from disinfecting wipes, she also recommends switching to a canvas bag for now. That way, you can easily wash or wipe it down at home and not have to worry about plastic and paper bags from grocery shopping. (It's better for the environment too!)

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Wash your face mask or place it into a bag

According to the CDC, you should wash your face mask after each use. You should always assume that your face mask has been exposed, so be careful when handling it. "Cloth and washable masks should be washed with your regular laundry load after every use, so I recommend taking them to the laundry room straight away," says Dr. Parikh. "Surgical masks or N-95s shouldn't be washed, but it's best to let them disinfect for at least 72 hours before reusing. If your face mask is still in good condition, store it in a paper bag away from other items."

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Disinfect your phone, keys, and other items you took with you

Wipe down anything you take with you thoroughly, including your cellphone, keys, and water bottle, with disinfectant wipes or soap and water. "Good disinfectants should be at least 60 to 70 percent alcohol concentration or higher," says Dr. Parikh. "If you do not have enough wipes on hand, a mix of detergent and water is also effective." Don't forget to wipe down your glasses too (if you wear them).

It's also a good idea to invest in a UV light machine, which has been proven to kill the coronavirus. Phonesoap ($80; phonesoap.com) uses scientifically proven germicidal UV-C bulbs to sanitize your entire phone. Coral UV 3-in-1 Sanitizer ($169; coraluv.com) is big enough to fit all your belongings and blast them together in one run. If you opt for this method, Purikh advises exposing your belongings to at least 30 minutes of UV light.

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Throw your clothes in the wash

Like your mask, plan on washing your clothes after every wear. This doesn't mean you need to run the laundry every day, but keep your worn clothes together in a separate laundry bag (away from other clothes) until your next wash cycle.

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Wash your hands (and shower if you can)

Sorry, morning showerers, but Dr. Parikh advises tweaking your shower routine to taking one after you return from outside. This will help ensure that your body is completely disinfected. At the very least, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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