The coronavirus has sent many Americans home to ride this pandemic out. All the increased food preparation, laundry and cleaning puts family members — as well as houses and apartments — under increased stress.

There are things you can do in this time of heightened awareness to help keep germs under control and make the most efficient use of home appliances. We have been speaking to experts to address some of these issues. Here are some highlights.

Figure out what they are eating before they open the door. As regular maintenance, you should be vacuuming the coils on your refrigerator so it isn’t overworked from being clogged with dust, pet hair and dirt. Check your manual for where these coils are located. Some are accessed by removing the front panel, and some are in the back.

Check to see whether you have a sanitizing cycle on your washing machine, dryer or dishwasher. Many newer washing machines, dryers and dishwashers have a sanitize-cycle option. These cycles offer the hottest temperatures available in your appliances, making them the best choice for anyone concerned about germs. World Health Organization statistics show that temperatures of 140 to 150 degrees are enough to kill most viruses.

If your washing machine has a sanitizing cycle, you might want to use it for bedding or clothing you have worn outdoors.  Standard hot-water cycles in washers tend to be as warm as your hot-water heater setting, traditionally about 120 degrees. A sanitizing cycle can vary in different brands and models but may include hot-water temperatures that reach 140 degrees, and additional agitation time, rinses and spins to remove soils and bacteria. Some models also require an oxygen bleach cleaning additive to power the sanitizing cycle. (Both bacteria and viruses are germs, but machines are only tested for killing bacteria.)

Some dryers also have sanitize cycles of high heat at 145 degrees to kill germs. They could be useful at this time for bedding, especially when someone is ill. If you don’t have a sanitizing option, he suggests drying a load normally using a high heat setting immediately followed by a timed dry cycle on high heat for a minimum of 45 minutes.

If you have a dishwasher, this may be the time to use it on a regular basis vs. washing dishes by hand. During the sanitize cycle in GE Appliances dishwashers, the water will reach at least 150 degrees to kill 99 percent of germs.  The water temperature in a normal dishwasher cycle is 125-135 degrees, and hand-washing temperatures are even lower and vary based on the tolerance of the person washing dishes.  Dishwasher companies statistics say that a sanitizing cycle kills 99 percent of bacteria.

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