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DEEP CLEANING

How to clean a Covid-19 infested White House for the next resident

A member of the White House cleaning staff sprays the press briefing room the evening of U.S. President Donald Trump's return from Walter Reed Medical Center
Get the virus out.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Reporter

The White House is in trouble.

This isn’t just because the current occupant is having a hard time accepting that he might have to relocate in about two months, but because if he does, there will be a lot of deep cleaning to do.

While the world was looking at Georgia, yet another member of Donald Trump’s presidential team tested positive for Covid-19. Not any member, either—the new case is Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff. Alongside him, a reported four other staffers, including the president’s assistant Cassidy Hutchinson, have also contracted the virus.

This brings the total number of known coronavirus cases in the White House to 36 since October, when president Trump, the first lady, and much of their close staff were infected.

Even though the Covid-19 virus only survives outside the body for a limited amount of time (28 days in lab conditions, much less in regular ones), it would be understandable if Joe Biden, his family, and staff wanted to make sure the White House was completely sanitized before they moved in.

Luckily, that isn’t hard to do.

According to Juan Ventura, who runs Paracas Group, a large Milan-based professional cleaning service that has been sanitizing private and corporate spaces during northern Italy’s devastating Covid-19 outbreaks, all it takes it a little time and some hydrogen peroxide.

Essentially, cleaners have to spray hydrogen peroxide solution (0.5%) in each room, and close it for at least half an hour. According to the Italian health ministry’s guidelines, research has shown that this is effective in eliminating Covid-19 as well as most other viruses and bacteria—in fact, a similar procedure is used to disinfect hospital and clinical facilities, too.

After 30 minutes, some good aeration is enough to make the rooms safely habitable, and virus-free.

This kind of process would work well for the White House, too, as it doesn’t damage precious textiles, other valuable materials, or luxurious surfaces. It is also non-toxic, Ventura says, so his company has even been employing this method to sanitize food establishments.

With its 55,000 square feet (5,100 square meters), the White House is quite a large space to sanitize, but it likely wouldn’t take longer than a day for the cleaning. “In a day we cover 10,000 square meters,” says Ventura. The cost estimates of such a job would vary. According to online estimates, it would be about $5,000 for such a large space.

After that, of course, it’s a matter of regular deep cleaning—the kind you’d want to do in between residents of any house, only enhanced for Covid-19, with all the bleach and alcohol you need. It is also important to avoid admitting infected people to the premises.

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