Woman with gloves cleaning a bathroom sink.

CDC COVID-19 House Cleaning Tips: How To Properly Disinfect And Sanitize

Molly Grace4-Minute Read
October 19, 2021

Read more on COVID-19 in our Resource Guide.

You’ve been staying home, social distancing and washing your hands what feels like every 10 minutes. However, evidence suggests that it’s possible for COVID-19 to remain viable on surfaces for hours or even days, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended regularly cleaning frequently touched areas of your home as a best practice in fighting the spread of the virus.

If you have someone in your home who is suspected of having COVID-19 or has a confirmed case, following the CDC’s guidance for cleaning and disinfecting your home is crucial.

Here’s what the CDC says you should be doing to protect your home from this virus.

CDC Guidelines For Properly Sanitizing Your Home

There are two steps to properly eliminating SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19: cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning uses soap or detergent to remove dirt and germs from a surface. Disinfecting uses chemicals such as bleach or alcohol to kill germs. By combining these two processes, starting with cleaning dirty surfaces and then following with a disinfectant, you can reduce the possibility of spreading the virus throughout your home.

Focus On High-Touch Areas

Think about the things you and other members of your household touch most throughout the day: doorknobs, light switches, countertops, faucets and the like. These objects are what the CDC recommends you focus your cleaning efforts on.

Use The Right Cleaning Products

Once you’ve cleaned dirty surfaces with soap and water, use a disinfecting solution to kill any remaining germs. Just make sure you’re using a solution that’s safe for the surfaces you’re cleaning and one that will effectively disinfect the surface.

To create your own diluted bleach solution for effective disinfecting, the CDC says to mix 5 tablespoons of bleach for every 1 gallon of water or4 teaspoons of bleach for every quart of water. If you’re using an alcohol-based solution, make sure to use at least 70% alcohol.

Additionally, the EPA has a list of store-bought products that can be used against SARS-CoV-2.

When disinfecting, do not combine multiple cleaning products. Make sure the area you’re disinfecting is properly ventilated when using these products.

Wear Gloves

When cleaning, wear disposable gloves if possible and dispose of them when you’re done. Reusable gloves that aren’t used for any other purpose other than COVID-19 disinfecting may also be used.

Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands as soon as you remove your gloves.

How To Disinfect If Someone Is Sick

If someone in your home has or thinks they may have COVID-19, additional precautions should be taken to prevent the illness from spreading to other members of the household.

Give Them Space

COVID-19 patients should remain separated from others in the house as much as possible. If you can, give them their own bedroom and bathroom that will only be used by them.

Though disinfecting to prevent the spread of the virus is important, caregivers of sick individuals should weigh the need to disinfect with their own risk of coming into contact with the virus. The CDC recommends considering reducing the frequency to “as-needed” and only cleaning when items become soiled to avoid spreading the virus.

Disinfect Often

However, if you aren’t able to give the patient their own space, be sure to frequently disinfect the spaces they’re in. Clean and disinfect shared bathrooms after each use.

To disinfect soft surfaces like carpet, use a cleanser that’s appropriate for the material and then, if the item can’t be laundered, use a product that has an EPA emerging viral pathogens claim.

Do Laundry Properly

Gloves should be worn when handling clothes or linens that have been used by a person who is sick.

The CDC advises to not shake dirty laundry, as shaking could possibly disperse the virus into the air.

Use the hottest water setting that is appropriate for the items you’re laundering. You may want to consider using a disposable bag to line the inside of the clothes hamper to cut down on the need to disinfect the hamper.

Wash Dishes Carefully

If you’re a caregiver for a person who is sick, take extra care when handling any items that the sick person has touched or that has come into contact with their saliva. When dealing with used plates, cups, silverware or other utensils, wear gloves and wash with hot water or in the dishwasher.

It’s recommended that people who are sick eat in their room.

Give Them Their Own Trash Can

Another CDC recommendation for caregivers of COVID-19 patients who are isolating at home is to give them a dedicated trash can lined with a garbage bag. When taking out the garbage from this can, use gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after.

Preventing Transmission Effectively

Though these guidelines will be useful to those who have a person who is sick in their home or want to take basic preventative measures against the virus, keep in mind that the main way COVID-19 spreads is from person to person. Some of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are by avoiding close contact with others, only going out in public for necessary activities such as grocery shopping or going to the doctor, not touching your face and frequently washing your hands.

Make sure you’re washing your hands according to CDC guidelines. According to the CDC, proper hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Be sure to lather thoroughly with soap, scrubbing your hands (including under your nails) for at least 20 seconds. If soap isn’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

For more official information on how to protect yourself, you can visit the CDC website.

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Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.