When and How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home

Regularly cleaning your home surfaces can help prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness, such as norovirus, Shigella or Giardia. Cleaning surfaces in your home removes dirt, germs and other impurities and helps you and your family stay healthy. Cleaning or disinfecting your home to prevent the spread of disease isn’t likely needed unless there are sick people in your home.

The importance of sanitation cannot be overstated when it comes to maintaining a clean and healthy home.

Cleaning

Clean Regularly and Clean First

Cleaning is an important first step to ensure that you get rid of most germs from surfaces in your home. Cleaning your home with household cleaners that contain soap or detergents will eliminate dirt and germs on surfaces and reduce the risk of infection from surfaces in your home. Cleaning alone removes most harmful bacteria and viruses from surfaces. Surfaces need to be cleaned before they are disinfected or sanitized because impurities like dirt may make it harder for chemicals to get to and destroy germs.

Sanitizing can reduce the remaining germs on surfaces after cleaning.

Disinfecting can kill viruses and bacteria that remain on surfaces after cleaning. By killing germs that have accumulated on surfaces after cleaning, disinfecting can further reduce the risk of spreading diseases. However, you’ll probably not require sanitizing or disinfecting for daily cleaning unless someone in your home is sick or someone sick has recently visited.

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Remember to clean first and then sanitize or disinfect if needed.

 

When to Clean Surfaces in Your Home

  • Clean high-touch surfaces (for example, doorknobs, light switches and countertops) regularly, especially after you have guests in your home.
  • Clean other surfaces in your home when they’re visibly dirty or when needed. You should clean them more often if people in your family are more likely to get sick, such as young children or those with weakened immune systems. You may also choose to disinfect.
  • Clean surfaces using a cleaner suitable for each surface, following instructions on the product’s label.

 

How to safely clean a variety of surfaces

In most cases, regular cleaning is sufficient to prevent the spread of germs. Follow these tips to clean different surfaces in your home:

For hard surfaces, such as counters, certain toys, light switches, and floors:
  • Clean the surfaces with soap and water or use cleaning products that are suitable for use on the surface.

For soft surfaces like carpets, rugs and drapes:

  • Clean the surface using the right cleaning products to be used on these surfaces.
  • Launder items (if possible) according to the instructions of the manufacturer. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry the items completely.
  • Vacuum all surfaces (such as carpets and rugs) and then dispose of the dirt safely.

For laundry products like towels, clothes, toys and linens:

  • Launder using detergent and recommended water temperature.
  • Dry the items completely.
  • Clean clothes, hamper or laundry baskets according to guidance for surfaces.
  • Wash hands after handling dirty clothes.

For electronic devices, like tablets, phones, touch screens, keyboards and remote control:

  • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronic devices, which makes cleaning and disinfecting much simpler.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for cleaning.
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Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important ways to prevent germs from spreading in your home.

Sanitizing

How to sanitize homeSome surfaces and items in your home may need to be sanitized after they are cleaned.

  • Sanitize surfaces and objects that the child or infant use, including baby feeding items, toys, and play surfaces.
  • Sanitize food contact surfaces after a natural disaster (such as flooding) or emergency.
  • You may want to sanitize the interior of the refrigerator if you have recalled food items.
  • Sanitize surfaces with a product suitable for each surface. Follow the instructions on the product label.

 

How to Sanitize Safely

Daily cleaning may not be required if surfaces and other objects are thoroughly cleaned after use. To disinfect an object or surface, apply a weaker bleach solution or an EPA-registered sanitizing spray.

For nonporous objects, such as certain toys and infant feeding items,

  • Sanitize items by steaming, boiling or using a milder bleach solution. Check with the item’s manufacturer about which method to follow. A dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle may be used for some items.
  • After sanitizing, place the items on a clean, unused dish towel or paper towel, and allow them to air dry thoroughly before storing or using.
  • Don’t use a dish towel to rub or pat items dry, as it can transfer germs to items.

For hard surfaces, such as kitchen counters and food preparation areas

  • Clean your countertops using hot soapy water.
  • Then sanitize any surface that has touched or been contaminated by raw poultry, meat or their juices, including the inner sink.
  • Use a homemade bleach solution or sanitizing products.
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Disinfecting

When to Disinfect

In addition to cleaning, you should disinfect your home when someone is sick or if someone is at a higher risk of becoming sick because of a weak immune system (for instance, those being treated with immune-suppressing drugs for cancer, organ transplants, cancer or any other illnesses or people with HIV or genetic conditions that affect the immune system).

How to Disinfect Safely

To disinfect, use an EPA-registered disinfecting product or a stronger bleach solution.

First, clean the surface using soap and water. Always read the label of disinfecting products to ensure they can be used on the type of surface you’re disinfecting (such as soft or hard surfaces).

Follow these important safety guidelines when using chemical disinfectants:

  • Always read and follow the instructions on the label of disinfecting products to ensure safe and effective use and disposal.
  • Wear the recommended protective equipment (for example, gloves or goggles) to protect your eyes and skin from possible splashes.
  • Let the disinfectant sit on the surface long enough to kill the germs. This is known as contact time. You can find the contact time in the directions. The surface should stay wet during the entire contact time to ensure germs are killed.
  • Ensure good ventilation if using products indoors (for example, use a fan or open windows and doors for fresh air to enter).
  • If the directions instruct you to mix the product with water, use water at room temperature (unless the label states otherwise).
  • Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Avoid mixing products or chemicals with each other.
  • Do not eat, drink or breathe disinfection products into your body or apply them directly to your skin. These products can cause serious harm.
  • Do not wipe or bathe pets with any disinfection products.
  • After disinfecting, wash your hands with soap and water for atleast 20 seconds.

If ready-to-use disinfectants are not available, you can use bleach solutions to clean many hard surfaces. Bleach solutions are effective against viruses, bacteria and fungi when properly diluted.