15 Expert Tips for Disinfecting Your House for Coronavirus
Looking to disinfect your space of the COVID-19 contagion? Here's advice from doctors and cleaning pros.
Right now, our homes are our safe havens. They keep us protected, healthy, and hopefully virus-free—even if they can get pretty boring at times. But in order to make sure that our homes remain safe sanctuaries, it means that we have to maintain their cleanliness every single day, too. Whether it's the first time you've ever spent this long at home or you're a working-from-home pro, you could likely use a lesson on how to disinfect for coronavirus from those who know best: doctors and cleaning experts.
We rounded up a few of the leading experts in healthy cleaning practices for their top advice on keeping your home clean during quarantine. Get ready to turn that boredom into inspiration with these expert cleaning tips. And for more advice on what could use a wipe down, check out 25 Things You Should Clean Every Day and How to Do It.
Clean first, then disinfect.
There's a big difference between cleaning your space and disinfecting, says Marcela Barraza, founder of MB Green Cleaning. Cleaning removes germs without killing them whereas disinfecting stops them in their tracks. That's why she recommends cleaning first and then disinfecting for coronavirus.
"It is very important that you clean [to] remove dirt and debris from surfaces first, because germs and bacteria might hide under the dirt. Once the surface is clean with the least amount of bacteria, the disinfectant will do its purpose by killing them," Barraza says.
Allow the disinfectant to sit for three to five minutes so it can do its job. "If you spray and wipe right away, you are taking the disinfectant away before it can do its job," she says.
And remember to clean and disinfect all the surfaces.
It's imperative right now to clean all the surfaces you touch every day. "We all know we have to disinfect areas like the bathrooms, light switches, and doorknobs, but we should also focus on not-so-obvious areas," Barraza says. Think about laptops, kitchen cabinet handles, toilet handles, sink faucets, remote controls, and desks (especially if you're working from home at the moment). Remember: Clean first, then disinfect. And for more surfaces that could use your attention, check out 15 Things in Your House Experts Say You Should Wipe Down Every Day.
Use the right disinfectants.
Not all cleaners are made with the right ingredients. Audrey Sue, MD, internal medicine physician in Southern California, says to "be sure to check out this list of EPA-approved detergents, which meet criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19." And for more ways to keep your home safe, here are 15 Ways to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus at Home.
And check your alcohol solutions.
Whether you're using hand sanitizer or alcohol-based cleaners on your kitchen counter, you'll want to make sure the alcohol content is strong enough to kill germs. "Make sure they consist of at least 70 percent alcohol in order to be effective," advises Sue. You can tell by checking the back of the container.
Don't mix solutions.
Just because two types of cleaners are good on their own, it doesn't mean they're meant to be mixed together. "Some common household cleaning products when mixed together can become lethal, literally," explains former critical care nurse Robert Lambert, RN, founder and owner of Iatric Professional Cleaning Service. "These combinations can cause eye, nose, throat, and lung problems, nerve damage, and in some cases, explosives." For example, bleach mixed with ammonia can release chloramine vapors. So leave the mixing up to the chemists and just use that multi-surface cleaner you already know and love.
Don't go overboard with bleach.
Right now, it can be easy to feel the need to go overboard with disinfecting surfaces for coronavirus. But this isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when it comes to bleach. "Using more bleach is not going to be better," says Lambert. "Bleach is a skin and eye irritant [and] can cause respiratory issues if [you're] breathing vapors in a poorly ventilated space." And for more cleaning products to be wary of, check out 15 Cleaning Products You Should Keep Far from Your Kids.
Wear gloves only once.
You might be used to reusing your gloves when you clean, but now's not the time for that. "Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting and discard them immediately after," Barraza recommends.
Clean and disinfect your hamper.
You might be wearing mostly loungewear these days, but that shouldn't stop you from keeping up with your laundry. In addition to your usual loads, Barraza recommends disinfecting your hamper and washing its fabric lining if it has one. And for more on your clothes and COVID-19, check out Is Coronavirus on My Clothes? Experts Weigh In.
Wash sheets and towels more often.
"Consider washing your sheets and towels more often than you normally do," Barraza says. Plus, you'll want to change hand towels daily.
And use the "sanitize" setting on your washer.
The sanitize setting on your laundry machine is key. "The sanitize cycle is designed to reduce the amount of microorganisms on clothing, like germs and bacteria," explains Barraza.
Clean your rags after every use.
Don't double dip, Lambert says. No, he isn't talking about chips and salsa—he's referring to rags. "I am talking about wringing out a dirty cloth and using it again," he says. If you do this, you're introducing germs into your cleaner and then rubbing them onto new surfaces.
"This is especially true with the COVID-19 situation. Have a stack of clean cloths—preferably microfiber—submerged into a bucket of solution," he says. Once you've used one, toss it into a laundry bag and repeat.
Disinfect your sponge in the microwave.
None of us clean our sponges as much as we should, but now is the time to change that. "You can kill the germs on your sponge by nuking it in the microwave for about a minute," says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, regional medical director at One Medical. Just be careful to soak the sponge in water first so it doesn't catch on fire in the microwave.
Don't clean with your eyes only.
It's important to use your hands in addition to your eyes to make sure that you're cleaning things thoroughly. For example, Lambert says that some kitchen counters made with stone or granite can look deceivingly clean when they're not. "If you think you can 'see' that your counter is clean after scrubbing it, you may be fooling yourself," he says. So use your gloved hand to see if there's a spot you missed.
Separate the cleaning facts from the fallacies.
"There are many myths about household items that can be used against COVID-19 that are not accurate," explains Bhuyan. "Hand dryers, spraying chlorine on yourself, and using a UV disinfection lamp on your skin are not effective ways to kill coronavirus. They're also potentially unsafe for your health." So keep to the cleaners that are recommended by health professionals and the CDC instead.
And don't stress too much.
"This may sound counterintuitive coming from a cleaning service owner, but don't lose your mind about cleaning while you're quarantined at home," says Jonathan Browne of Sparkle Clean Maids. "Being overly anxious has scientifically studied effects on your immune system. Cortisol, the stress hormone, causes your immune system to become dramatically more vulnerable to infection from viruses." So, yes, it's important to keep your home clean, but don't stress too much over making it absolutely perfect.