It’s one thing to say ‘clean surfaces,’ but what exactly is involved and what you should use to clean household surfaces with is a tricky thing. And the rules change and become more stringent when you’re cleaning for someone who’s suspected of – or has – the coronavirus.

In general, good cleaning habits, according to the federal CDC, include routine wiping of any surfaces that people frequently touch, like tables, door handles, light switches, cabinet handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks.

Cleaning means you’re getting rid of germs, while disinfecting means you’re actually killing them. While you might clean surfaces effectively, that doesn’t mean you’re disinfecting, and you may run the risk that germs and bacteria could grow.

Household cleaners that have a diluted bleach solution, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective at disinfecting. But make sure you have good ventilation and wear gloves while using them.

Business Insider talked with Dr. Joseph Horvath, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Carolina Medical School, who says it’s important to read labels and follow the directions on products. “Products labeled as disinfectants will adequately kill viruses and bacteria if used correctly,” he told the website. Look for disinfectants that can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi when used properly.

The key areas you need to worry about are surfaces that are shared by family members and those that come in close contact with bodily fluids. It’s OK if you neglect your windows but you better take care of that door handle.


If a surface is already dirty, use soap and water to clean it before you disinfect it.

Just know that doesn’t negate your need to wash your hands frequently with soap and water (better for you than hand sanitizer).

“It isn’t possible to disinfect every surface you touch throughout your day,” Stephen Thomas, M.D., chief of infectious diseases and director of global health at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, told Consumer Reports. “The planet is covered with bacteria and viruses, and we’re constantly in contact with these surfaces, so hand-washing is still your best defense against COVID-19.”

Here’s Business Insider’s tips on effective cleaning and disinfecting around the house:

Rubber gloves or disposable latex gloves are OK, but always wash your hands afterward.

In the kitchen, remember foodborne bacteria can live on surfaces, so clean everything that food touches.


If you use disposable wipes, use more than one. You should use enough to leave a surface visibly wet for at least four minutes afterward before it air-dries.

If you are using an automatic dishwasher, make sure the water temperature is at 140 degrees F and you’re using a dishwasher detergent that contains chlorine bleach as one of the ingredients.

Sanitizing becomes more stringent if someone in the house shows symptoms of an infection or if the area you live in has known cases of coronavirus.

If that’s the case, Thomas says, “Clean high-traffic areas that get touched frequently, such as kitchen counters and bathroom faucets, three times a day with a product that kills viruses.”

The federal CDC’s guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting homes with people who are in quarantine because they have a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus include:

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).


In the bedroom/bathroom dedicated for an ill person: Consider reducing cleaning frequency to as-needed (e.g., soiled items and surfaces) to avoid unnecessary contact.

Try to keep the ill person in a specific room and away from other people as much as possible.

Caregivers can provide personal cleaning supplies for an ill person’s room and bathroom such as tissues, paper towels, cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.

If a separate bathroom is not available, the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected after each use, and caregivers should wait as long as practical to clean and disinfect high-traffic surfaces.

When cleaning and disinfecting, wear disposable gloves and discard them after every use. If you’re using re-usable gloves, use them ONLY for cleaning and disinfecting; don’t use them for any other purpose. And wash your hands after you remove the gloves.

Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard after each use. If you don’t use gloves, wash your hands immediately afterward.


Don’t shake dirty laundry if you can help it, to minimize the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air.

Launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry them completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

Clean and disinfect clothes hampers as you would high-traffic surfaces. If possible, consider placing a disposable bag liner that you can throw away or launder.

Dedicate a lined trash can for the ill person and use gloves when removing garbage bags, handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands immediately after handling or disposing of trash.

You can create your own diluted household bleach solution, but be careful about it. Never mix bleach with ammonia or another type of cleanser.

The federal CDC suggests a homemade bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

Have more questions about how to protect yourself or your loved ones from coronavirus? Send them to and we’ll try to answer them.

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