- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your house can help lessen the community spread of germs and bacteria.
- A surface can look clean but still harbor illness-causing bacteria for several hours or days.
- If someone in your home is sick, prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and more with appropriate cleaning strategies and disinfecting products like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, and Microban 24 Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Spray.
- Some of these products are expected to be effective against the novel coronavirus, but not all are, so be sure to read labels and check the EPA's list of effective products.
- Read more: The best disinfecting cleaners
Our homes are supposed to be a safe haven where we can relax and recuperate from what we've encountered out in the world. Unfortunately, we wind up bringing home the world and all its germs through dirty hands, shoes, clothing, and phones.
Even if your home looks clean, it may still harbor contaminants that could affect your health. Dr. Michael G. Schmidt, professor of microbiology at the Medical University of South Carolina and chair of the American Society of Microbiology's Council on Microbial Sciences, says that the best way to protect your family is to quite simply to clean your house.
Dr. Schmidt explains that after washing our hands, the next best way to protect your family is to wipe down countertops, doorknobs, light switches, and common surfaces with a microfiber cloth dampened in a solution of hot water and an all-purpose cleaner like Method twice per day. "The slight abrasion of the microfiber cloth and the cleaning solution will lift and dilute any microbes that have settled on the surfaces," says Dr. Schmidt. "Since electronics don't hold up well to soap and water, use an alcohol wipe with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean cell phones, remotes, and keyboards."
Read more: The best disinfecting cleaners
Cleaning shouldn't be confused or used interchangeably with disinfecting though. The former means you're removing germs, but not killing, while the latter means you're actually killing them. This distinction is important because you might clean surfaces effectively but you might not be disinfecting, leaving germs and bacteria to fester and grow.
Disinfecting, if done correctly, will kill microscopic organisms so that they can no longer cause harm. However, "Disinfecting cleaners can give a false sense of security if they are not used properly and are only necessary if someone in the household is ill," says Dr. Schmidt. The key areas to address are surfaces that are shared by family members and those that come in close contact with bodily fluids. If your windows are dirty, they aren't a big concern to your health but a doorknob touched after a sneeze can be.
According to Dr. Joseph Horvath, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Carolina Medical School, it is important to read labels and follow the directions on products. "Products labeled as disinfectants will adequately kill viruses and bacteria if used correctly." If the label promises to just "sanitize" a surface, the fine print might say that it will kill 99.9% of the bacteria, but not mention if it's effective against viruses or fungi. You want to look for disinfectants as they can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi when used properly.
As a house keeping expert with more than 20 years in the game, I have tested all the products and gathered my best tips to help you disinfect the surfaces in every area of your home to slow the transfer of common communicable diseases. While many of the types of surfaces overlap, here's a comprehensive list of products you need to help keep your family healthy.
Unfortunately, due to the novel coronavirus, many of the items I recommend are out of stock or heavily marked up. We'll do our best to update this post with accurate purchase options, so I'd suggest checking back often or even going to your local brick-and-mortar stores in case there's more availability there.
Here's how to disinfect every room in your house:
How to disinfect the kitchen
Before you disinfect anything in your house, you should decide whether you'll wear gloves and what kind. Rubber globes are more durable and reusable, but disposable latex ones are fine too. Just remember to always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using any cleaning products.
Kitchen surfaces can not only harbor the bacteria we transfer from our hands and belongings but also foodborne bacteria so it is particularly important to disinfect items properly in the kitchen.
- Best product for disinfecting hard surfaces: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
- Best product for disinfecting food preparation areas: SaniDate Hard Surface Sanitizer.
- Best product for disinfecting eating utensils, dishes, and glassware: Clorox Germicidal Concentrated Liquid Bleach
How to disinfect hard surfaces in the kitchen
Every light fixture, cabinet, and appliance in your kitchen has some type of handle or control panel that's touched each time it is turned on or opened. If any surface is touched after raw food is prepared or before hands are washed, bacteria like salmonella, listeria, E. coli, mold, and yeast can be present. All of these surfaces should be cleaned multiple times daily, especially after food preparation, with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.
Wipes are convenient and easy to use but don't use just one wipe in an attempt to disinfect an entire kitchen. There must be enough of the disinfecting solution left by the wipe to leave a surface visibly wet for at least four minutes while air-drying to be effective.
This is currently out of stock on Amazon. A bottle of 75-count wipes cost around $6 on Amazon in late 2019, but due to news of the novel coronavirus, many stores are out of stock or what's still available is highly marked up. We'll do our best to keep this story updated with accurate purchase links and provide context around any price markups.
Product Name: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
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How to disinfect food preparation areas and tools
Many disinfecting products, including ones with chlorine bleach, are not safe to use in food preparation areas without an added step of a rinse after disinfecting. That's why you need SaniDate Hard Surface Sanitizer.
While SaniDate doesn't pretend to deep clean surfaces, the one-step disinfectant will kill bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus on plastic and sealed wood cutting boards, stone, tile, and laminate countertops, and even utensils and dishware with patented ethyl alcohol technology.
With a rapid kill time of only 30 seconds, the product is also quick drying and registered with the EPA. Surfaces are safe to touch nearly instantly without rinsing and it contains no bleach or ammonia. SaniDate is unscented and can be used to clean fruits and vegetables as well as kitchen surfaces.
This is currently out of stock on Amazon. According to the price-tracking site CamelCamelCamel, a one-gallon jug ranged between $20-$40 on Amazon last year, so be aware if you see it marked up on Amazon or other sites.
Product Name: SaniDate Hard Surface Sanitizer
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How to disinfect utensils, dishes, and glassware
If you are using an automatic dishwasher with the proper water temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and a dishwasher detergent that contains chlorine bleach as one of the ingredients, you can rest assured that eating utensils, dishes, and glassware are disinfected and free of bacterial growth.
When handwashing dishes, wash as usual and add a final soak in a solution of one tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach per one gallon of cool water for two minutes before draining the solution and allowing the dishes to air-dry. Do not use on silver, aluminum or chipped enamel.
Make sure to use a chlorine bleach like Clorox Germicidal Concentrated Liquid Bleach that contains a high-enough concentration of sodium hypochlorite to thoroughly kill bacteria. You can use chlorine test strips to confirm that you have 200 parts per million (ppm) required for the correct concentration of bleach.
According to CamelCamelCamel, prices for a 3-pack can range from $15-$27 on Amazon. It's currently unavailable at most retailers including Amazon, but we'll update if we see them back in stock. If you're looking for just one jug, Home Depot has them for under $5, which seems like an accurate and normal price.
Product Name: Clorox Concentrated Germicidal Bleach
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Product Name: Bartovation Sanitizer Chlorine Test Paper
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How to disinfect the living room
When disinfecting shared living spaces, don't forget to treat soft-surfaces like pillows and upholstered furniture as well as hard surfaces. We'll go over hard surfaces here, but you can skip ahead to soft-surface disinfecting here.
- Best product for disinfecting hard surfaces: Microban 24 Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Spray
- Best product for disinfecting electronics: HomeSoap UV Electronics Sanitizer
- Best wipe to disinfect remotes and game controllers: Towei Alcohol Wipes
How to disinfect hard surfaces in the living room
End tables, light switches, doorknobs can all become contaminated due to germs on our hands. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends constant handwashing with water and soap for 20 seconds to curb the spread of germs, many people don't do it often enough or even effectively.
When that fails, try Microban 24 Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Spray to disinfect surfaces and offer 24 hours of protection from bacteria growth even after multiple touches.
Spray the surface with enough Microban so it will stay wet for five minutes before air-drying for the most protection. If you simply can't wait, and the surface needs cleaning as well as disinfecting, spray it on and let it sit for five seconds before drying the surface with a clean microfiber cloth.
This is available at Walmart for a little under $4 as of publishing time.
Product Name: Microban 24 Hour Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant Spray
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How to disinfect electronics
Phones, remotes, laptops, and keyboards hold onto every bacteria they encounter — and we all know they encounter a lot.
You can use an alcohol wipe that's 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean iPhone screens. Certain carriers may have different coatings to prevent smudges and scratches that may be harmed by alcohol, so we suggest checking out this list of techniques to clean your phones effectively. Always read the manual before cleaning the screen of a cell phone.
Since it's not a liquid that comes in contact with your phone screens, HomeSoap UV Electronics Sanitizer safely kills bacteria in just 10 minutes using UV-C light. It's a larger version of the popular Phonesoap, which we've tested, and can hold two phones at once.
With interior dimensions of 13.18 inches long by 3.43 inches wide and 9.13 inches high, this device can accommodate almost every type of hand-held electronics. And with two USB ports for charging, the electronics come out freshly sanitized and charged at the same time. The UV-C germicidal short wavelength, ultraviolet light breaks apart the DNA of bacteria and germs leaving it unable to harm or reproduce.
This is the same UV-C light technology used in hospital surgical suites to aid in killing superbugs.
It's available on the PhoneSoap site for pre-order but will ship in early June, so if you're planning to wait for one, we'd suggest alcohol wipes or this $80 phone sanitizer from HoMedics instead. The company provides lab results that show its effectiveness against common bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, staph, and more.
Product Name: PhoneSoap HomeSoap UV Sanitizer
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How to disinfect remotes and video game controllers
If a HomeSoap is a bit out of your price range or you don't want to wait that long, you can still disinfect electronics with Towei Alcohol Wipes.
The wipes are a non-woven fabric that is saturated with a 75% isopropyl alcohol. This is the same concentration that doctors and hospitals use to rid your skin of bacteria before giving a vaccination or drawing blood.
Just wipe down the remote or controller and allow the item to air-dry. You can go wash your hands while you wait.
It's currently available on Amazon for $24 with $4 shipping, but it says the expected shipping date is the end of April. We'll update if we see that the shipping dates have changed.
How to disinfect the bathroom
In addition to hard surfaces like showers, toilets, and counters, be sure to disinfect and wash towels and bathmats regularly. A fresh handtowel should be put in place at least daily. Giving everyone a new toothbrush regularly, and especially after getting over a cold, can also help keep bacteria levels under control.
- Best product to disinfect bathroom surfaces: Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner and Sanitizing Spray
- Best product to disinfect toilet: Lysol Complete Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach
- Best cleaning cloth: AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
How to disinfect bathroom counters, tubs, showers, and floors
Hard surfaces in the bathroom should be disinfected twice a day because this is the room exposed to the most bodily fluids.
If you are using a disinfectant wipe or a spray disinfecting cleaner like Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner and Sanitizing Spray, you must follow directions carefully, use enough of the cleaner to leave the surface wet for several minutes, and allow the cleaner to air-dry on the surface.
To remove dried mucus from a sneeze or spittle after teeth are brushed, a microfiber cloth will provide the gentle abrasion needed to loosen the matter so it can be cleaned away. Use a separate microfiber cloth for the toilet or clean it last to avoid transferring germs.
This is still available at Walmart at the time of publishing.
Product Name: Microban 24 Hour Bathroom Cleaner and Sanitizing Spray
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Product Name: AmazonBasics Blue and Yellow Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (24-pack)
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How to disinfect toilets
It's a good idea to disinfect every surface of a toilet including the bowl. The outer surfaces can be cleaned with Microban 24, but to disinfect the bowl, use Lysol Complete Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach.
The thick gel clings to bowl surfaces and the angled head makes it easier to reach the often forgotten area under the rim. Squirt the gel into the bowl at the beginning of your bathroom cleaning session and close the toilet lid while you finish the rest of the bathroom. Giving the cleaner time to work will make it easier to remove residue as you scrub the bowl.
A 2-pack for a little over $11 seems about right for this item, though it should ship within 2-3 days of ordering and it's not available through Amazon Prime. Historically, we've been able to find it on Amazon Prime with free 2-day shipping.
Product Name: Lysol Complete Clean Toilet Bowl Cleaner
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How to disinfect the bedroom
Soft surfaces like bed linens, pillows, and clothing need special attention to kill bacteria especially if someone is ill. Don't forget outerwear, gloves, and scarves that may have been exposed to communal germs.
- Best product to disinfect nonwashable fabrics: Lysol Disinfectant Spray
- Best product to disinfect washable fabrics: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
How to disinfect non-washable soft surfaces
Mattresses, pillows, and some bedding just can't be tossed in the washer. The same theory applies to any upholstered furniture.
That's why you need a good phenolic disinfecting spray like Lysol. This is not just an air-freshener, it contains the ingredients necessary to kill bacteria and is safe to use on fabrics and hard surfaces. I like to use it on bed linens between changes to freshen the fabric and kill lingering bacteria which is particularly important if someone is ill.
The key to proper protection is to cover the surface with the mist and allow it to remain wet for at least 30 seconds up to 10 minutes so the active ingredients in the spray have time to work. Drying times for specific viruses are listed on the container.
Remember, if you are spraying surfaces that might end up in a mouth, they must be rinsed with clean water after the Lysol spray has dried.
There are also a dozen scents available, so you can find one that suits your sensibilities.
This is currently out of stock at Walmart, but the $6 price is about right for an item like this.
Product Name: Lysol Disinfectant Spray
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How to disinfect washable fabrics
While washing clothes and drying them at a high heat will take care of most of the harmful bacteria, you can be sure that every bedsheet and pair of is bacteria-free with Lysol Laundry Sanitizer.
Bacteria and germs can live on fabric surfaces for days and regular washing, especially in cold water, won't take care of every problem. There are several ways you can sanitize washable fabrics.
Chlorine bleach and pine oil kill germs but can harm some fabrics, and quaternary formulas used in hospitals are difficult to find, but Lysol's phenolic disinfectant is readily available and appropriate for all washable fabrics.
Bleach-free and safe to use in standard and high-efficiency washers, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer is easy to use. Just add the recommended amount of liquid to the washer's fabric softener dispenser so the sanitizer will be dispersed through the rinse water. If you don't have a dispenser, wait until the rinse cycle to add the product directly to the washer drum. The product comes in a Crisp Linen scent and is also available in an unscented dye-free formula.
In addition to the health benefits, the sanitizer also kills odor-causing bacteria that can leave clothes like socks and underwear smelling less-than-fresh.
It's currently out of stock on Amazon, even through third-party sellers. Earlier in March, the price was around $11, according to CamelCamelCamel. There's a sport version presumably designed with even more odor-killing capabilities available at Walmart for $6-$10, depending on which size you get.
Product Name: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Additive (2 pack)
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Product Name: Pine-Sol All Purpose Cleaner 2-Pack
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Check out our other related cleaning guides
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