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Clean and Disinfect Your Household

From Terri Black, Burke County UGA Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences


For publication March 16, 2020

Cleaning and disinfecting household surfaces are critical the prevention and spread of illness. These recommendations from the CDC for cleaning and disinfecting of your household are for those with people who have confirmed COVID-19, are under investigation or may be in self-isolation or quarantine. However, it is good advice at this time for all household settings.

First, it is important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is getting rid of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It reduces them but does not kill germs. Disinfecting is needed to kill germs on surfaces. Do this AFTER cleaning!

Pay special attention to tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks or other frequently touched surfaces. Make sure you have good ventilation and use safe precautions for the cleaner or disinfectant such as wearing gloves, if available. Use the right cleaner and EPA-registered disinfectant for the surface being cleaned. Read labels to know what to use them on and what to wear. If a bathroom is shared with an ill person, cleaned and disinfect the bathroom after each use by an ill person. If an ill person is in the home, follow CDC advice for caregivers and stock supplies in an ill person's bedroom and bathroom. Ideally, caregivers and other residents should not share a bedroom or bathroom with an ill person.

When cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces, wear disposable gloves when possible. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products used. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed. First, clean surfaces using a detergent and water. Next, disinfect by one of these methods:

Bleach Solution Follow bleach manufacturer’s instructions for surfaces to use bleach on. Use proper ventilation and do not use bleach that is past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser! This can create toxic fumes. Be aware that bleach recommendations for use against coronaviruses differ from typical solution recommendations. For disinfecting against coronavirus, mix 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or mix 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Purchased disinfectant Choose disinfectants with an EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claim. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

For soft surfaces (carpets, rugs, and curtains), get rid of visible dirt and clean with the right cleaner for the type of surface. After cleaning, if possible, put items in the laundry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest water possible for the item and then dry items completely.

For clothing, towels, linens and other items that go in the laundry, wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard after each use. If using reusable gloves, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other household purposes. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed. If no gloves are used when handling dirty laundry, be sure to wash hands afterwards. Avoid shaking dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air. Wash and dry items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest water possible for the item and then dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items, as the virus does not survive laundering. Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces. If possible, put in a bag liner that can be thrown away or can be laundered.

In addition, continue to practice good personal health habits. When possible, avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, stay home unless you require medical attention. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and clean frequently touched surfaces daily, including your electronic devices. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after using the restroom, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. It is currently advisable to stay away from public places as much as possible; only going out for necessities.

Although this is definitely an unusual event, we know that it is only temporary. It is hard to avoid stress and worry, but know that hygiene and home cleanliness precautions are definitely helpful and within our personal control.

Advice as of March 12, 2020


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