Disinfecting Your Home: A Guide to Killing Germs on Every Type of Surface

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As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, most of us are spending more time at home. But if you aren’t careful, COVID-19 can still infect you inside your house or apartment.

Closeup View of Gloved Person Following Cleaning Guide Tips for Disinfecting Your Home Spraying Door Handle With Cleaning Solution | Vitacost.com/blog

First, the good news: To date, there is no documented evidence of anyone contracting coronavirus after touching a surface contaminated with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become infected this way. Touching a contaminated surface can transfer germs to your fingertips. Infection can follow if those contaminated fingers touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

So, experts say it is important to disinfect your home on a regular basis to keep the virus at bay.

Tips for Disinfecting Your Home

Killing the coronavirus on hard surfaces

The latest studies show the coronavirus can live on surfaces for anywhere from hours to days, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Todd Green, a virologist and associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, noted in a school press release that the virus is more stable on some surfaces – such as plastic and stainless steel – than others, such as cardboard.

“Viable virus was detected for up to three days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces,” says Green, who was not connected with the study. “While on copper, no viable virus was measured after four hours, or on cardboard after 24 hours.”

Fortunately, even if COVID-19 makes it into your home, it is relatively easy to kill.

A virus is a collection of lipids and proteins, with some genetic code tucked inside. A fat-based covering known as a viral envelope surrounds the virus. Destroying such viruses is relatively easy. Penetrate the viral envelope, and the virus is doomed.

Because of this fact, simple soap and water might be enough to destroy COVID-19 on hard surfaces, such as sinks, countertops, door knobs, light switches and more.

In fact, Jane Greatorex — a virologist at Cambridge University — told National Geographic that using a more powerful disinfectant such as bleach is like “using a bludgeon to swat a fly.”

Despite that fact, the CDC still recommends using more stringent methods when disinfecting your home.

For starters, use soap and water to clean hard surfaces that are dirty, the CDC says. Once you have done that, the agency recommends using a disinfectant known to kill COVID-19. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps a list of such disinfectants on its website.

Or, if you prefer, you can use bleach. The CDC recommends a bleach solution that consists of one of the following:

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water
  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Never mix bleach with any other cleanser, including ammonia.

Killing the coronavirus on soft surfaces

Killing viruses on soft surfaces – including carpets, rugs, drapes, clothing and linens – is easy if the items can be laundered. In that case, the CDC recommends using the warmest setting allowed by the manufacturer. Thoroughly dry the item afterward.

If the item cannot be laundered, the CDC suggests scanning the EPA list and looking for a product suitable for cleaning porous surfaces.

Killing the coronavirus on other household surfaces

Germs associated with COVID-19 also can contaminate other things in your house, such as:

  • Tablets
  • Touch screens
  • Keyboards
  • Remote controls

The best way to clean these objects is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, in a pinch, you can use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol, according to the CDC.

Whatever surface you clean, make sure to wear gloves for added protection. And once you are finished with cleaning and have disposed of your gloves, wash your hands thoroughly – for at least 20 seconds – with soap and water.