Here's the proper technique.

March 31, 2020

It takes only a few minutes but cleaning high-traffic surfaces once a day can make a difference in preventing the spread of infection. Read more, ‘How Coronavirus Will Change Our Homes In The Next Decade.’ We asked the experts how best to clean our homes during a viral outbreak. After they taught us the proper technique, we had a few more questions:

Are Cleaning and Disinfecting the Same Thing?

You need to know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting—because they aren’t the same thing. Cleaning refers to removal of debris, dirt, and other impurities. It doesn’t kill germs—it just removes them, decreasing their numbers and reducing the likelihood of spreading infection.

Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to killing germs using chemicals. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces. So you’ll want to clean first and disinfect second to kill whatever germs are leftover after cleaning.

Take the Time to Read the Directions Before Using a Cleaning Product

This one’s straightforward, but: You should always read a cleaning product’s label before using that product. For one thing, the label might tell you to avoid using that product on certain surfaces.

How often should I do this?

Every day. (In between regular cleanings.) Read more, ‘The 22 Biggest Cleaning Mistakes You’re Making.’

Will wipes work?

Yes. Look for sprays or wipes that promise to kill 99.9 percent of germs.

What if I don’t have cleaning sprays or wipes?

Washing with soapy water should do the trick: a few drops of dish soap to eight ounces of water. Although soap and water will not kill all germs, scrubbing with soapy water should be effective in removing coronavirus and other germs from surfaces.

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What’s a high-touch surface?

All those places where you and your family leave a million fingerprints every day. (Clean bathroom surfaces last.) Usually, home cleaning is directed toward the dirtiest, dustiest spaces in a home—floors, countertops, corners that always seem to accumulate cobwebs. But when you’re cleaning and disinfecting with sickness in mind, you’ll want to give just as much attention to the high-touch surfaces in your home.

  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Refrigerator and microwave doors
  • Drawer pulls
  • TV remote
  • Counters and tabletops where you cook and eat
  • Toilet handles
  • Faucet handles

How thorough do I have to be?

A spray and a vigorous wipe should do it, but don’t get lazy here: You want to be sure you’ve gotten all the way around the doorknobs, for example.

“I try not to be neurotic about it,” says Dr. Kryssie Woods, hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West in New York. “But wash your hands when you get home, and try to clean some of those high-touch areas. That’s good advice even without the coronavirus.”

Do I need to wear gloves everytime I clean or disinfect something?

One thing most of us don’t do when we clean our homes? Wear gloves – they are an important way to protect yourself (and prevent the spread of germs) during cleaning and disinfecting. They specifically recommend that you wear disposable gloves, throw them away immediately after use, and wash your hands the moment you take them off.

If you decide to wear reusable gloves instead, be sure to dedicate them to this illness specifically. Don’t use them again once everyone in your home is healthy.

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If I’m using gloves, do I really have to wash the gloves afterward?

Yes, if you’re going to reuse them. (Use separate gloves for the bathroom and the dishes.) Once you’re done cleaning:

  • Wash your gloved hands with soap and water.
  • Dry them.
  • Pull the gloves off and store them.
  • Then wash your bare hands.

How else can I be sure my home stays clean?

When you get home, take off your shoes, hang up your coat and immediately go wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

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