Written by Stacey Kelleher. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
According to the CDC, washing your hands well and often is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Another crucial step in the fight against microscopic pathogens is keeping your home clean and free of big messes.
This quarantine period is the ideal time to learn how to properly clean, disinfect, and sanitize household surfaces to reduce your exposure to dangerous germs and keep your family healthy.
How COVID-19 Is Transmitted
(Editor’s note: Because researchers were only beginning to understand how COVID-19 was contracted, this is the most current information available at the time of publication.)
Person-to-person contact is the most common way COVID-19 is transmitted. Coronavirus is carried in respiratory droplets that can be passed when we talk, cough, or sneeze. Those droplets can travel roughly 6 feet, which is why we’ve been advised to keep that distance from others outside of our homes.
That said, respiratory droplets containing the virus can also land on furniture, clothing, or electronics. If we come into contact with those surfaces and then touch our eyes, nose, or mouth, we could potentially be exposed to the virus.
Researchers are still trying to assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission from contaminated surfaces. While they do, the CDC still recommends cleaning and disinfecting hard and soft surfaces to prevent the spread of illness. There is, however, a distinct difference between cleaning and disinfecting – we’ll cover that below.
How Long Coronavirus Lasts on Surfaces
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, COVID-19’s lifespan is dependent on the surface:
While we don’t currently know how long COVID-19 survives on fabric, experts suspect it may be anywhere from a few hours to a day.
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Taking Precautions by Cleaning and Sanitizing
Until we better understand how COVID-19 can infect a person who has been in contact with a contaminated surface, we should treat it like the flu or any highly-contagious illness. Because the flu can be transmitted on surfaces, it makes sense to clean and disinfect our homes to limit our exposure to coronavirus.
The Definition of Cleaning
The CDC defines cleaning as, “the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces,” and typically involves a cleaning product, water, and agitation with a brush, towel, or other tools. You’ll probably notice a visible “before and after” difference. Cleaning clears messes so that disinfectants and sanitizers can kill any illness-causing microbes that remain.
Every surface in your home needs regular cleaning to reduce bacteria, but the dirtiest spots in your house might surprise you. In addition to toilets and your entranceways, germs especially love kitchen sponges, sinks, toothbrush holders, handles, and pillows.
How to Clean Upholstered Surfaces
When cleaning soft surfaces in your home (like couches, carpets, curtains, and mattresses), it’s best to start by removing spots with a powerful stain remover. Puracy Natural Stain Remover uses powerful plant enzymes to dissolve and remove marks from grass, blood, wine, pet accidents, and everything in between.
After spot-treating, launder items that can be machine-washed, always in the warmest temperature water possible. Allow them to dry completely. For larger items, a natural carpet and upholstery shampoo that’s gentle on fabric (but tough on dirt and grime) is a wise choice.
The CDC offers some additional tips:
- Wear disposable gloves when handling clothing or bedding of someone who is ill.
- Avoid shaking dirty linens to prevent dispersing germs into the air.
- Clean and disinfect clothes hampers. Consider using a disposable or washable liner as well (but remember that COVID-19 can live on plastic for up to 72 hours).
How to Clean Semi- and Non-Porous Surfaces
High-touch spots like doorknobs and faucet handles – and bigger spaces like cabinets and furniture – are easy to clean with soap and water or with a non-toxic multi-surface spray.
First, remove items from the cleaning area. Next, use one spray of the multi-surface cleaner for each 2’x2’ square, directly onto surfaces. Wait a few seconds before wiping it away with a clean paper towel or a folded microfiber towel, using tight, overlapping z-patterns to ensure total coverage and eliminate streaks.
During this unprecedented time, paper towels may not be the most eco-friendly option, but they reduce the spread of germs throughout your home. Otherwise, continually fold your microfiber cloths to a clean side, launder them more frequently than usual, and wash your hands when done.
While cleaning can’t kill every germ, it can greatly reduce their numbers – and your chances of getting sick. Once cleaning is finished, you can start disinfecting.
Why Puracy All-Purpose Cleaner Is a Great Choice
Puracy All-Purpose Cleaner uses C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate, an effective alternative to ammonia and petroleum distillates. While it’s not labeled (or tested) as a disinfectant, our ingredients are proven to remove bacteria and microbes by breaking them down and being wiped away.
You won’t have to worry about adverse chemical reactions when combining our products with harsher disinfectants or sanitizers. You also won’t have to worry about harming the surfaces you’re cleaning.
The Difference Between Disinfecting and Sanitizing
Some products double as both cleaners and disinfectants, requiring different methods for each (Your product label and instructions are always your best resources to clean or disinfect effectively). While most aren’t designed to remove dirt and residue like cleaning does, disinfecting and sanitizing products use “antimicrobial pesticides” to kill germs. These products are regulated by the EPA and pesticide regulation departments in various states.
There is, however, a small difference between the two: Sanitizing products kill up to 99.9% of germs, reducing them to a safe level that’s in accordance with EPA standards for efficacy. Disinfecting goes one step further, using chemicals (including EPA-registered disinfectants) to kill nearly 100% of germs on surfaces.
As we aim to slow the spread of COVID-19, it makes sense to disinfect home surfaces in high-traffic areas, especially door handles, light switches, faucets, and countertops (if you’ve put a grocery bag or package on it) to kill as many microbes as possible.
If you are practicing physical distancing and observing shelter-at-home recommendations, it is not necessary to worry about disinfecting your home spaces as regularly.
Which Surfaces Require Disinfecting?
Anything that comes in contact with your hands, food, and the outside world should be disinfected. That includes:
- Children’s furniture and toys
- Kitchen cutting boards, utensils, and countertops (dishwashers clean and destroy germs better than washing by hand)
- Doors, handles, and packages coming into the home
- Clothing, shoes, backpacks, and handbags
Pro tip: Certain materials require special care. Before cleaning or disinfecting, always check your manufacturer’s instruction to ensure the products you’re using are safe to use.
How to Disinfect Upholstered Surfaces
After spot-treating and cleaning with Puracy Multi-Surface Spray (or your preferred natural cleaning product), it’s time to kill any microbes that remain.
For disinfecting, the CDC recommends laundering or shampooing bedding, clothing, carpets, and other soft materials with the hottest water possible. Provided they’re safe for fabrics, you can also use products that meet the EPA’s criteria for killing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
How to Disinfect Semi- and Non-Porous Surfaces
To disinfect hard surfaces after cleaning, you have a few options:
You can use EPA-endorsed wipes, sprays, and solutions to kill bacteria and germs. Always follow the directions on disinfectant labels precisely. If you don’t let the disinfectant sit long enough, it can’t do its job.
If manufacturer instructions allow, you may also disinfect surfaces with a diluted bleach solution recommended by the CDC: 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water (or 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water). If using bleach:
- First, clean the surface using soap and water (or a surface cleaner).
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
- Allow the mixture to sit on surfaces for at least one minute.
- Make sure the bleach hasn’t expired.
- Ensure proper ventilation at all times.
- Never mix with other cleaners (especially those containing ammonia).
Take care to never mix chemicals together, especially bleach and ammonia (which produces toxic gas).
How to Disinfect Cell Phones
Our cell phones are among the dirtiest surfaces we’re exposed to every day. In fact, a University of Arizona study discovered that the average cell phone contained 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!
There’s a simple way to kill germs on your mobile phone, gaming devices, screens, and remote controls:
- Remove dirt and debris with Puracy’s gentle all-purpose spray.
- Once dried, use an alcohol based-wipe or spray containing at least 70% isopropyl alcohol. Ensure that the product is safe for electronics.
- Allow electronics to dry completely.
What to Do After Cleaning and Disinfecting
After every step in the cleaning and disinfecting process, allow surfaces to air dry to prevent the growth of new bacteria. Throw disposable cleaning items (like paper towels and wipes) into the trash. Wash microfiber towels and rags after each use. And always, always, always: Wash your hands when you’re done.
Extra Tips for Being Extra Careful
If someone in your home is ill or immunocompromised, it’s crucial that you take extra precautions:
- Wear disposable gloves when handling a sick person’s belongings.
- Anyone with a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 should eat and sleep in a separate room away from others and avoid contact (direct or indirect) with others in the dwelling.
- Reusable plates and utensils should be washed with hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher.
- Clothing and bedding should be machine-washed on the hottest setting possible.
- Dedicate a waste receptacle for a sick family member and use gloves when disposing of their trash.
- Disinfectant packages and containers before they enter the home.
- When arriving home, people who spend time in high-traffic areas (e.g. hospitals, supermarkets) should immediately remove their clothes and launder them to prevent possible transmission.
- Always wash your hands after touching anything that comes in contact with an ill person.
How We’re Fighting Germs at Puracy
In addition to every team member using Puracy hand sanitizer when they enter our building, Puracy Multi-Purpose Spray is an essential part of keeping our team safe and healthy. We use it on everything from stainless steel to marble, granite, glass, and other non-porous surfaces. We follow our cleaning routine by disinfecting door handles, light switches, and any other high-touch areas with a bleach solution.
Follow our cleaning and disinfecting regimen flatten the curve, kill germs, and stay healthy.
To learn more about keeping your home germ-free, check out these earlier posts: