Young man learning how to clean a kitchen countertop with gloves and cleaning solution.

How to clean house and defend against germs

Keeping your family safe from getting sick requires more than washing hands and having good personal hygiene. Your home needs proper hygiene, too, which means taking a closer look at what you touch and how you clean your house.

To eliminate as many germs as possible requires sanitization. That means both cleaning and disinfecting.

What do cleaning, disinfecting mean?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for preventing viruses and bacteria from spreading. The CDC defines cleaning and disinfecting as the following:

Person cleaning a light switch at home.

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. The disinfecting process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. However, killing germs on a surface after cleaning can lower the risk of spreading infection.

Cleaning guidelines

When thinking about what should be kept clean, think about what is frequently touched in your home.

The CDC recommends frequently disinfecting your tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and electronics – keyboards, touch screens, remotes and phones.

Further, use household cleaners that are appropriate for the surface you’re cleaning. Those cleaning materials should be wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol.

Cleaning tips

When cleaning hard, non-porous surfaces, you should wear disposable gloves, if available. If you’re using reusable gloves, they should be ones you use only for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

The CDC recommends:

  • Dirty surfaces should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • For disinfection, use common EPA-registered household disinfectants to be effective.
  • Additionally, diluted household bleach solutions can be used, if appropriate for the surface.
  • Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least one minute.
  • Allow proper ventilation during and after application.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

How to clean with bleach

After cleaning household surfaces, you can use unexpired household bleach, which is effective against viruses when properly diluted, to disinfect the surfaces. To prepare a bleach and water solution, you will need to start with unscented bleach with a sodium hypochlorite concentration between 5% and 9%. Then:

  • Mix 5 tablespoons (1/3 of a cup) of bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • If you don’t need a full gallon, use 4 teaspoons of bleach per 1 quart of water.

Last Updated: December 5, 2022

About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: General