With all the concern over viruses and bacteria, it is important to know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Is cleaning your home enough, or do you have to do both? How can we be sure that our homes are safe from those germs that cause COVID-19 and other illnesses?
The main difference between cleaning and disinfecting is that cleaning cuts down on germs by washing them away but disinfecting is the only way to kill the germs. You need the chemicals in the disinfectant to remove the germs and kill the ones that are unable to be removed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all hard surfaces be disinfected as well as cleaned. As you read on, we are going to look into the details of disinfecting and cleaning as well as the best way to do both.
What Should Be Disinfected?
Of course, it is not possible to disinfect your entire house. Some areas are just not reachable or able to be disinfected due to the material or usage. But it is essential to get rid of as many germs from the most commonly touched areas and surfaces. These include:
- Cell phones
- Kitchen counters
- Light switches
- Remote controls
Cleaning is Important Too
Although disinfecting is essential to kill germs, cleaning is also important to keep things clean. You can spray things with Lysol or some other antibacterial spray all day long, but it will not get rid of the dirt. So, cleaning before disinfecting is the way to do it.
It may seem obvious to you as to how to clean your house. But there are ways to do it that will make it easier to keep your home clean and safe from germs.
The less clutter and dirt you have in the house, the better because germs like to find places to hide in the dirt and clutter. Here are some tips.
Clean the Whole House Rather Than One Room
Start with one task like dusting and do it all over the house. Do not just do the dusting in the living room and then stop to vacuum. Continue to dust the entire house, and then put the dusting items away before vacuuming the whole house.
Keep All Your Cleaning Supplies Together
A bucket or tote with all your cleaning supplies is the best way to do things without having to stop and look for certain things as you need them. Make sure you have all the essentials such as:
- A small brush like a toothbrush
- All-purpose cleaner
- Antibacterial wipes
- Disposable gloves
- Hard scrubbing brush
- Paper towels
- Stain remover
Get Rid of Clutter
Do not keep anything you do not need. Old magazines and junk mail just sitting around need to be pitched, and other things should be put away. The more clutter that’s lying around, the more places for germs to hide. It also becomes harder to clean when you have more “things.”
Spray the Toilets, Tubs, and Sinks
Go through the house and spray a cleaner on all of these, so the cleaner has the time it needs to dissolve the dirt. Continue to do other work while you wait for the cleaner to do its job.
Dusting and Waxing
Dusting and waxing furniture may not need to be done every day. But when you do it, make sure you do it before you clean the floors. In fact, do it after spraying the tubs and sinks while you wait for the cleaner to absorb.
Sweeping and Mopping
Do the sweeping and mopping after cleaning the upper surfaces. Start in the farthest corner of the house and move to the other end.
Always do the vacuuming last. You do not want to clean and dust afterward because you will end up with dirt back on the floor to clean again.
Clean Your Cleaning Tools
Many people overlook this task, but it is important. You have been putting your dirty hands all over your cleaning bottles, so wipe them down with antibacterial wash or wipes. Clean out the vacuum bag or canister and disinfect the mop.
How to Properly Disinfect Items
All of the surfaces in your home need to be disinfected. You can use a chemical disinfectant that is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registered. To find out if your disinfectant is EPA safe, check the EPA site or make your own disinfectant. There are several choices that have been approved by the CDC.
|Ingredient||How to Make|
|Alcohol||Use 12 ounces of 70% rubbing alcohol mixed with 3.5 ounces of water and ½ teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide.|
|Diluted bleach||Mix 1/3 cup bleach per quart of water.|
|Hydrogen peroxide||Mix one cup of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup water.|
|Vinegar||Mix one cup of distilled white vinegar to one cup of water.|
Cleaning Hard Surfaces
For cleaning any hard surfaces, you can use the alcohol mixture or vinegar. It is best to put it in a glass bottle with a trigger spray on it. Spray the surfaces and let them air dry. You do not have to wash it off or wipe it away. If you do, make sure you leave it on for at least one minute.
Electronics like cell phones and tablets should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before disinfecting. Use an antibacterial wipe or a paper towel sprayed with alcohol. Do not use water or other liquids as it may damage your electronics.
You can use the bleach mixture for surfaces that can be bleached, such as sinks or faucets. Use a bleach that is between 5.25% and 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Use disposable gloves and throw them away after disinfecting all of the hard surfaces. If you are using a chemical disinfectant, just follow the directions on the bottle.
Cleaning Soft Surfaces
For soft surfaces like carpets and furniture, there are certain spray disinfectants you can use on them. Some of the more popular products you can find on the market include:
- Clorox 4 in One Disinfectant and Sanitizer
- Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist
- Lysol Disinfectant Spray
- Microban 24 Sanitizing Spray
- Tide Antibacterial Fabric Spray
Laundering Everything Else
Anything that can go in the laundry should be washed with hot water (if possible) and antibacterial clothing detergent. Borax is a good choice for just about any material but check the tag on your items first. This includes blankets and pillows as well.
Read our infographic guide on how to clean and disinfect your home based on CDC guidelines.
How Often Should You Disinfect?
How often you need to disinfect depends on what kind of cleaner you are using and how many people live in your house. If you use a cleaner with bleach or some other disinfectant that says it lasts 24 hours, you should only have to do it once a day. Sure, it may be a lot of work, but it will keep you safe from those germs.
Some Important Things to Remember
There are certain things that you need to know and remember when cleaning and disinfecting. Some cleaners and disinfectants cannot be mixed with others. These include:
- Bleach and ammonia should never be mixed. If you mix these two, it makes chloramine fumes, which is a toxic gas that can be lethal to breathe.
- Bleach and Lysol should not be combined because it makes 2-benzyl-4-chlorophenol, which is dangerous to breathe.
- Bleach and rubbing alcohol together can be irritating to breathe and will cause skin irritation.
- Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar should not be mixed because it makes peracetic acid, which is also a toxic gas.
- Detergent and disinfectants should never be combined because many have ammonia or other dangerous ingredients to mix together.
You may notice that bleach is one thing that you should not mix with other cleaners. Keep that in mind. Alcohol can also be dangerous because it is flammable. Do not smoke or use it near an open flame.