With combatting illness on everyone’s mind right now, you might be wondering what places you should disinfect daily. The good news is that tending to these spots doesn’t take much time and can significantly help keep your family healthy.
Read on for the list of places you should disinfect daily and why some areas might need it more often. Grab the printable checklist at the end to hang on your refrigerator, so you can remember what to do.
Clean and Disinfect to Keep Your Home Healthy
But first, it’s essential to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and why in some areas you need to do both.
Clean surfaces are not necessarily disinfected, and disinfected surfaces are not necessarily clean.
Cleaning involves physical scrubbing or wiping, usually with soap and water or even a homemade all-purpose cleaning spray. Cleaning reduces the number of germs by decreasing the amount of grime, dust, and dirt on a surface.
Disinfecting kills lingering germs on a surface. Disinfection reduces the risk of transmitting infections or illnesses but does not necessarily leave the surface free of dirt and grime.
When you’re trying to control the spread of illness in your home, it’s best to clean and disinfect frequently touched areas daily.
Right now, disinfection is a major health concern in homes around the world. The latest thinking (as of 17 March 2020) is that the worry for hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel lasts up to 72 hours.
Other Germs Are Still Around, Too
There are, of course, other bacteria and germs in our homes that we want to keep from spreading. Things like the flu or RSV can linger 6 to 24 hours on hard surfaces while bacteria like Salmonella and campylobacter (foodborne illnesses) stick around 1 to 4 hours.
So tending to these places you should disinfect daily can help reduce transmission of several illnesses. But you need to do it the right way.
Stop the Spread with a Two-Step Approach
Stopping the spread of these illnesses within your home requires frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces, along with regular cleaning.
You may be wondering why spraying a surface with disinfectant and wiping it isn’t enough. The answer is that the amount of organic matter (dirt, food particles, grease, etc.) can reduce the effectiveness of a disinfectant.
So, a good rule of thumb is: clean your home weekly to remove dirt and grime and also go over these places you should disinfect daily. These spots are known as “high-touch areas” and require frequent disinfection to reduce the transmission of illness within our homes.
Safety Precautions When Disinfecting
Don’t abandon common sense in your effort to keep your family healthy, or you may create new hazards. Follow these precautions when disinfecting places daily.
- Wear cleaning gloves. Using disposable gloves and changing them between rooms is ideal. If you don’t have disposable gloves, use three different pairs: one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom, and one for all other rooms. Wash them in a separate load using the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Wash your arms and hands after removing gloves. There’s a risk of splashback from both cleaning products and germs. So, immediately after you take off the gloves, wash your arms as well as your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 30 seconds.
- Read product labels! Not all cleaning or disinfecting products are safe for all surfaces. Some can be dangerous when not correctly used. Even if you’ve been using a product for years, check the label since formulas and safety recommendations change often.
- DO NOT COMBINE PRODUCTS. Some common household cleaning products can create lethal combinations. This risk is another reason to read and follow the label.
- Launder cleaning rags immediately. Use a long wash cycle and hot water for both the wash and rinse. Use a sanitizing laundry additive if you want. Dry your cleaning rags in a hot dryer for 60 minutes or line dry them in bright sunlight for added disinfection.
- Disinfect your laundry hamper, too. If you’ve tossed cleaning rags into your basket, be sure to clean and disinfect it after starting the wash to avoid cross-contamination.
What to Use to Disinfect Your Home
For cleaning, warm soapy water and a microfiber cloth are enough to remove dirt and grime. Other DIY cleaning recipes to try include:
- Homemade cleaning wipes
- Homemade all-purpose cleaning spray for hard surfaces
- Homemade floor cleaner for hard flooring
Disinfection requires a different approach. The CDC recommends alcohol-based solutions containing at least 70% alcohol or the following measured mixture of bleach and water. (Be sure the bleach has not expired.)
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.
For those who prefer store-bought cleaning mixtures, here is a list of approved products. (.pdf)
What You Should Disinfect Daily (At Least)
- Your phone and other touchscreens. Disinfect daily (including the case) and again every time you get home after leaving the house. Here’s a homemade disinfecting spray for touchscreens to try, or use a disinfecting wipe.
- Doorknobs. Clean all doorknobs as part of your regular cleaning routine. During cold and flu season, disinfect them daily using a spray or wipe, and more often for exterior and bathroom doors.
- Faucets and sink basins in the kitchen and all bathrooms. Even with good handwashing, faucets and sinks are very germy spots. Clean them at least once a week as part of your regular routine. Disinfect them daily during illness season, and several times a day if someone in your home is sick.
- Appliance handles. Clean the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and oven handles as part of your regular weekly kitchen cleaning routine. Disinfect them daily with a spray or wipe, and several times a day if a family member is sick.
- Cupboard and drawer handles in the kitchen and bathrooms. Treat these the same as appliance handles.
- Kitchen countertops. Clean after preparing each meal or snack. A soapy rag or all-purpose cleaner is fine. Disinfect at least once a day using a spray or wipe and also immediately after preparing raw meats.
- Kitchen or dining tables and chairs. Clean after meals. Disinfect at least once a day and more often if someone in your home is sick.
- Toilet handles, lids, and seats. Clean as part of your regular bathroom cleaning routine. Disinfect at least once a day with a spray or wipe and several times daily if someone is ill.
- Bathroom vanities. Clean as part of your weekly bathroom cleaning routine. Disinfect at least once a day with a spray or wipe.
- Light switches and switch plates. Clean a room’s light switches when you clean the room. Disinfect daily with a wipe. If someone in your home is ill, also disinfect the switches in their room and any bathroom they use several times throughout the day.
- Television remotes. Clean with a damp, soapy cloth when you’re cleaning the room. Disinfect daily with a wipe. If someone in your home is sick, put the remote in a resealable plastic bag and wipe that with a disinfecting cloth several times each day.
- Game controllers. Treat as a television remote.
- Computer keyboards. Clean weekly by turning and tapping the bottom to dislodge crumbs. Vacuum with a brush attachment. Go over the keys with a lightly damp, soapy cloth and let them air dry. Disinfect daily during peak illness season using a wipe and more often if someone in your home is sick.
Don’t Forget Your Towel
Be sure you are also changing and laundering towels regularly. Damp towels are bacterial breeding grounds and, let’s face it, plenty of people still aren’t washing their hands (or bodies) correctly.
- Use separate hand and dish towels in the kitchen.
- Change dish towels daily and launder them at least once a week.
- Change bathroom hand towels at least once a day, and any time they feel damp.
- Change bath towels every couple of uses and always hang them to dry.