Tips for Proper Cleaning and Sanitizing
By: Brian Nummer, Utah State University Extension food safety specialist Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension FCS associate professor
Outside of avoiding places with infected individuals, the CDC and other organizations state that hand washing is the best prevention against COVID-19. Handwashing is better than wearing a mask. A good point to remember is that viruses do not grow outside of the infected person (or animal), so viruses on surfaces will never increase. Proper handwashing and sanitizing can help eliminate the virus from commonly touched surfaces and help prevent the spread to another person.
Disinfectant products are now in demand, and in many cases, sanitizing products are sold out in stores. However, most people have bleach at home, and regular-strength bleach kills coronavirus on surfaces. Extra-strength bleach is not required and may even be less effective. Remember: a little bleach goes a long way.
Any soap or detergent will remove viruses and wash them away. The soap will not immediately kill the virus, but will remove it from surfaces.
The hospitality, airline and transportation industries have enhanced cleaning and sanitizing efforts in both effort and frequency. We can do the same in our homes. Clean often. Wash fabrics often. Wash hands very often.
Steps for cleaning and sanitizing properly include:
Step 1: Wear disposable gloves. If using reusable gloves, only use them for cleaning and disinfecting and no other purpose. If no gloves are available, when cleaning is complete, wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds and dry them with a towel or paper towel.
Step 2: Wash, then sanitize. Clean frequently touched surfaces using a detergent or soap and water first before sanitizing. For example, think of cleaning floors—it works best to sweep before mopping.
Step 3: Use disinfectant appropriately. Bleach is one option for sanitizing, but others include cleaners with at least 70% alcohol and other common EPA-registered household disinfectants (look for the EPA-registered number on the product label).
When using bleach, never mix it with ammonia or any other cleaner. This can be very dangerous. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, including using in a well-ventilated area. According to a 2020 CDC report, using unexpired bleach properly diluted with water can ensure effectiveness against coronavirus.
Prepare a bleach solution in a spray bottle, bucket or sink by mixing:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart (4 cups) of water
Step 4: Allow surfaces to air dry and discard cleaning towel properly. Wipe frequently touched surfaces with the disinfectant and allow to air dry to destroy the microorganisms effectively. Throw away the used paper towel or place cleaning cloth in the laundry.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC 2017), Household cleaning and sanitizing: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/cleaning-sanitizing/household-cleaning-sanitizing.html
Centers for Disease Control (CDC 2020), Clean and disinfect: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html & https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2013-11/documents/green_cleaning.pdf