Whether motivated by spring cleaning or concern over cold and flu season or coronavirus, people are focused more than ever on ways to disinfect everyday household objects.
Here’s what we found:
The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may remain visable for hours to days on surfaces, according to public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
They recommend cleaning and wiping down frequently touched surfaces with a disinfectant daily during cold and flu season to reduce the risk of spreading infection.
It isn’t possible to remove bacteria from everything you touch, but soap and water, household cleaners and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved household disinfectants are effective on hard surfaces such as counters, tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks, says the CDC.
For carpets, rugs, drapes and other soft, porous surfaces, clean with products such as Purell Multi-Surface Disinfectant, Sani-Spritz Spray and Simple Green Clean Finish. Launder using the warmest appropriate water setting and then dry completely.
For sports gear and equipment: Clear Gear Sports Spray.
Depending on the surface materials, you can use solutions with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol or diluted household bleach to kill bacteria. Mix four teaspoons of bleach into a quart of water, says the CDC, then rinse with water to avoid discoloration or damage.
Or spray with undiluted household hydrogen peroxide, which the CDC says works on rhinovirus infections, the cause of the common cold and harder to destroy than coronaviruses.
Wear disposable or washable gloves, and open windows to improve ventilation when using cleaning and disinfecting products.
All-purpose cleaners with dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride or triclosan might create forms of bacteria that are harder to kill, says Consumer Reports.
Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date.
When done, clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used.
Dry with disposable paper towels or soak a reusable towel in soapy water to destroy any virus particles that may have survived, Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and member of the American Chemical Society, told Consumer Reports.
Best simple solutions
Here are easy cleaning ideas from the latest edition of Consumer Reports’ “How to Clean Practically Anything” publication:
Grease: Use dish soap or don goggles and add eight parts water to one part ammonia.
Garbage disposal: Shake in baking soda, which is mildly abrasive and counteracts smelly acids poured down the drain.
Mildew or cleaning up raw meat, poultry or fish: Clean with bacteria-killing bleach (never mix with ammonia or any other cleanser).
Cabinets: Use a handheld vacuum to remove dust inside cabinets. Take away dirt and grease inside and out with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid mixed with clean, warm water. Wipe down with a clean, damp cloth and dry with another clean, soft, lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching laminate and high-gloss cabinetry, according to MasterBrand Cabinets.
Counters: Use a clean, soft cotton cloth with water and a mild, non-chemical liquid detergent to wipe down Formica laminate. Don’t let water penetrate the seams, which can cause the substrate to swell. Don’t use cleaners containing acid, alkali or sodium hypochlorite that will mar, etch, corrode and permanently discolor the laminate surface, says the Formica company.
Sealed wood and other furniture: Mix water and a little mild liquid dish detergent and spray onto furniture, then wipe with a damp cloth and dry with another clean, lint-free cloth.
Pillows: Fluff them every day to remove dust. About every month, hang them outdoors or run foam and latex pillows on the dryer’s no-heat cycle. Twice a year, clean down, feather and polyester pillows in the washing machine’s gentle cycle and dry them completely, or take pillows to the dry cleaners. Launder pillow covers, pillowcases and sheets once a week.
Toilet bowl: Clean and disinfect with a toilet bowl cleaner. Use harsh cleaners to remove rust and stains sparingly.
More cleaning tips
- One-way wipe down: Wipe down a surface in one direction and don’t go back over it in the opposite direction to avoid leaving germs.
- Color code cloths: Identify cloths for specific spaces so you don’t contaminate the kitchen with the bathroom cloth.
And don’t forget to clean your cleaning supplies. Use a disinfectant wipe on soap dispenser pumps. Wash cleaning rags, shake out dusters and brooms, and microwave the kitchen sponge for two minutes daily then replace it every two weeks.
Better Homes and Gardens recommends rinsing non self-cleaning washing machines with distilled white vinegar every six months to remove bacteria and mildew odors. Run a regular cycle with hot water and two cups of white vinegar in an empty washing machine. Then wipe down the interior to eliminate buildup and run a cycle of hot water to rinse.