CDC releases guidelines to clean and disinfect the home in wake of virus outbreak


In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance on cleaning and disinfecting homes and businesses to help prevent the spread of the virus.

While transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through contaminated surfaces, which has yet to be documented, current evidence does suggest that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.

“Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings,” the CDC said.

The new cleaning guidance issued by the CDC last week aims at limiting the survival of the virus in the home and work environment.

To prevent the spread of germs, people should routinely clean frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks with household cleaners and Environmental Protection Agency registered disinfectants appropriate for the surface. Following instructions on the label helps to ensure the effectiveness of the product, the CDC said.

“Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product,” the CDC said.

For homes where a COVID-19 patient – either confirmed or suspected – resides household members should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets and sinks frequently.

Other cleaning tips for COVID-19 households include having a dedicated bedroom and bathroom for the patient, where cleaning frequency should be reduced to cleaning as needed to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person, the CDC said.

“As much as possible, an ill person should stay in a specific room and away from other people in their home, following home care guidance,” the CDC said. “The caregiver can provide personal cleaning supplies for an ill person’s room and bathroom, unless the room is occupied by child or another person for whom such supplies would not be appropriate. These supplies include tissues, paper towels, cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.”

If a separate bathroom is not available, then the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by an ill person. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as possible after use by an ill person to clean and disinfect the high-touch surfaces.

When cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, wear disposable gloves that should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, they should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.

If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water before disinfection.

To disinfect surfaces, use diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol or EPA registered household disinfectants. Check to make sure all cleaning products have not passed their expiration dates and follow all instructions, including those for proper ventilation.

Remember to never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

For soft surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs and drapes, remove any visible contamination and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. After cleaning, launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely or use products with the EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims that are suitable for porous surfaces.

When handling an ill person’s laundry, wear disposable gloves that can be discarded after each use. If using reusable gloves, be sure to dedicate them for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19. Do not use them  for other household purposes and clean hands immediately after gloves are removed. If not using gloves, immediately wash hands after handling dirty laundry.

Do not shake dirty laundry to minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air and launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

Also be sure to clean and disinfect clothes hampers after use.

Other preventative measures:

Clean your hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.

Household members should follow normal preventive actions while at work and home including recommended hand hygiene and avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Clean your hands after blowing one’s nose, coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, after contact with pets or animals and before and after providing routing care for another person who needs assistance such as a child.

Remember when caring for someone with COVID-19 or any other illness, it is helpful to prevent spread of the illness by having the ill person eat in their room. If using non-disposable food service items, use gloves and wash items with hot water or in a dishwasher. Wash hands after handling food service items.

Also dedicate a lined trash can for the ill person, use gloves when removing trash bags, handling or disposing of trash. Wash hands afterward.

Home care guidance issued by the CDC is available online at

Kim Harris can be reached by email at