Written by Grove Collaborative

Cleaning & disinfecting against COVID-19: a room-by-room guide

Last Updated: September 24, 2020


How to clean and disinfect your home to prevent and reduce the spread of germs and bacteria.

Although it varies around the United States, most of us are months into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and keeping the home free from germs and viruses remains top of mind — with good reason. Although transmission of coronavirus most commonly occurs through respiratory droplets, studies have found that COVID-19 can survive on a variety of materials for hours to days, which means a one-two punch of cleaning and disinfecting is the most effective way to stop the virus in its tracks.

Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas is the current CDC recommendation if someone in your household is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, but routine cleaning and disinfection of the home can help limit your risk regardless — especially if you have household members who are coming and going, such as returning from errands or attending school. Below are the basics of how to clean and disinfect your home.


What's the difference between cleaning vs. disinfecting?

Cleaning

While some of us might use the terms interchangeably, cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning is when you remove contaminants like dust, dirt, or crumbs from a surface.

Supplies include:

  • A clean cloth, sponge or brush
  • Warm soapy water or a cleaning solution
  • Disinfecting

    Disinfecting is when you use a solution or spray to kill germs, whether it’s COVID-19, norovirus, or the pathogens that cause the common cold.

    Supplies include:

  • A clean cloth, sponge or brush
  • Disinfecting spray or solution
  • How to clean & disinfect high-touch surfaces

    Plain soap and water won’t necessarily kill bacteria, germs, or viruses unless paired with a disinfection step. You need to first clean the surfaces, which means removing debris or dust by wiping the objects with a cloth dampened with soapy water or cleaning spray. Then, you can use a surface-appropriate disinfectant like a disinfecting spray or wipe.

    Some disinfectants are less effective if you use them on dirty surfaces or just wipe them on a surface and then immediately wipe off; be sure to follow the product’s directions so it has time to work. Here’s a list from the list of disinfectants that kill COVID-19 from the EPA. Now that you’re armed with the supplies and the technique — clean, then disinfect — time to hit the high-touch surfaces in each room with this dynamic duo.

    What to clean & disinfect in each room

    Living Room

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Doorknobs
    • Wall light switches
    • Floor lamp switches
    • TV remote controls
    • Game controllers
    • Gaming mice and figurines
    • Coffee table surface
    • End tables surface
    • Toy box and toys (plastic and wood can be wiped down, plushie toys laundered according to brand directions).

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    The most common overlooked items

    Even if you think you've got a strong handle on the items you need to tackle to keep your home coronavirus-free, there might be a hidden source sneaking viruses into your home. Check out our Overlooked Items to Clean Checklist for the most common culprits.

    Dining Room

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Wall light switches
    • Doorknobs
    • Hard-backed chairs
    • Tabletop

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    Tabletop Items

    Remember to clean any items you display or leave on the table, including candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers.

    Kitchen

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Wall light switches
    • Doorknobs
    • Countertops
    • Stovetop and oven temperature control knobs
    • Microwave control panel and handle
    • Drawer and cabinet hardware
    • Fridge door, including handles
    • Oven handles

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    Small appliances & other family faves

    Also clean and disinfect the high-touch items specific to your household, such as a plastic water pitcher or coffee machine.

    Bathrooms

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Doorknob
    • Wall light switch
    • Bathroom countertop
    • Faucets and faucet knobs
    • Cabinetry hardware
    • Toilet seat and flush handle or tank flush buttons
    • Shower and bathtub
    • Toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes
    • Dental floss container

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    Reusables

    Remember to switch out any reusable cups and used hand towels, and to periodically clean overlooked items like the toilet paper holder.

    Home Office

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Doorknob
    • Wall light switch
    • Table lamp light switch
    • Desk phone
    • Desk speaker control knobs
    • Computer keyboard (including the trackpad and where your wrists rest)
    • Computer mouse
    • Chair arms and headrest

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    Laptop, monitor, and computer screens

    If using and/or sharing a laptop, the top portion you lift and close likely sees a lot of fingers, as might any monitors that require adjusting. When it comes to computer screens, don’t use disinfecting wipes in case the display isn't made of glass. Instead, try a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol and a soft towel.

    Bedrooms

    Wipe down with cleaner and also disinfect:

    • Doorknobs
    • Light switches (including bedside lamps)
    • Bedside table
    • TV remote

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    Bedding and PJs

    Germs and bacteria don’t survive as long on fabric as they do on metal or other hard surfaces; a simple standard washing should be enough. Change and launder your sheets and pillowcases – and pajamas - regularly.

    Cleaning and disinfecting FAQ

    Why clean and disinfect?

    Cleaning physically removes gunk that could be harboring germs. Disinfecting kills germs but doesn’t remove any gunk. The CDC says we need to do both.

    Do I need to do anything special when cleaning?

    The CDC says that your regular household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants are sufficient and should be used as directed. There are no special instructions for COVID-19.

    Do I need to also clean my incoming mail?

    Although the USPS assures us that mail and packages are relatively low-risk in terms of COVID-19 transmission — and CDC and WHO have indicated there’s no evidence the virus is spread via the mail, research has shown it can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. If you want to be especially careful, wash your hands after collecting the mail and put it aside for several days, or give it a quick wipe with disinfectant.


    Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

    If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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