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What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

March 2020

With so much information currently circulating about COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, there are many helpful guidelines from the (CDC), that everyone can do to help stop the spread of this virus. They are:

  1. Wash your hands – often. For at least 20 seconds, using soap.
  2. Cough into your elbow. This helps to block droplets, which is how the Coronavirus spreads.
  3. Don’t touch your face.
  4. Stay at least six-feet away from people.
  5. Stay home. Especially If you are feeling sick.
  6. Practice social distancing. Avoid groups (10 or more) of people.
  7. Clean and disinfect your home.

Do you know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

You have to clean before you can disinfect. Sanitizing and disinfecting won’t be effective, if the surface is dirty. Clean first, then disinfect.

General Recommendations for Routine Cleaning and Disinfection of Households

Implement routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces every couple of days. If someone in your household is sick, clean and disinfect every day.

Items/surfaces that should be cleaned/disinfected:

Surfaces that are touched frequently – tables, countertops, doorknobs, light switches, handles (think kitchen cabinets), desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, remote controls, cell phones, tablets with household cleaners and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of 200 approved products to fight COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.

Due to grocery supply shortage, if you can’t find EPA-approved products in the store, you can make your own:

Diluted Bleach Solution:

1 cup water
1 teaspoon bleach
Mix together in a spray bottle.
If you don’t have bleach, you can use alcohol (over-the-counter isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol that is at least 70% alcohol).

Clothing, towels, linens and other items that go in the laundry

You should be using a new bathroom towel each day. Remember to rotate your kitchen linens as well. Towels should not be shared between family members and should be laundered each day. Follow recommended manufacturing guidelines

Based on what is currently known about the novel coronavirus and similar coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, spread from person-to-person with these viruses happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet). This type of transmission occurs via respiratory droplets.

Current evidence suggests 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.

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