CLEANING VERSUS DISINFECTION
A CDC guide for cleaning and disinfecting homes with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 says: “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.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home
Every Day and When Someone Is Sick
CDC Updated June 17, 2021
Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the number of germs on surfaces and decreases risk of infection from surfaces. In most situations, cleaning alone removes most virus particles on surfaces. Disinfection to reduce transmission of COVID-19 at home is likely not needed unless someone in your home is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours.
When and how to clean surfaces in your home
- Clean high-touch surfaces regularly (for example, daily) and after you have visitors in your home.
- Focus on high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, handles, light switches, and countertops.
- Clean other surfaces in your home when they are visibly dirty or as needed. Clean them more frequently if people in your household are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. You might also choose to disinfect.
- Clean surfaces using a product suitable for each surface, following instructions on the product label.
Reduce contamination of all surfaces
Take steps in your home to limit contamination of surfaces from airborne particles or from touching surfaces with contaminated hands.
- Ask visitors who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks.
- Follow guidance for people who are fully vaccinated before inviting visitors to your home.
- Isolate people who are sick with COVID-19.
- Have everyone in your household wash hands often, especially when returning from outside activities.
When Someone is Sick: Disinfect Safely
Disinfect your home when someone is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours. Disinfecting kills any remaining germs on surfaces and reduces the spread of germs. If you are caring for someone who has COVID-19, detailed instructions for caregivers are available. Keep disinfectants out of the reach of children.
How to disinfect
- ALWAYS follow the directions on the label.
- The label includes instructions on how to use the product and specific instructions to keep you safe. Keep disinfectants out of the reach of children. Check the label to find out what personal protective equipment (PPE) you need to use your product safely (such as gloves, glasses, or goggles).
- Clean visibly dirty surfaces with household cleaners containing soap or detergent before disinfecting if your disinfectant product does not have a cleaning agent (check the label to verify).
- Use a disinfectant product from Health Canada’s List that is effective against COVID-19.
- Read the label to make sure it meets your needs.
- If products on Health Canada List are not available, bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface.
- Many products recommend keeping the surface wet with a disinfectant for a certain period of time (look at the “contact time” on the product label).
- Ensure adequate ventilation while using any disinfectant by keeping doors and windows open and using fans to help improve air flow.
- Immediately after disinfecting, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
- If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. If hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Tips for using chemical disinfectants safely
- Always follow the directions on the label of cleaning and disinfection products to ensure safe and effective use. You may need to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, or glasses, depending on the directions on the product label.
- Ensure adequate ventilation (for example, open windows and run fans).
- Use only the amount recommended on the label.
- If diluting with water is indicated for use, use water at room temperature (unless stated otherwise on the label).
- Label diluted cleaning or disinfectant solutions.
- Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
- Do not mix products or chemicals.
- Do not eat, drink, breathe, or inject cleaning and disinfection products into your body or apply directly to your skin as they can cause serious harm.
- Do not wipe or bathe people or pets with any surface cleaning and disinfection products.
- Special considerations should be made for people with asthma. Some cleaning and disinfection products can trigger asthma. Learn more about reducing your chance of an asthma attack while disinfecting to prevent COVID-19.
See precautions for household members and caregivers for more information.
When Someone is Sick: Clean and Disinfect Your Home
Keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for a person who is sick (if possible).
If the sick person is able to clean
- Provide dedicated cleaning and disinfecting supplies to the person who is sick.
- Supplies include tissues, paper towels, cleaners, and Health Canada disinfectants.
- In shared spaces, the person who is sick should clean and disinfect surfaces and items after each use.
If the sick person cannot clean
Put on a mask and ask the sick person to put on a mask before entering the room.
- Wear gloves if needed for your cleaning and disinfection product(s).
- Only clean and disinfect the area around the person who is sick when needed (when the area is soiled) to limit your contact with the person who is sick.
- Open outside doors and windows, and use fans and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) settings to increase air circulation.
- Wear gloves when handling dishes and utensils for the person who is sick.
- Wash dishes and utensils with soap and hot water or in the dishwasher.
- Clean hands after taking off gloves or handling used items.
- Use a dedicated, lined trash can for the person who is sick.
- Use gloves when removing garbage bags and handling and disposing of trash.
- Wash hands after disposing of the trash.
When Someone Is No Longer Sick: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home
After the person who was sick no longer needs to be separated
Wait as long as possible (at least several hours) before you clean and disinfect.
- Less than 24 hours: Follow the guidance for cleaning and disinfecting when someone is sick. Clean and disinfect surfaces in the areas that the sick person used (such as the bedroom and bathroom) if you enter these areas less than 24 hours after the person is no longer sick. Wear a mask when you enter the room, open windows and use fans to help increase airflow, and always use disinfectants safely.
- Between 24 hours and 3 days: Clean surfaces (disinfection is not needed) in the areas that the sick person used if you enter these areas between 24 hours and 3 days after the person is no longer sick.
- After 3 days: No additional cleaning (aside from routine cleaning) is needed in the areas that the sick person used if you enter these areas more than 3 days after the person is no longer sick.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Different Types of Surfaces
For soft surfaces such as carpet, rugs, and drapes
- Clean the soft surfaces (carpets, rugs, and drapes) with soap and water or with cleaners made for use on these surfaces.
- Launder items (if possible) using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
- Disinfect using a Health Canada product for use on soft surfaces, if needed.
- Vacuum as usual. If vacuuming an area occupied by a sick person or someone positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, wear a mask when vacuuming.
- Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
- It is safe to wash dirty laundry from a person who is sick with other people’s items.
- If handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick, wear gloves and a mask.
- Clean clothes hampers or laundry baskets according to guidance for surfaces.
- Wash hands after handling dirty laundry.
- Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics (for example, phones, tablets, touchscreens, keyboards, and remote controls) to make cleaning easier.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the electronic device.
- If needed, use a disinfectant from the Health Canada but note that many of the products for electronics contain alcohol because it dries quickly.