Cleaning and Disinfecting

Flu season starts in the fall, and this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting new challenges for cleaning and disinfecting the inside of a home. Cleaning refers to reducing the number of germs, dirt and impurities on the surface.  It doesn’t kill the germs, but lowers the number of germs and the risk of infection.  Disinfecting refers to killing germs on surfaces by using an EPA-registered disinfectant.  Best practice to prevent COVID-19 and other viruses is to clean the surface first and then follow up with a disinfectant.   

Cleaning and disinfecting frequent contact hard surfaces in the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms have become routine. Additional cleaning of surfaces, like doorknobs, faucets, cabinets, and play areas is a sensible precaution against the spread of disease between household members and guests. A list of disinfectant products that are EPA-approved for use against the COVID-19 virus is available here. In addition to cleaning surfaces, washing your hands frequently is an excellent tool to prevent illness. When you do not have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is good practice to wash hands well, for at least twenty seconds, every time you come in the house.

In particular, COVID-19 challenges homeowners and hosts to prevent the spread of disease when having guests for fall or winter celebrations or conducting business in a home. The safest approach is to celebrate with those who live in your household and connect with others virtually. If you will have guests visit your home, below are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading illness.

  • Have guests wash or sanitize hands frequently. Make hand sanitizer available.
  • Wear face coverings when possible.
  • Offer paper towels for drying hands after washing.
  • Use disposable plates and glasses to prevent multiple people handling dishes.
  • Have one person prepare and distribute food. This will result in fewer people having contact with the food.
  • Open doors and windows for better airflow when the temperatures allow.

Stay well and healthy this winter.

Written by Holly Van Heel, Human Sciences Specialists-Nutrition and Wellness

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Spring Cleaning – Sanitizing Versus Washing

person cleaning counterWhen you are doing your cleaning do you ever wonder if you are getting something truly clean or just wiping the dirt off the surface? I think about it a lot because I often rush through the cleaning just to make the house look nice before someone comes over. For the second week of spring cleaning, I would like to bring back a blog topic I wrote in 2011 called “How Clean is it?  Sanitizing vs. Washing”.

As I mentioned before, often when I am cleaning I am motivated by having a nice looking house. What I should really be motivated by is having a home that has a safe level of germs. Having no germs in the house would make it sterile, and that is not a possibility, so I need to aim for a safe level of germs. The best way to do that is to wash and sanitize.

Washing is done best with hot soapy water. This removes all the visible dirt, food, hair, and other disgusting things around my home. When spring cleaning, most things can be washed – counters, cupboards, walls, floors, door knobs, light switches, railings, showers, and toilets. The bonus of washing is that when the surface grime is washed away, so are some of the germs.

Unfortunately, washing does not get rid of enough of the germs, so the next step is sanitizing. What you sanitize and how often you sanitize depends on your situation – check out this handout for suggestions. I usually sanitize high use surfaces (countertops, toilets) a couple of times a week, some surfaces (light switches, door knobs) monthly, and other surfaces (cupboards, walls) a couple of times a year. You can sanitize daily if you need to.

I sanitize two different ways. After the surface that I have washed has dried, I will either spray it with a bleach solution or wipe it off with disinfecting wipes. Then let the surface air dry or dry with a paper towel before using it. Both ways will get the amount of germs down to a safe level. Fewer germs leads to less sickness and less sickness leads to lower doctor bills.

To make your own bleach solution add ½ teaspoon regular bleach (or 1/8 teaspoon concentrated bleach) and 2 cups of water to a spray bottle.  Bleach solutions need to be dumped out and re-made about once per week.

Have fun with your spring cleaning,


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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How Clean is it? – Washing vs. Sanitizing

I have been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately.  Not just getting things washed, but sanitized.  When I wash something, I get all the visible dirt, crumbs, pet hair, etc. off of it.  When I sanitize something, I get the germs off of it to prevent my family from getting sick.  I know that if I can keep the germs off the things in my home that my family touches a lot, I can keep them out of the doctor office, which saves me time and money.    

So, why have I been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately?  My son tries to touch and eat everything.  On top of that, he still eats most of his food with his hands.  Just this morning, I watched him run into the bathroom and pound on the toilet, then run into the living room to pet the dog, then run over to his toys where he began to play.  Shortly after that, he started asking for breakfast.  I could just visualize the germs on his hands traveling from the toilet, joining up with the germs the dog carries around, and ending up on everything he was touching, including his toys and his breakfast.

I do not want him to get sick from something he may have touched in the bathroom or on the dog, so I do two simple things.  The first is washing.  I wash his hands, the table, the counters and other dirty surfaces, and toys.  To wash surfaces and toys, I get a paper towel wet with hot, soapy water and use it to wipe down whatever is dirty, whenever it is dirty (such as the table after a meal).  Sometimes I use a wash cloth or dish rag instead of a paper towel, but I always put it in the dirty laundry right away to prevent dirt and germs from passing from the rag to something that is clean.

The second thing I do is sanitize the things he frequently touches to kill the germs that may be growing there.  I always make sure a surface is washed before I sanitize.  I usually sanitize surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom (table, counters, sinks) once or twice each week.  Other things I sanitize as needed, such as door handles, light switches, and toys. 

To sanitize, I have a clear, plastic spray bottle where I mix ½ teaspoon of bleach with 2 cups of water.  This solution is effective at killing germs, plus much less expensive than buying a pre-made cleaner.  To remain effective at killing germs, this solution should be dumped out and remade once each week.  Also, if you have young children at home, store this solution where the children cannot get to it. 

I almost always sanitize at night before we go to bed, so I just spray the table, toy, etc. and let it air dry overnight.  If you want to sanitize something that you think someone might be touching before it can air dry, simply dry it with a paper towel.  Even though my home is not sparkling clean, I take comfort in knowing that I am taking this small step toward keeping my family healthy.  

~ By Justine Hoover

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