How to Disinfect a Home Correctly
March 17, 2020
Real estate pros are taking disinfectant wipes to home showings and in their car to clean frequently touched surfaces as they interact with clients to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But are you disinfecting correctly?
HouseLogic.com reports that the best cleaners are either a bleach solution or a 70% alcohol solution. “Follow this bleach recipe: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water,” the site advises, reminding readers to properly ventilate while disinfecting with bleach. The site also notes that bleach can expire, so check the bottle’s expiration date, and never mix bleach with anything other than water.
If you don't have bleach, use 70% rubbing alcohol, which is already diluted, HouseLogic says. Disinfecting wipes use an ammonium compound, which could allow viruses to become resistant over time. “Disinfection isn’t instantaneous,” Erica Marie Hartman, an environmental microbiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., told HouseLogic. “[For a bleach solution], you want to leave it on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping it off. "
Allow for “dwell time,” agrees an article at Apartment Therapy that features an interview with microbiologists. Disinfecting solutions need to remain on the surface for a certain amount of time to be effective. That can vary by product. For example, Clorox Wipes instructions advise treating a surface “using enough wipes for the treated surface to remain visibly wet for four minutes.” Other disinfectants, including bleach, have their own instructions for proper use. Be sure to check the bottle.
Also, disinfectants don’t provide lasting protection. If a sick person touches the surface right after you clean it, new germs will be left there. “The reality is that bacteria are complex organisms, and the vast majority of people don’t understand the intricate mechanisms that power them, which leads to them underestimating just how easily they can be reintroduced and quickly multiply on an unprotected surface,” says Morgan Brashear, the scientific communications manager at Proctor & Gamble.
However, there is such a thing as over-disinfecting surfaces too. Visit Apartment Therapy to learn more.
"How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus," Houselogic.com (March 16, 2020); “3 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Disinfectants,” Apartment Therapy (March 16, 2020)
Updated: May 20, 2022