This time last year, stores couldn’t keep disinfectants on the shelves as Americans did everything they could to make their homes feel safer. We went a bit overboard. And if you’ve maintained those habits, it’s time to cool it. As long as no one in your house is sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says soap and water is enough.
“Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the amount of germs on surfaces and decreases risk of infection from surfaces,” reads the CDC website. “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.”
Over time, researchers have learned that the spread of COVID-19 is primarily through airborne transmission, so you don’t need to go too hard when cleaning surfaces. Soapy water for cleaning is all you need.
“The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus,” says the CDC. “It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low.”
Even without disinfecting, cleaning allows you to get rid of germs, explains Karen Hoffmann, RN, immediate past president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
“Embedded in dirt is lots of different germs and viruses, even fungi, so cleaning alone won’t kill germs,” says Hoffmann. “But, we’re going to use elbow grease to remove them, literally decreasing the number of germs that’s on a surface.”
The CDC recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, tables, handles, light switches, and countertops daily, especially after you have visitors. If someone in your house is at a greater risk of catching COVID-19 or can’t bring yourself to drop the bleach, you may consider disinfecting these high-traffic areas. But don’t go overboard, says Melissa Maker, host of the CleanMySpace YouTube channel.
“Your cupboards and your furniture, all of that stuff doesn’t need to be disinfected. I’ll have people ask me all the time like, ‘Oh, should I use disinfectant on my computer or on my floors?’” says Maker. “No, you don’t need it there, just use disinfectant where germs will land. So counters after you’ve made chicken, your toilet, your sink, your points of contact, but everything else really doesn’t need it.”
Plastic-free refillable cleaning products are the way to go. The system from Grove Collaborative, an online subscription-based home goods retailer, is an excellent choice with its glass bottle and multi-surface cleaning concentrate ($17). Just add water and you’re good to go. When you need more, just order the concentrate online or pick it up at your local Target. Grove also sells bathroom concentrate, kitchen concentrate, floor concentrate, and more.
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