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  • Melissa Bronstein

Cleaning Tips for COVID-19

These cleaning and disinfecting guidelines for all surfaces in your home, classroom, car, and groceries can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cleaning, Disinfecting, Sanitizing: What’s the difference?

Cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing are terms that are often confused with one another, but they mean very different things.

Cleaning is the removal of germs and dirt from surfaces, usually with soap and water. Cleaning does not kill germs. It merely removes germs and lowers the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces using chemicals. Dirty surfaces aren't cleaned, but germs are killed, which lowers the risk of viruses spreading. Cleaning should still take place after disinfecting.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level. Sanitizing works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.

“Wear disposable gloves when cleaning, disinfecting, or sanitizing,” Bronstein said. “This will reduce the spread of germs from your hands to other areas of your house, classroom, car, or groceries.”

How to clean and disinfect

Generally, the most important areas to clean and disinfect are commonly touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, etc. These surfaces should be cleaned every day.

Cleaning and disinfecting techniques vary depending on the type of surface being cleaned.


Hard Surfaces

Examples: Countertops, toys, tabletops, computers, door knobs/handles, chairs, hard floors.

1. Clean surfaces using soap and water. Remove all visible soil and dirt.

2. Disinfect surface with a household disinfectant. Be sure the product is an EPA-registered household disinfectant.

3. Follow the instructions on the product label to be sure you are using it safely and effectively.

4. Keep the surface wet for the period of time recommended on the product label.

5. Wear gloves and ensure sufficient ventilation while using the product.

Soft Surfaces

Examples: Carpets, rugs, drapes, clothing, bags, packages, bedding.

1. Clean using soap and water or with the appropriate cleaner for that surface.

2. Wash items in the laundry if possible. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry thoroughly.

3. Some items can be disinfected with an EPA-registered household disinfectant.


1. Put a cover on electronic devices that can be wiped.

2. Used alcohol-based wipes and sprays containing at least 70% alcohol. Dry the surface completely.


1. If someone in your household is sick, wear disposable gloves while doing laundry.

2. Laundry from a sick person can be washed with another person’s laundry.

3. Wash laundry with the warmest appropriate water setting and dry completely.

4. Do not shake dirty laundry.

5. Clean and disinfect clothing hampers.

6. Wash hands with soap and water after removing disposable gloves.


Upon returning home from the grocery store, taking extra measures to prevent the spread of viruses in your household can keep you protected. Wash your hands before and after handling your groceries.

If you are concerned about potential contamination, cleaning and disinfecting your groceries can reduce the risk of germs spreading.

How to clean groceries

1. Wipe products with hard surfaces using an EPA-registered household cleaner.

2. Throw out any disposable packaging.

3. If someone in your household is considered high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, scrub fruits and vegetables with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Cleaning the classroom

As schools begin to reopen, school administrations should have standard procedures and guidelines in place. For instance, some schools may designate one or two days each week for cleaning and disinfecting all hard and soft surfaces. But some teachers may be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their own classrooms or personal areas. Either way, here are a few tips to help teachers keep their classrooms clean and protected from germs:

1. Create a schedule - When schools reopen and teachers return to teaching, whether in the classroom, at home, or a hybrid option, there's lots of work that teachers are tasked with. But remembering to clean and disinfect your work space or classroom will be among the most important tasks you'll be faced with this fall. Create a schedule to ensure you stay on top of cleaning and keep a record of when you last cleaned and what you cleaned.

2. Start with commonly touched surfaces - Some of the most commonly touched surfaces and areas in a classroom are tables, chairs, door handles, devices, whiteboards, writing utensils, erasers and projectors. When cleaning and disinfecting, start with these surfaces and objects as they will likely attract the largest variety of germs throughout the school week.

3. Take inventory - Many teachers already take inventory of devices and other shared items to ensure nothing goes missing, but this is more important during the coronavirus outbreak. If an item is taken from a classroom that has not been cleaned, germs could spread to another classroom and infect students and teachers.

4. Cover up when cleaning - Always wear personal protective equipment when cleaning, like gloves, an apron, and face mask or face shield. This will protect you from germs that live on surfaces and from harmful chemicals found in disinfecting products and cleaners.

5. Teach about cleanliness & hygiene - Education is one of the best forms of prevention. One of the most effective ways to prevent germs from spreading in the classroom is to educate students about hand hygiene and best cleaning practices. Team up with other teachers or your peers and develop a lesson plan about hygiene and preventing germs. In general, hand washing with soap and water is ideal for all students and teachers in the classroom, but if soap and water aren't available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is recommended.

Cleaning if someone is sick

If someone in your household is sick, do the best you can do designate one room and bathroom for their use only. If a separate bathroom is not an option, the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by an ill person.

If they are too sick to clean, the caregiver should wait as long as possible before entering the bathroom and cleaning and disinfecting the high-touched surfaces.

Provide personal cleaning supplies for the sick person’s room and bathroom, unless they are a child or someone who should not handle cleaning products.

Supplies include paper towels, cleaners, EPA-registered household disinfectants, and tissues.

Always wash your hands

No matter how clean your household is, if your hands aren’t clean, you can get sick, Bronstein explains. “One of the most common ways for COVID-19 to be spread is through hand-to-face transmission.”

When to wash your hands:

  • Before eating

  • After using the bathroom

  • When coming back inside

  • After handling any dirty materials

Wash your hands using soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water aren’t available.

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