Prevent the Spread of C. diff
Information for Patients
C. diff germs are carried from person to person in poop.
If someone with C. diff (or caring for someone with C. diff) doesn’t clean their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, they can spread the germs to everything they touch.
And if someone with C. diff can’t take a shower with soap and water, they can end up with C. diff germs on their skin.
Then, when someone else touches the skin of that person, or the surfaces that person touched, they can pick up the germs on their hands.
C. diff germs are so small relative to our size that if you were the size of the state of California, a germ would be the size of a baseball home plate. There’s no way you can see C. diff germs on your hands, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Washing with soap and water is the only way to prevent the spread from person to person.
Remember: you can come in contact with C. diff germs—and even carry them on, or in, your body—and not get sick. But that doesn’t mean you can’t infect others.
How long can C. diff germs live?
When C. diff germs are outside the body, they become spores. These spores are an inactive form of the germ and have a protective coating allowing them to live for months or sometimes years on surfaces and in the soil.
The germs become active again when these spores are swallowed and reach the intestines.
Healthy people will often not be infected even if the spores reach their intestines, but if your immune system is weakened or you’ve recently taken antibiotics, you could get sick.
How do I make sure I don’t spread C. diff?
In a healthcare setting
Make sure all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands before and after caring for you. If you don’t see your providers clean their hands, ask them to do so.
While caring for you and other patients with C. diff, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers will use certain precautions, such as gowns and gloves, to prevent the spread of C. diff to themselves and to other patients.
If you’re in the hospital, wash your hands with soap and water every time you use the bathroom and always before you eat. Remind relatives and friends taking care of you to do the same.
Wash your hands with soap and water every time you use the bathroom and always before you eat. Remind relatives and friends taking care of you to do the same.
Try to use a separate bathroom if you have diarrhea. If you can’t, be sure the bathroom is well cleaned before others use it.
Take showers and wash with soap to remove any C. diff germs you could be carrying on your body.
How do I kill C. diff germs at home?
Finding C. diff germs in the home is not unusual, even when no one in the home has been ill with C. diff. Most healthy adults who come in contact with C. diff in the home won’t get sick.
Hospitals use special cleaning products to kill C. diff, but you can make a cleaner at home. Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (for example, 1/4 cup bleach poured into 2 1/2 cups water).
When you’re cleaning, focus on items that are touched by hands:
- electronics (be careful because bleach can damage many electronics and plastics)
- refrigerator handles
- shared cups
- toilet flushers and toilet seats
If someone in your house has C. diff, wash items they touch before others use them. These include but are not limited to:
- bed linens
- household linens
- clothing, especially underwear
If these things have visible poop, rinse them well before washing.
Then launder in a washer and dryer, using the hottest water that is safe for those items. Use chlorine bleach if the items can be safely washed with it.
Wash your hands with soap and water after you handle the dirty laundry.
It’s OK to take clothes to a dry cleaner that were worn by a patient infected with C. diff. However, dry cleaning isn’t as effective as other methods at killing the spores. So this option should be used only for clothes that can’t be machine-washed.
Furniture and carpeting
Furniture and carpeting can be contaminated with poop, even if you can’t see it.
If upholstered furniture and carpeting cannot be cleaned with a chlorine bleach solution or wipes, you might want to inquire of a professional cleaning service for methods effective against C. diff. If furniture or carpeting cannot be cleaned, putting it in direct sunlight for several hours can also reduce C. diff contamination.