When and How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home

Regularly cleaning surfaces in your home helps prevent the spread of germs (such as norovirus, Shigella, and Giardia) that can cause illness. Cleaning surfaces in your home removes germs, dirt, and other impurities and helps you and your family stay healthy. Disinfecting to reduce the spread of disease at home is likely not needed unless there are sick people in your home.

Cleaning and Disinfection Defined

  • Cleaning is done with water, soap, and scrubbing. Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces.
  • Disinfecting is done with products that are chemicals. These chemicals work by killing any remaining germs on surfaces.

Clean Regularly

Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the number of germs on surfaces and decreases risk of infection from surfaces in your home. Cleaning alone removes most germs, such as harmful viruses or bacteria, from surfaces.

Disinfection can kill any germs that remain on surfaces after cleaning. But for everyday housework, you probably don’t need to disinfect unless someone in your home is sick or if someone sick has recently visited.

When to Clean Surfaces in Your Home

  • Clean high-touch surfaces (for example, light switches, doorknobs, and countertops) regularly and after you have visitors in your home.
  • Clean other surfaces in your home when they are visibly dirty or as needed. Clean them more often if people in your household are more likely to get sick, such as young children and people with weakened immune systems. You may also choose to disinfect.
  • Clean surfaces using a product suitable for each surface, following instructions on the product label.
Person cleaning a room

COVID-19 and Cleaning Your Home

Find information about cleaning and disinfecting your home to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More

How to Safely Clean Various Surfaces

Follow these tips to safely clean different surfaces in your home. In most situations, cleaning regularly is enough to prevent the spread of germs.

For hard surfaces, such as counters, certain toys, light switches, and floors:

  • Clean surfaces with soap and water or with cleaning products appropriate for use on the surface.
Cleaning a lightswitch

For soft surfaces such as carpet, rugs, and drapes:

  • Clean the surface with cleaning products appropriate for use on these surfaces.
  • Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • Vacuum surfaces (such as carpets and rugs) and dispose of the dirt safely.
Bucket of cleaning supplies

For laundry items, such as clothing, towels, cloth toys, and linens:

  • Launder using detergent and recommended water temperature.
  • Dry items completely.
  • It is safe to wash dirty laundry from a person who is sick with other people’s items.
  • Clean clothes hamper or laundry baskets according to guidance for surfaces.
  • Wash hands after handling dirty laundry.
Cleaning laundry

For electronics, such as phones, tablets, touch screens, keyboards, and remote controls:

  • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics, which makes cleaning and disinfecting easier.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for cleaning.
Cleaning electronics

Keeping your hands clean is one of the main ways that you can keep germs from spreading in your home. Learn more

When and How to Use Disinfectants Safely

When to disinfect

In addition to cleaning, disinfect your home when someone is sick or if someone is at a higher risk of getting sick due to a weakened immune system (for example, people being treated with immune-suppressing drugs for cancer, organ transplants, or other illnesses, or people with HIV or genetic conditions that affect the immune system).

Cleaning bottle with the word caution on it

How to disinfect

Always read the label of disinfecting products to make sure the products can be used on the type of surface you are cleaning (such as a hard or soft surface). Clean the surface with soap and water if directions mention pre-cleaning or if the surface is visibly dirty.

Follow these important safety guidelines when using chemical disinfectants:

  • Always read and follow the directions on the label of cleaning and disinfection products to ensure safe and effective use.
  • Wear the recommended protective equipment (for example, gloves or goggles) to protect your skin and eyes from potential splashes.
Stopwatch with 15 seconds elapsed
  • Leave the disinfectant on the surface long enough to kill the germs. This is called the “contact time.” You can find the contact time in the directions. The surface should stay wet during the entire contact time to make sure germs are killed.
  • Ensure good ventilation if using products indoors (for example, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter).
  • If the directions tell you to dilute the product with water, use water at room temperature (unless the label says otherwise).
  • Label diluted cleaning or disinfectant solutions.
  • Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Do not mix products or chemicals with each other.
  • Do not eat, drink, breathe, or inject cleaning and disinfection products into your body or apply directly to your skin. These products can cause serious harm.
  • Do not wipe or bathe pets with any disinfection products.

If ready-to-use disinfectants are not available, you can use bleach solutions for many hard surfaces. Bleach solutions will be effective against bacteria, viruses, and fungi when properly diluted. Learn more about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces using bleach solutions.

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Caution! Some cleaning and disinfection products can trigger asthma. Learn more about reducing your chance of an asthma attack while disinfecting.

Page last reviewed: December 7, 2021