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How to clean light switches and light switch plates

They're probably not at the top of your cleaning task list, but light switches and plates need to be cleaned, too.
“Switch plates should be wiped weekly — or daily, if there’s an illness in the house,” Leslie Reichert told TODAY Home.
“Switch plates should be wiped weekly — or daily, if there’s an illness in the house,” Leslie Reichert told TODAY Home.Alamy / Alamy Stock Photo
/ Source: TODAY

You might not think about it, but light switches need to be cleaned, too — and not just during cold and flu season or during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After all, hands are all over them repeatedly throughout the day, depositing a new layer of germs with each touch. Fortunately, cleaning coach Leslie Reichert knows the best tips for cleaning light switches and light switch panels or plates.

How often should light switch plates be cleaned?

“Switch plates should be wiped weekly — or daily, if there’s an illness in the house,” advised Reichert.

How to clean light switches and plates:

“To tackle the job most effectively, use a clean microfiber cloth,” Reichert told TODAY Home. “Microfiber actually removes germs without the harmful side effects of chemicals. I like to use the larger-looped microfiber for tough cleaning. If there’s no visible 'gunk' on the light switches, the microfiber cloth can be used dry, without any water, to remove bacteria. Just make sure the cloth is folded in eighths so you get the most use out of it. (Fold the cloth in half, then half again, then half again. This gives you eight surfaces on each side of the cloth. Use a fresh surface after wiping every knob or switch.)”

If there’s an obvious coating of debris, like jelly, oil or mud, wipe the light switch first with a paper towel or a Skoy cloth, followed by a dampened microfiber cloth that’s been wrung out well.

“Don’t rinse the cloth between cleanings or you’ll contaminate the entire cloth.” Reichert said. "Just fold to a clean section."

Finish by using a cotton swab to clean dirt out of crevices, then buff the entire switch plate with a dry cloth to make it shine.

No microfiber cloth handy?

“You can use cotton baby diapers — the flat ones, not the pre-folded types. They’re wonderful for cleaning and the more you wash them, the softer they get. You could also use a cotton, flour sack dish towel, a Skoy cloth or paper towels,” she added, noting that “disposable paper towels would be good for disinfecting with a flu or cold in the house.”

Since these items don’t have the cleaning properties of microfiber, Reichert suggests spraying them first with a disinfecting spray, which makes a good switch cleaner.

Create your own by mixing the following ingredients:

Since hydrogen peroxide will break down into water when it’s exposed to light, top off the container with more hydrogen peroxide right before using it again. (There's one caveat: Vinegar breaks down the coating of sealed countertops, so do not use this mixture on these surfaces.)

Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

This article was originally published on Jan. 12, 2017.