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How to clean and disinfect your home to protect it from COVID-19

From cleaning high-touch surfaces to washing hand towels, here are seven epidemiologist-approved cleaning tips to help protect your home from coronavirus.
How to clean and disinfect your home to protect it from COVID-19
Within your home, there are specific steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

You can’t control the cleanliness of what you touch outside the home, such as surfaces in stores or on public transportation. But within your home, there are specific steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 and other germs.

Connie Steed, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, has some tips for how to clean and disinfect the house against infection.

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Tips: Cleaning for coronavirus

These tips should be used in conjunction with basic of coronavirus prevention guidelines: Wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when interacting with people outside your household, maintain social distance, regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue and stay home if you are sick (unless seeking medical treatment). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it's available to you.

1. Clean commonly touched surfaces

The COVID-19 virus spreads mainly from person to person when people come into contact with an infected person’s respiratory droplets at close range. While surface transmission isn't considered to be a common way to get infected, it may be possible for the virus to spread if you touch a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touch your own eyes, nose or mouth, according to the CDC. You can also contract the cold or flu and other viruses this way, so it's a good idea to remain diligent about cleaning surfaces.

Steed recommends daily cleaning of “high-touch” surfaces around the home, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops and cabinet handles.

“You don't really need to go out and buy some super disinfectant — just a household detergent and water is sufficient,” Steed told TODAY Home. She noted that if a surface is particularly dirty, you should wash with water and detergent and then disinfect it.

NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen stressed that if you use a wipe or a spray, let it air dry to help kill the germs.

2. Use the right cleaning supplies

When it comes to supplies like sponges and mops, Steed recommends sticking with disposable wipes or cloths.

“These really are ideal for cleaning in the home because you can dispose of them after one use,” she said.

If you do reuse sponges and cloths, “they really should be washed in hot water and dried on the hottest setting after each use,” Steed said. “Mop heads should be rinsed in hot water after each use until the water sort of runs clear, and then they should be rung out completely and left to air dry.”

Also, when using disinfectants, Steed advises people to follow manufacturer instructions carefully. Some cleaning fluids may need to sit wet on a surface for a certain number of minutes to be effective.

The American Chemistry Council has compiled a list of common EPA-approved household cleaning products that are effective in fighting the coronavirus — check out the list here.

3. Don’t forget electronics

Your phone could be an infected surface hiding in plain sight. Phones often travel everywhere with us throughout the day, potentially picking up germs along the way.

“It is something that people just don’t think of,” Steed said. “(Phones have) become extensions of ourselves.”

She recommends using an alcohol wipe, or else just warm soap and water, to regularly clean the surfaces of your phone. Also, don’t forget to regularly disinfect shared electronics in the home, like computer keyboards and mice, landline phones and remote controls, especially if a sick person has been using them.

4. Some tips for the kitchen

Practice common sense hygiene when it comes to food preparation. Wash your hands and make sure people who are sick don’t come into close contact with shared food.

When someone is sick in the household, give them their own designated plates, drinking glasses and eating utensils. When washing dishes, clean them thoroughly with soap and water. If you have a dishwasher, use the hot setting, Steed recommends.

Make sure to frequently clean high-touch surfaces in the kitchen, such as countertops, drawer pulls and fridge handles.

5. Some tips for the bathroom

Bathrooms should be a “high-priority focus” when it comes to keeping yourself and your family safe from germs, Steed says. She has a few tips for protecting bathrooms from infections:

6. Quarantine sick people in the home

The coronavirus can spread between people who are within about 6 feet of each other, according to the CDC. So, if someone in your family is infected, the best way to keep everyone else safe is to give the sick person a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible, Steed says.

The sick person should avoid contact with others in the household, and should only leave the home for medical treatment. The sick person should also wear a mask anytime that contact with others is necessary. It’s also a good idea to limit visitors to the home while someone is sick with COVID-19, the CDC says.

If you're doing a sick person's laundry, the CDC advises using disposable gloves, and do not shake the laundry, which can spread germs. Nguyen said you don't need to worry about the temperature, but make sure you're using enough detergent and dry clothes on high heat.

Also, ensure that shared spaces in your home have good air flow by using an air conditioner or opening a window, weather permitting.

7. Make it a habit

These measures are all important for protecting your home against the coronavirus, but they are also good to follow in general to safeguard against the flu other infections.

“All of this is important for routine maintenance of a home,” Steed said. “You're not going to get people to clean doorknobs every day, I suspect, but … it's not just about this virus. If you've got somebody with flu, if you’ve got somebody with a gastrointestinal infection … this kind of thing should become front line and center at home to help reduce the risk of other people in the home getting sick.”

And finally, once you and your family members become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, getting vaccinated will also help reduce your risk of getting sick from the coronavirus.

Conor Ferguson and Jamie Nguyen contributed to this story.