Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home

Used properly, most common household disinfectants will kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to lower your risk of serious illness. Getting the vaccine also prevents the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In addition to the vaccine there are other actions you can take to keep this coronavirus from spreading in your home. Wash your hands well and often to lower your risk of infection. Improving air flow in your home and filtering the air can help. And for the coronavirus and other germs, clean those high-touch surfaces in your home and disinfect them when needed.

What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning removes most germs and dust or dirt. Disinfecting kills most germs. If someone in your home has COVID-19, clean first, then disinfect.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person. It can spread from people who are infected but have no symptoms. When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, breathe, sing or talk, the virus carried on their breath can land on the faces of people nearby. The virus spreads when other people breathe in infected droplets or when the droplets land in their eyes, noses or mouths.

The COVID-19 virus also can spread if people touch their eyes, noses or mouths after touching a surface with the virus on it. Without cleaning and disinfection, the COVID-19 virus may stay on surfaces from hours to days. But the risk of COVID-19 through contact with infected surfaces seems low.

How can I clean and disinfect my home?

You can lower the risk of spreading of the COVID-19 virus by focusing on surfaces that are touched often. Examples are tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, counters, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks. Clean these things with soap and water or with a product made for the specific surface. Follow the instructions on the product label.

Most often, cleaning is enough to lower the risk. Clean more often if someone in your home is at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

If someone who is sick with COVID-19 lives with you or has been in your home within the last 24 hours, disinfect surfaces right after cleaning them. Disinfecting helps kill germs that are left.

Disinfecting uses strong chemicals.

Read product labels before use and follow instructions carefully. Many disinfectants need to stay on surfaces for some time to work. This is called the contact time, and the label will tell you that length of time.

Put on gloves before disinfecting. Disposable gloves are best because you can throw them away when you’re done. If you have only gloves that you reuse, don’t use them for anything else. Wash your hands well with soap and water for 20 seconds right after cleaning and disinfecting.

Keep doors or windows open and use a fan to help increase air flow while disinfecting your home.

What disinfectants kill COVID-19?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of disinfectants for use against COVID-19. Look for products with active ingredients such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or quaternary ammonium. In the U.S., check labels for EPA registration numbers.

Does bleach work against COVID-19?

Yes. You can make a disinfecting solution by mixing 4 teaspoons (about 20 milliliters) of household bleach and 1 quart (a bit less than 1 liter) of water.

Read and follow instructions on your bottle of bleach. It’s also important to wear gloves and make sure there’s good airflow in the room. Don’t mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser because mixing can cause toxic fumes.

How can I disinfect phones and other electronics?

Cellphones are high-touch devices that can carry COVID-19 germs. Follow makers’ advice for cleaning and disinfecting them and other electronics. You also may consider covering your phone or shared electronics, such as a keyboard, with a product that can be easily disinfected.

Protect yourself every day

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you get germs on your hands. You can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

To protect yourself, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If there’s no soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.