Home Cleaning Tips Straight from the CDC

Not all cleaning is created equal. The CDC has recommendations for cleaning and sanitizing, including what to do when someone in your house is sick.

First off, cleaning is different from sanitizing. Cleaning removes dirt and debris; sanitizing kills germs. Both steps are vital in keeping you and everyone in your home from getting sick, especially in cold and flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning the surface first with soap and clean water. Next, sanitize with either a homemade solution made from household bleach or alcohol, or a store-bought solution.

If using a store-bought sanitizer, make sure you read the product instructions; some may require leaving the surface wet for a period of time. Also be sure to wear rubber or other non-porous gloves and eye protection, and try not to breathe in the fumes. If possible, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate.

The CDC offers the following tips for everyday cleaning and sanitizing your home, along with tips for when someone you live with is sick.

Everyday Cleaning

When it comes to everyday cleaning and sanitizing, focus on the frequently-touch surfaces:

  • Doorknobs and handles
  • Light switches
  • Countertops
  • Toilets
  • Sinks

Clean any dirt and grime with soap and clean water, then sanitize. The CDC recommends using diluted household liquid chlorine bleach to sanitize (as long as the solution is safe for the surface) or 70 percent alcohol. If you don’t have access to those products, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of approved disinfectants.

How to Clean and Sanitize Soft Surfaces

For rugs, carpeting, furniture and other soft surfaces, the CDC recommends cleaning with soap and water, or cleaners that are specifically designed for those surfaces. You can then sanitize with an EPA-registered product such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray.

How to Safely Do Laundry

When doing laundry, including clothing, linens and towels, the CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves and washing your hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves to help stop the spread of germs. Also, don’t shake laundry — this may disperse germs through the air.

“Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions,” the CDC says. “Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.” And don’t forget to clean and sanitize laundry hampers because germs can linger there.

How to Clean and Sanitize Electronics

For cleaning electronics such as laptops, tablets, phones, keyboards and remote controls, the CDC says to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you can’t find any instructions, you can usually use an alcohol-based wipe or spray that contains 70 percent alcohol. Then dry the surface thoroughly.

What to Do When Someone is Sick

If someone in your home is sick, the CDC recommends that, if possible, keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for that person. Maintain six-foot distance from the sick person if you can, and ask them to wear a face mask.

How to Cleaning the Bedroom and Bathroom

“If you have a separate bedroom and bathroom: Reduce cleaning to as-needed (soiled items and surfaces) to minimize the amount of contact with the sick person,” the CDC says. Also, caregivers can, when appropriate, provide personal cleaning supplies to the sick person like tissues, paper towels and cleaners.

If you must share a bathroom, clean and disinfect the space after each use by the sick person when possible. “If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as practical after use by an ill person to clean and disinfect the high-touch surfaces,” the CDC says.

How to Clean and Sanitize Shared Items

The CDC recommends washing dishes and utensils used by a sick person in hot water or in the dishwasher. When handling these items, wear gloves and wash your hands when finished.

If possible, have a dedicated trash can lined with a garbage bag for the sick person. Always use gloves when removing garbage bags and handling trash. Wash your hands when finished.

The CDC says, “Household members should care for any pets in the home. Do not handle pets or other animals while sick.”

When doing a sick person’s laundry, the CDC says items can be washed with other people’s items, using the precautions mentioned above.

For more information, check out the CDC’s household guide for cleaning and disinfecting.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.