COVID-19 Guide

Is there a difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Guidance for keeping your home safe and clean

We’re all concerned about germs and the spread of viruses today, so it’s important to ask, “What’s the difference between cleaning a surface and disinfecting it?”

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs and dirt from surfaces. Cleaning will not kill germs; it simply removes them or reduces the number of germs, lowering the risk of infection.

Disinfecting is a process that uses chemicals to kill germs. In order to eliminate coronavirus (the virus that causes COVID-19) and reduce the risk of spreading it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hard surfaces be cleaned and disinfected frequently with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.

Areas that should be frequently cleaned and disinfected are commonly touched surfaces such as tables, hard-back chairs, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, cellphones, tablets, remotes, toilets, faucets, sinks and kitchen counters.

Disinfecting Solutions for the Home

  • For disinfection, use dilute household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, disinfectant wipes and EPA-registered household disinfectants.
  • Wear disposable gloves and discard them after each cleaning. If surfaces are visibly dirty, clean them with a detergent/soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Make sure to have proper ventilation when applying bleach products
    to surfaces. Always check to ensure products are not expired.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners. When preparing a bleach solution, follow one of the guidelines below:

Washing Clothes, Towels, Linens and Sheets

  • Disposable gloves should be worn when handling dirty laundry.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility
    of dispersing the virus through the air.
  • Clothing items should be washed in the warmest water possible and should be dried completely.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers and baskets. Consider placing a bag liner that is either disposable (can be thrown away) or can be laundered.

If Someone in Your Household Has COVID-19

  • The ill person should have their own personal cleaning supplies for their room and bathroom.
  • If a separate bathroom for the ill person is not available, the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by the ill person.
  • Wear gloves when removing garbage bags, handling trash and disposing of trash.

By: Gayle Shultz, RN, MSN Augusta Health Community Outreach