If the pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that ‘clean’ isn’t always really clean. There’s a major difference between disinfecting and cleaning that could impact your health.
Learn how to disinfect surfaces to get the most out of your cleaning routine. Keep in mind that not all surfaces require the same level of care.
Check out this in-depth guide on how to disinfect surfaces the right way.
Is it Really Clean?
Cleaning is the generic term everyone uses to explain that their homes or offices will look better once they’re done putting things away. Sometimes cleaning up is simply removing objects from off the floor or tabletops and putting them back into their proper places.
But the official definition of cleaning is removing dirt and grime from a surface or object. This dirt might sometimes contain germs, but not always.
Removing dirt might come from wiping away the grime using soap and water, but not always. Some dusting allows you to clean surfaces with only a microfiber cloth.
Does this mean the surface is less clean? Maybe.
Some clothes and sponges only move dirt from one surface to another. In order to remove the dirt from the surface, you need to make sure you’re swapping out your tools as you go.
Here are some tips to really cleaning the surfaces in your home.
Clean Your Sponge Daily
You don’t even want to begin to think about the bacteria growing in a wet sponge. But leaving a sponge on a wet countertop is giving all the bacteria you’ve just cleaned from your kitchen a new home.
Each time you use a germ-ridden sponge to clean a new surface, you simply spread dirt from one place to another. This is the easiest way to spread potential pathogens around your home.
You can circumvent this by cleaning your sponge every day. Simply put it in the microwave for a few minutes each evening after you’ve cleaned the kitchen or put it in the dishwasher.
If you use the dishwasher to wash the sponge, make sure you use the dry cycle, too. You never want to leave a damp sponge lying around with germs from the surfaces in your kitchen.
Toss Bad Sponges
When you notice your sponge starting to look worn or smell bad, it’s time to toss it. This isn’t the time to try and revive it in the microwave.
Once you notice a smell, bacteria has already set in. Many people overextend the life of dish sponges hoping they can kill the germs using the cleaner for each surface.
The surface cleaner isn’t enough to penetrate through the crevices of the sponge. Tossing the sponge and starting anew gets you the most bang for your buck.
Don’t Use Sponges or Reusable Cloths on Counters
The countertop is a hotbed of random dirt and germs. One of the easiest ways to avoid spreading germs is to simply avoid using anything reusable on the countertop.
Clean the surface with a paper towel or cleaning wipe.
Make sure you put dishcloths in the laundry on a regular basis. Dishcloths should be separated according to their uses.
This helps you avoid cross-contaminating surfaces as you clean throughout your home. Make sure you wash dishcloths on high heat and dry them thoroughly.
There are enough bacteria in a dishcloth to get you sick so it’s important they’re cleaned well each time they’re washed.
Cleaning Vs. Sanitizing
There’s no comparison between cleaning and sanitizing. When you clean your kitchen, you’re getting rid of dirt and germs.
But the difference between how long you can keep your dish towels in circulation when you clean versus sanitize is tremendous. Sanitizing your sponges and dishcloths kills harmful pathogens.
This is what you’re doing when you put the dishcloths or sponges into scalding hot water then allow them to completely dry. Use a disinfectant cleaner to kill as many harmful bacteria or viruses as possible.
Disinfecting always involves a disinfectant cleaner. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a list of approved cleaners that disinfect your home or business.
If you’re looking to disinfect your surface, look beyond the product label. The EPA’s N-list, or list of approved disinfectant cleaners, are the best option for killing off harmful pathogens in your home.
Viruses can sometimes live on surfaces for up to a week so it’s extremely important to have the right cleaners on hand. In the midst of the pandemic, the difference between using an approved disinfectant and one that’s not approved could mean risking the safety of your family.
Keep in mind that using products from the N-list doesn’t limit you. Most common household disinfectants are included in the list.
There’s dozens of products to choose from ranging from commercial to retail grade. You won’t find many natural products on the list, however.
The EPA is strict in its guidelines about what a disinfectant should do. This means they won’t be kind to products that skimp on getting rid of all the possible bacteria and viruses that can get you sick even if that product is kind to the environment.
Using Disinfectants Correctly
You’ll get the most benefit out of products on the N-list when you use them correctly. One thing people don’t realize is that simply spraying a surface doesn’t mean it’s been disinfected.
You need to leave the product on the surface for the length of time listed on the product label in order for it to work properly. This might prove an inconvenience when you’re trying to clean up in a hurry.
But the time the product sits on the surface is what separates it from ‘soap and water’ clean. The chemicals need time to react to pathogens on the surfaces.
The chemicals slowly kill off bacteria as they sit. Each chemical blend is different which is why it takes disinfectants different amounts of time to kill off harmful germs.
Some disinfectants, like aerosol sprays, don’t need to be wiped after it sits on a surface. Most cleaning disinfectant sprays do need to be wiped after it sits.
Make sure you use a disposable cleaning cloth on high traffic surfaces. Here are some surfaces to you’ll need to be extra careful with when using your reusable cleaning cloths.
The light switches in both your home and business are hotbeds for pathogens. These areas are touched dozens of times each day by unwashed hands.
In a business or office, they might be touched hundreds of times per day. A regular disinfecting plan needs to be in place to protect visitors from getting sick.
Spray the light switch and any surrounding switches or wall space to make sure the area gets fully disinfected.
Another place to always disinfect is your door handles. Door handles also get lots of traffic and quickly spread germs.
You should assume that everyone that’s come through the door has already touched dozens of other unclean surfaces. They’re simply spreading more bacteria into your home or office each time they open a door.
Spraying a door handle with a disinfectant isn’t enough. Make sure you also wipe the disinfectant with a disposable cloth or paper towel.
Use an approved disinfectant when cleaning your bathrooms and the fixtures. Heavy-duty disinfectants allow you to rest assured that even the most infectious sneeze won’t contaminate the sink handles in the room.
Make sure you choose a disinfectant specifically for bathrooms. Leave a container of disinfectant wipes in the room for anyone who needs to clean up unsanitary spills like vomit or blood while using the restroom.
You never want to use reusable sponges for bodily fluids found even in a private restroom. Toss the sponge after your child has an accident on the floor.
Elevator buttons are one of the top places that need to be thoroughly disinfected throughout the day. Hope the janitorial staff in your building are vigilant in their wiping down buttons using disposable cloths and not reusable ones.
Wiping the buttons with the same cloth from elevator to elevator means they’re just transferring pathogens from one place to another. Speak with your maintenance team if you have concerns about how your building is handling sanitation.
You have the right to work in a safe building especially in the midst of a pandemic.
Whenever guests visit an office building, they stop at the receptionist’s area. As a high traffic space, it’s prone to bacteria and viruses.
Keep your administrative team safe by keeping a disinfectant cleaner near the front desk. Whenever a guest leaves, the admin can simply wipe down the space.
There is a range of options to use to disinfect and sterilize correctly.
How to Disinfect Surfaces in COVID-19
It’s important to use the right cleaners when you’re learning how to disinfect surfaces. Disinfectants go beyond the normal abilities of cleaners.
They kill bacteria and viruses known to get you sick. In the pandemic, this means getting rid of COVID-19 if it’s lurking on shared surfaces. Keep it clean to crush Coronavirus!