Guidance for COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting

When cleaning at your home or the home of a client, use these COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting guidelines:

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning physically removes germs and dirt from surfaces. Disinfection destroys microorganisms like the COVID-19 virus by using specific chemicals.

What should I clean/disinfect?

  • Frequently touched surfaces – such as:
    • Countertops/tables.
    • Hard-surface chairs.
    • Eating areas.
    • Sinks.
    • Light switches.
    • Handrails and doorknobs/handles.
    • Remotes.
    • Phones.
  • Bathrooms.

What products can I use for disinfecting COVID-19?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved many disinfecting products for use against COVID-19. Some examples of prepared products include:

  • Lysol® brand: Heavy Duty Spray, Disinfectant Spray, All Purpose Cleaner, Toilet Bowl Cleaners, Disinfecting Wipes.
  • Clorox® brand: Multi Surface Cleaner + Bleach, Clean Up Cleaner + Bleach, Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach, Disinfecting Wipes.
  • Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner.
  • Germ Away.

When using prepared products, check the label for

  • How to use the product safely.
  • How to dilute the product (if applicable).
  • How long the product should sit/be in contact with the surface to be effective. In most cases, it takes 5-10 minutes for disinfection to take place.

Want to know if a product not listed here is approved for use against the COVID-19 virus? Check the searchable list here:

Other chemicals such as bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and isopropyl alcohol can also be used:

  • To use a bleach solution:
    • Add 1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) bleach to 1 gallon cool water OR
    • Add 4 teaspoons bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) cool water.
    • Check the expiration date on the bottle to make sure the bleach is not expired – bleach expires after one year.
  • To use alcohol:
    • Dip a paper towel in 70% (or greater) isopropyl alcohol to use as a disinfecting wipe.

7 Steps for Cleaning and Disinfecting

  1. Read the directions on products being used and follow directions. Check “contact time” to see how long disinfecting product must remain on the surface to work.
  2. Put on gloves and dilute/prepare products if necessary.
  3. If surfaces are dirty, clean first with detergent or soap and water.
  4. Apply disinfecting product.
  5. Allow the product to sit for the recommended contact time (check the label). When using a bleach solution it needs to be in contact with the surface for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Remove gloves:
    • If using disposable gloves, throw away.
    • If using reusable gloves, be sure gloves are only used for COVID-19 surface cleaning.
  7. Wash hands.

Using Cleaning and Disinfecting Products Safely

  • Make sure area is as well ventilated as possible:
    • Open windows and doors for fresh air.
    • Turn on the bathroom or kitchen fan.
  • Use gloves to protect your skin.
  • Pour or spray products onto a sponge/rag instead of spraying over large areas to prevent eye or breathing irritation.
  • If you have asthma or another breathing problem, or if using bleach-based products causes irritation, try a product containing hydrogen peroxide. These products are usually less irritating as long as they do not also contain peroxyacetic acid.
    • Hydrogen peroxide can damage some surfaces, so test on a small area before using on bigger surfaces.
  • Never mix bleach and ammonia (or products containing them) – a hazardous gas is created.

Other Cleaning and Housekeeping Tips

  • Laundry:
    • Wear gloves (if using reusable gloves – dedicate for COVID-19 cleaning only).
    • Avoid shaking laundry.
    • Use warmest water appropriate for items being washed.
    • Wash laundry from an ill person separately from other laundry.
    • Wash hands after handling dirty laundry.
    • Disinfect laundry basket before placing clean laundry in it or use a different, clean basket.
  • Frequently remove trash containing used tissues.
  • Keep any specimens of sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract) in double bags.


CDC cleaning recommendations

EPA-approved COVID-19 disinfectants

SF Environment (City of San Francisco’s environmental department) guidance on safer cleaning/disinfecting products

NIOSH health and safety guidance for home care aides

SEIU 775 Benefits Group Infection Control: Coronavirus Precautions Webinar