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 a COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lower the risk of serious illness. Frequent, thorough hand-washing and wearing a well-fitted face mask in indoor public spaces if you're in an area with a high number of people with COVID-19 in the hospital and new COVID-19 cases, whether or not you're vaccinated, also may reduce your risk of infection. And so can cleaning high-touch surfaces in your home and disinfecting when appropriate.

Cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus doesn't have to be complicated. And you likely already have all that you need in your home to get the job done.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread by close contact with someone who has COVID-19. When someone with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs, respiratory droplets are released into the air. Droplets typically don't travel far — no more than 6 feet (about 2 meters). The virus spreads when other people breathe in infected droplets or when the droplets land in the eyes, nose or mouth of a person nearby.

Infection with the COVID-19 virus may also occur if someone is exposed to very small droplets or aerosols that stay in the air for several minutes or hours. This is called airborne transmission. The risk of airborne transmission is higher in areas with poor air flow (ventilation) or crowded indoor areas.

The COVID-19 virus can also spread if someone touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth after touching a surface or object with the virus on it. Without cleaning and disinfection, the COVID-19 virus may stay on surfaces from hours to days. However, the risk of COVID-19 infection through contact with contaminated surfaces is low.

How can I clean and disinfect my home?

You can reduce the risk of potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 by regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces. These may include tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, counters, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks. Clean after you've had visitors. And clean more frequently if someone in your household is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Clean with a product that is suitable for each surface. Follow the instructions on the product label.

If someone who is sick with COVID-19 lives with you or has been in your home within the last 24 hours, disinfect frequently touched surfaces promptly after cleaning them with soap and water. Cleaning with soap and water removes dirt and lowers the number of germs on surfaces. Disinfecting can help kill any remaining germs.

When using a disinfectant, read the product label and follow instructions carefully, including what precautions to take when using the product. Many disinfectants need to stay on surfaces for some time to be effective. This is called the contact time. Check the label for the specifics.

Start by putting on gloves before disinfecting — preferably disposable gloves, so you can throw them away immediately after you're done. If you only have reusable gloves, don't use them for any other purposes. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds immediately after cleaning and disinfecting.

Keep doors or windows open and use a fan to help increase ventilation 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 combining 4 teaspoons (about 20 milliliters) of household bleach and 1 quart (slightly less than 1 liter) of water. Read and follow instructions and precautions. For example, wear gloves and make sure there's good airflow in the room. Don't mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser — the combination could produce toxic fumes.

How can I disinfect phones and other electronics?

Follow manufacturers' instructions for cleaning and disinfecting. Otherwise, you can clean cellphones with disinfecting wipes that are 70% alcohol. Wipe the face of the phone and along the sides and back where you hold it. Let it air dry. The same goes for computers, laptops, tablets and remote controls. Wash your hands thoroughly when you're done.

March 01, 2022 See more In-depth

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  19. COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know
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  23. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
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  25. Diarrhea
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  27. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
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  31. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
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  39. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
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