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

Doctors and researchers are gaining a greater understanding about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and how the virus that cause it (SARS-CoV-2) spreads. Public health messages emphasize the importance of frequent, thorough hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

You can also take steps in your home to keep the virus from spreading. No special supplies are required. You likely already have what you need.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread by close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus can also spread by touching surfaces or objects a person with COVID-19 has touched, but the risk is low.

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 may stay on surfaces from hours to days. However, studies suggest that the virus is unlikely to spread by touching most common surfaces three days after a person with COVID-19 has touched them.

Small droplets or aerosols may also linger in the air for minutes to hours. In enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, the droplets can became concentrated enough to spread the virus to people in the area even once an infected person has left the room. This is called airborne transmission.

How can I prepare my home?

You can reduce potential spread of the coronavirus by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks. If someone in your home is at higher risk of serious illness due to COVID-19, clean surfaces often. Do this daily if someone in your home has COVID-19.

Open windows when possible to improve ventilation. Also make sure you have good airflow when you're using bleach or other disinfectants.

Start by putting on gloves before cleaning and 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. Thoroughly wash your hands after removing your gloves.

Cleaning with soap and water removes dirt and lowers the number of germs on surfaces. Once surfaces are clean, you can apply disinfectant to knock out any germs that are left.

What disinfectants kill COVID-19?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of disinfectants for use against the virus that causes COVID-19. Although these products haven't been tested against this specific virus, they're known to work against other, harder-to-kill viruses.

Look for products with active ingredients such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or quaternary ammonium. In the U.S., check labels for EPA registration numbers.

Read and follow product instructions, including what precautions to take when using the product. Many disinfectants need to remain on surfaces for some time to be effective. This is called the contact time. Check the label for the specifics.

Does bleach work against coronavirus on surfaces?

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.

April 10, 2021 See more In-depth

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