Everyone in the New York City area is stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water. What you don’t see is people buying disinfectants for their homes.

While the coronavirus is primarily spread person-to-person, the virus can still live on surfaces. A recent federally-funded study highlighted by NBC News New York, states that the virus can live on steel, plastic and other hard surfaces for up to two to three days. While coming in contact with these surfaces does not mean you’ll become sick, there are ways to properly clean your home to reduce your risk.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want people to know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs but removes them, lowering their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Cleaning frequently-used objects such as tables, doorknobs, cell phones, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets and sinks should be done with cleansers like disinfectant sprays or wipes may help you stay healthy. Keep in mind sprays are better than wipes, which can spread germs from one surface to another. Other disinfectants and cleansers can be found here.

If you have bleach in your household, the directions for a proper bleach solution are: Mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

Be sure to handle bleach carefully. Never mix household bleach with ammonia, because the mixture produces toxic vapors, or any other cleanser and make sure the room is well ventilated. Your bleach and water mixture should not be premixed and stored. Bleach should never be mixed with anything else, like vinegar or dish soap, for example. Solutions with 70% alcohol or 70% alcohol, in general, can be used for disinfecting as well.

If surfaces are dirty, clean them using soap and water before using a disinfectant. Wear disposable gloves while cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and discard them after each cleaning. If wearing reusable gloves, only use them for cleaning surfaces that may be home to the virus. After removing the gloves, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Gloves should also be used when handling dirty towels and bedding. Avoid shaking dirty laundry, which will minimize the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air.

Items should be cleaned using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and items should be dried completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items. Clothes hampers should be cleaned just like the surfaces mentioned above.
More information on how to properly clean your home, especially if a member of your household falls ill, can be found on the CDC website.