How to Clean Contaminated Surfaces
Updated: Jul 21
It is currently believed that the coronavirus can remain on surfaces for anywhere between a few hours to a few days. While there have not been any documented cases of someone catching COVID-19 from a surface, the CDC still recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces where the virus may be present. If a surface is suspected of possibly being contaminated, you should first put on a pair of gloves, then clean the surface either with soap and water (if it is a hard surface like wood) or as the manufacturer suggests (if it is a soft surface such as carpet or drapes), and then disinfect with a disinfectant recommended by the EPA. If the surface is an electronic, it should be disinfected using alcohol-based sprays or wipes with at least 70% alcohol.
As coronavirus has continued to spread, much information has been spread about how to best avoid contracting COVID-19 while outside (wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from other people, etc.), but many are still unclear about how to stay safe while inside. Although there have not been any documented cases of contracting COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces, the virus has been found to remain viable on surfaces for periods of between hours and days (CDC). Given this information, it is prudential to understand the proper ways to clean and disinfect different surfaces within your house, workplace, or any other surfaces that you interact with.
First, it is important to distinguish cleaning from disinfecting. According to the CDC, cleaning is the process of removing germs and impurities from surfaces while disinfecting is using chemicals to kill germs. If you suspect a surface may be contaminated with the virus, it is safest to first clean and then disinfect the surface. To clean a hard surface (such as doorknobs, tables, and countertops), the first thing that ought to be done is put on a pair of gloves; wearing gloves will help protect you from making contact with the virus if the surface is indeed contaminated. Once you are wearing gloves, the CDC recommends cleaning the surface with either a cleaning detergent or with soap and water. Once the surface has been cleaned, it can be disinfected. The EPA created a list of disinfectants that have been shown to kill the coronavirus, with information about the active components within the disinfectants and the recommended amount of time that the surface ought to be visibly wet from the disinfectant. Each disinfectant should be used as indicated on the product label.
To clean a soft surface, such as a carpet, the CDC recommends following the cleaning procedure as indicated by the manufacturer’s instructions; if these instructions indicate laundering to clean, it is preferable to use the warmest setting that the manufacturer’s instructions allow for. To disinfect electronic devices, it is recommended to follow manufacturer’s instructions; if none are available, it is recommended to use alcohol based wipes or sprays with at least 70% alcohol.