The virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces. It’s possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer.
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can also reduce the risk of infection.
Always follow standard practices and appropriate regulations specific to your type of facility for minimum standards for cleaning and disinfection. This guidance is indicated for buildings in community settings and is not intended for healthcare settings or for other facilities where specific regulations or practices for cleaning and disinfection may apply. Additionally, this guidance only applies to cleaning and disinfection practices to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It does not apply to any cleaning or disinfection needed to prevent the spread of other germs.
When to Clean and When to Disinfect
Cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces by removing contaminants and decreases risk of infection from surfaces.
When no people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 are known to have been in a space, cleaning once a day is usually enough to sufficiently remove virus that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility.
Disinfecting (using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s List N disinfectantsexternal icon) kills any remaining germs on surfaces, which further reduces any risk of spreading infection.
You may want to either clean more frequently or choose to disinfect (in addition to cleaning) in shared spaces if the space is a high traffic area or if certain conditions apply that can increase the risk of infection from touching surfaces:
- High transmission of COVID-19 in your community;
- Low vaccination rates in your community;
- Infrequent use of other prevention measures, such as mask wearing (among unvaccinated people) and hand hygiene; or
- The space is occupied by people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean AND disinfect the space.
Develop Your Plan
Determine What Needs to Be Cleaned
Consider the type of surface and how often the surface is touched. Generally, the more people who touch a surface, the higher the risk. Prioritize cleaning high-touch surfaces at least once a day. If the space is a high traffic area, or if certain conditions (listed above) apply, you may choose to clean more frequently or disinfect in addition to cleaning.
Consider the Resources and Equipment Needed
Keep in mind the availability of cleaning products and the personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the cleaners and disinfectants used (as recommended on the product label).
Clean High-Touch Surfaces
Clean high-touch surfaces at least once a day or as often as determined is necessary. Examples of high-touch surfaces include: pens, counters, shopping carts, tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, stair rails, elevator buttons, desks, keyboards, phones, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
Protect Yourself and Other Cleaning Staff
- Ensure cleaning staff are trained on proper use of cleaning (and disinfecting, if applicable) products.
- Read the instructions on the product label to determine what safety precautions are necessary while using the product. This could include PPE (such as gloves, glasses, or goggles), additional ventilation, or other precautions.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after cleaning. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.If hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can.
- Special considerations should be made for people with asthma. Some cleaning and disinfection products can trigger asthma. Learn more about reducing your chance of an asthma attack while disinfecting to prevent COVID-19.
Disinfect Safely When Needed
If you determine that regular disinfection may be needed
- If your disinfectant product label does not specify that it can be used for both cleaning and disinfection, clean visibly dirty surfaces with soap or detergent before disinfection.
- Use a disinfectant product from the EPA list that is effective against COVID-19. Check that the EPA Registration number on the product matches the registration number in the List N search tool. If products on the EPA list are not available, bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface.
- Always follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. The label will include safety information and application instructions. Keep disinfectants out of the reach of children. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet with a disinfectant for a certain period (see “contact time” on the product label).Check the product label to see what PPE (such as gloves, glasses, or goggles) is required based on potential hazards.Ensure adequate ventilation (for example, open windows).Use only the amount recommended on the label.If diluting with water is indicated for use, use water at room temperature (unless stated otherwise on the label).Label diluted cleaning or disinfectant solutions.Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.Do not mix products or chemicals.Do not eat, drink, breathe, or inject cleaning and disinfection products into your body or apply directly to your skin. They can cause serious harm.Do not wipe or bathe people or pets with any surface cleaning and disinfection products.
Alternative Disinfection Methods
- The effectiveness of alternative surface disinfection methodsexternal icon, such as ultrasonic waves, high intensity UV radiation, and LED blue light against the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been fully established.
- CDC does not recommend the use of sanitizing tunnels. Currently, there is no evidence that sanitizing tunnels are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Chemicals used in sanitizing tunnels could cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation or injury.
- In most cases, fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying are not recommended as primary methods of surface disinfection and have several safety risks to consider, unless specified as a method of application on the product label.
Clean and Disinfect Specific Types of Surfaces
Soft surfaces such as carpet, rugs, and drapes
- Clean the surface using a product containing soap, detergent, or other type of cleaner appropriate for use on these surfaces.
- Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
- If you need to disinfect, use a product from the EPA list for approved for use on soft surfaces.
- Vacuum as usual.
Laundry such as clothing, towels, and linens
- Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
- It is safe to wash dirty laundry from a person who is sick with other people’s items.
- If handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick, wear gloves and a mask.
- Clean clothes hampers or laundry baskets according to guidance for surfaces.
- Wash hands after handling dirty laundry
Electronics such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines
- Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics, which makes cleaning and disinfecting easier.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for cleaning the electronic device.
- For electronic surfaces that need to be disinfected, use a product on EPA List Nexternal icon that meets manufacturer’s recommendations. Many of the products for electronics contain alcohol because it dries quickly.
- Spraying cleaning products or disinfectants in outdoor areas – such as on sidewalks, roads, or groundcover – is not necessary, effective, or recommended.
- High-touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, such as grab bars, play structures, and railings, should be cleaned regularly.
- Cleaning and disinfection of wooden surfaces (such as wood play structures, benches, tables) or groundcovers (such as mulch and sand) is not recommended.
Clean and Disinfect Your Facility When Someone is Sick
If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean and disinfect the spaces they occupied.
Before cleaning and disinfecting
- Close off areas used by the person who is sick and do not use those areas until after cleaning and disinfecting.
- Wait as long as possible (at least several hours) before you clean and disinfect.
While cleaning and disinfecting
- Open doors and windows and use fans or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) settings to increase air circulation in the area.
- Use products from the EPA list according to the instructions on the product label.
- Wear a mask and gloves while cleaning and disinfecting.
- Focus on the immediate areas occupied by the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 unless they have already been cleaned and disinfected.
- Vacuum the space if needed. Use a vacuum equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and bags, if available.While vacuuming, temporarily turn off in-room, window-mounted, or on-wall recirculation heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to avoid contamination of HVAC units.Do NOT deactivate central HVAC systems. These systems provide better filtration capabilities and introduce outdoor air into the areas that they serve.
- It is safe to wash dirty laundry from a person who is sick with COVID-19 with other people’s items, if needed.
- Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfectant products, including storing such products securely and using PPE needed for the cleaning and disinfection products.
If less than 24 hours have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, clean and disinfect the space.
If more than 24 hours have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, cleaning is enough. You may choose to also disinfect depending on certain conditions or everyday practices required by your facility.
If more than 3 days have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, no additional cleaning (beyond regular cleaning practices) is needed.