Cleaning After COVID-19

What to do if someone in your household has had the coronavirus

Cleaning supplies Mitch Blunt

You may think it’s essential to disinfect your home from top to bottom if someone there recently recovered from COVID-19. But experts suggest a moderate approach. “The virus doesn’t survive, either in the air or on surfaces, for a long period of time,” says Bill Carroll, PhD, a chemist at Indiana University. Cleaning surfaces with just soap and water may be enough, he says, but you may want to ensure you’ve eradicated lingering germs with the following steps. “You’re just adding an extra layer of safety with these,” he adds.

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Air things out. “By far the most common route of exposure for this virus is through inhaling droplets or aerosols [tiny droplets] in the air,” Carroll says. So leave the windows in the bathroom and bedroom the ill person has been using open for 12 hours.

Clean and disinfect. Put on disposable gloves and clean surfaces like bathroom counters with soap and water. Then wipe with a coronavirus-killing disinfectant.

Launder “sick room” items. Wearing disposable gloves, collect bedding, clothes, and towels the ill person has used, and wash them at the hottest setting following manufacturer instructions. (You can wash them with items from other household members.)

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Hallie Levine

Hallie Levine is an award-winning magazine and freelance writer who contributes to Consumer Reports on health and fitness topics. Her work has been published in Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and Parents, among others. She's a mom to three kids and a fat but feisty black Labrador retriever named Ivry. In her (nonexistent) spare time, she likes to read, swim, and run marathons.