Constant cleaning in the home not needed to fight COVID-19


The early days of fighting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) included constant disinfecting of surfaces in homes and commercial spaces, as little was known about how it spread, resulting in overzealous cleaning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the guidance and now recommends daily cleaning with soap and water in the home.

In the early days of the pandemic, toilet paper wasn’t the only item that was difficult to find. Hand sanitizer, soap, bleach, and disinfectants were also extremely hard to come by, as many started compulsively disinfecting the home, even wiping down groceries before putting them away. Updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the drive to sanitize and clean multiple times during the day aren’t as necessary as originally thought, because of the airborne nature of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1

Although, as the guidance notes, COVID -19 virus particles may land on surfaces and people can become infected if they touch a surface and then immediately touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. However, the risk of infection from touching surfaces is actually low. Regular hand washing and hand sanitizer use remains the most reliable way to prevent any potential risk of infection.

The guidance also offers information on when someone should clean and when someone should disinfect. When a household has no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, cleaning surfaces just once a day with soap and water should be enough to remove any virus particles. More frequent cleaning as well as disinfecting are only necessary in shared spaces where conditions might increase the risk of infection from touching surfaces, such as infrequent hand washing, a low number of people wearing masks, or a high COVID-19 transmission rate. If someone with COVID-19 has been in the space in the past 24 hours, surfaces should be both cleaned and disinfected.

The guidance also includes information on cleaning and disinfecting common items in the home. For soft surfaces likes carpets and drapes, families should clear the surface with a cleaner appropriate for use on the surface, put the item through the laundry if possible, and if disinfecting is required, use one found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s N List that is designed for soft surfaces. For electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets, families should consider using cases and covers that are easy to wipe down and follow the directions from the manufacturer about cleaning the device. Using cleaning products in outdoor locations is not recommended. The guidance also offers specific information on laundry saying that families should use the warmest water setting that is appropriate, wash hands after handling any dirty laundry, and clean hampers or laundry baskets. If a member of the household has been ill, it’s safe to wash the person’s dirty laundry with other items, but the person who is handling the dirty laundry should wear gloves and a mask when doing so.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. Updated April 5, 2021. Accessed April 7, 2021.

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Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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