What Kills Germs? How to Kill Coronavirus and Disinfect Your Home

How to Kill Coronavirus and Disinfect Your Home

Killing germs on household surfaces is nothing new. You probably already do this when you regularly clean the bathroom and after handling raw meat or chicken in the kitchen. But with this current epidemic of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), keeping all frequently touched household surfaces, such as tap handles, phones and remote controls, germ-free is more than ever a priority.

How to Kill Coronavirus and Disinfect Your
How to Kill Coronavirus and Disinfect Your

As more information about the coronavirus pandemic develops, some of the information in this story may have changed since its last update. For the most current information on COVID-19, please consult the online resources provided by the CDC, WHO and your local public health unit.


It is important to know that not all cleaning products that claim to disinfect are as effective on all types of germs. There are many types of bacteria and viruses, and not all products kill them all. Below we list the products that work specifically on the coronavirus, how to use them correctly for maximum effectiveness – and what to avoid.

What kills coronavirus?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled a list of products that, while not specifically tested on the all-new version of the virus that causes COVID-19 at this time, have proven efficacy on similar or more difficult to kill viruses, such as the rhinovirus which causes colds; they expect them to also work on the coronavirus. These products use a variety of different ingredients and formulations, so be sure to use them exactly as the label says. These products include:

How to Use Cleaning Products to Kill Coronavirus

Before using a disinfectant or disinfectant product, first read the label to make sure it is registered with the EPA and to see what strains of bacteria and viruses it kills. The EPA registration number is usually found in small print at the bottom of the front or back label, and the bacteria and viruses against which the product is effective are also generally listed.

EPA registration is required by law for any cleaner that claims to kill germs. This is what we rely on in the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab when we assess disinfection and disinfection products and it assures you that if you follow the instructions, the product will work as claimed.

Some additional points:

  • Know that disinfection is not the same as disinfection. Disinfection (reduces the risk of disease by killing 99.9% of germs) usually takes less time – sometimes only 30 or 60 seconds – while disinfection (killing 99.999% of germs) can take up to 10 minutes, depending on the product.
  • Check the label for how long hard, non-porous surfaces should stay wet for the most effective germ destruction. Because liquids evaporate, this may require you to apply the product multiple times.
  • No product can properly disinfect or disinfect a dirty surface, so be sure to clean – even with plain soap and water – before disinfecting.

Which DIY household cleaner kills coronavirus?

According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), an easy way to disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces with something you probably have at home is to combine 1/3 cup plain bleach (sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water. (Clorox recommends using 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water.) For small batches, use 4 teaspoons of regular bleach and 1 liter of water.

Use: Wear gloves, dip a cloth in the mixture, wipe the surface, allow the solution to contact the surface for five minutes and air dry. Rinse all surfaces, including food contact surfaces, such as countertops and high chair trays, with warm water and dry air after disinfection. Be careful not to splash the bleach solution on your clothes or in your eyes and use it sparingly on sinks and stainless steel surfaces. It is also important to note that the bleach and water solution should be refreshed each day that you use it.

Does hydrogen peroxide kill viruses and bacteria?

According to the CDC, hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant against a wide variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, when used on hard, non-porous surfaces. Generally sold in 3% solutions, hydrogen peroxide can be used as is, directly from the bottle. It is best to keep it away from fabrics when cleaning and wear gloves to protect your hands.

Use: Spray or wipe on the surface, allowing it to stay wet for at least one minute before wiping it.

Will alcohol disinfect surfaces?

Isopropyl alcohol is a disinfectant effective against many pathogens, including coronavirus, as long as the concentration is 70%. Most rubbing alcohols contain 70% isopropyl alcohol, but concentrations can range from 60 to 99%. To quickly kill coronavirus on surfaces, 70% is better – pure alcohol (100%) evaporates too quickly to be effective.

Use: Wipe or spray the surface with alcohol and make sure it stays wet for at least 30 seconds.

Can vinegar kill germs?

According to the CDC and NSF (a public health and safety organization), vinegar (or alternative vinegar-based cleaning products) should not be used to disinfect or disinfect. Cleaning products containing vinegar may be good in some cases, but vinegar is not registered with the EPA as a disinfectant and is ineffective against most bacteria and viruses – it does do not kill the flu or the coronavirus. Undiluted white vinegar can work on some limited types of bacteria, but it’s not the best way to get germ-free surfaces. (Also, the coronavirus is a virus, not a bacteria.)

What else do you need to know about cleaning your home right now?

  • Soap and water regularly cleanse germs and reduces the amount of germs, which also reduces the risk of infection. But to kill germs, you must also disinfect or disinfect the surfaces after cleaning them.
  • Never combine disinfectants or cleaning products and open the window or ventilate a room if the smoke becomes annoying.
  • Soft surfaces are porous and will never fully reach the level of germ destruction required to be completely disinfected. Some antibacterial sprays can disinfect soft surfaces, such as pillows and stuffed toys.
  • Safety test surfaces in a hidden location before using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other disinfectant on a particularly delicate surface. On surfaces in contact with food, rinse with clean water and dry after disinfection, unless the product label specifically states that it is not necessary.

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