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Can coronavirus live on surfaces? Here's how to sanitize your home and car

Coronavirus is understood to spread from person to person, but it's still safe practice to disinfect the surfaces in your home.


There are so many surfaces in your home that could be harboring germs.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

For months now, you've been sanitizing every surface in your home to help protect against the coronavirus. You've been smart about what you touch outside your home, like door handles and Amazon packages, and you're more aware of the germs you could bring into your house. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now emphasizing you can't catch the coronavirus easily by touching surfaces and objects, but that it may still be possible if you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth. 

If you're worried there's a chance you touched an infected surface, we'll provide tips to sanitize and disinfect your home. Remember that washing your hands frequently is one of the best steps you can take, but there's still a possibility the virus can cling to items you carry with you into your sanctuary, like the soles of your shoes, debit card and even your phone (here's how to disinfect your phone). 

Read more: 7 hand soaps to fight germs, from cheap to luxury   

Fortunately, the EPA has released a list of products that are considered effective at killing the virus, including cleaning products like Clorox, Lysol, Microban, hydrogen peroxide and Maquat products to sanitize all the surfaces in your home. Make sure you focus on cleaning all the doorknobs, countertops and other high-traffic areas during your deep clean. Here are five ways to keep your home sanitized from the coronavirus, and other areas and items you can disinfect.

Use disinfectant wipes to quickly clean down surfaces

Think about the things you touch multiple times a day -- doorknobs, sinks, cabinet handles, refrigerator doors, remote controls -- and how many germs are lingering on those surfaces that you may not think about. Since home is where you're most relaxed, you may not be as militant about washing your hands in your own space as you are in public places.

To keep the germs at bay, use a disinfectant wipe, like Clorox Wipes, Lysol Wipes or Purell Wipes, to quickly sanitize those areas. Once or twice a day should do the trick to remove germs, but if someone in your house is sick, you may want to wipe down surfaces more frequently. After you wipe the area, let it air dry to give it time to kill any bacteria that could linger.

Read more: 6 essential cold and flu products you need whether you're sick or not   

Clean surfaces with a disinfectant spray

For areas like your couch and carpet that can't be wiped down, you can use a disinfectant spray, like Lysol, to go after unseen germs. I suggest spraying in a sweeping motion to cover the entire surface, then let it completely dry before sitting down or walking on the surface.

You can also spray down countertops, mattresses and tables. If you're out of wipes, you can also aim your disinfecting spray into a paper towel to wipe down sink handles and other smaller surfaces.

Products like 409 cleaner are not on the EPA's approved list of products, so we suggest using products that come from the list, like Lysol spray, Clorox spray and Sani-Prime spray.

Now playing: Watch this: Coronavirus lockdown: Why social distancing saves lives

Use a bleach mixture to clean floors

Your shoes step on a lot of gross stuff during the day and if you don't take them off when you come into the house, you could track in viruses and other germs. To clean the floors in your kitchen and bathroom, the CDC recommends using 1 cup of bleach mixed with 5 gallons of water to mop your floors. 

The EPA list includes dilutable Maquat products that you can use to clean hard, nonporous areas, like glazed tile floors -- but you should avoid getting it on your grout.

Note that you'll need to use a different disinfectant for porous floors -- for example, if you use bleach on hardwood, it can remove the stain color. Instead, use a disinfecting wet mop cloth on your hardwood floors or combine half a cup of white vinegar and 1 gallon of water. Note that vinegar isn't on the EPA approved list.

Clean up with hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide isn't only effective for whitening teeth -- in fact, the CDC says that 3% hydrogen peroxide was able to inactivate rhinovirus within eight minutes. When you pour the substance directly on surfaces like your sink, countertops or toilets, you'll need to let it soak for around 10 to 15 minutes. This will give it time to completely do its job. After you let it sit, scrub the area and then rinse with water.

It's also safe to clean your toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide since the bristles can harbor bacteria. 


Disinfect your floors with bleach.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep your home protected with Microban 24

A new product released by Proctor and Gamble called Microban 24 claims to keep surfaces protected for 24 hours. The antibacterial cleaner comes in several forms, including a disinfectant spray, a bathroom cleaner and a multipurpose cleaner. Although it isn't on the EPA list, the company says that when it's used as directed as a disinfectant, it is effective against viruses, including the coronavirus.

If used every day, this can help prevent germs from living on surfaces in your home. A good method would be to start your morning off by sanitizing with the Microban 24 so that your house is protected all day.

Now playing: Watch this: Coronavirus and COVID-19: Everything you need to know

What to use to clean your car

While you're out, you're exposed to germs and viruses that can follow you back into your car. A good idea is to sanitize these parts on a daily basis: Car door handles and controls, keys or start button, steering wheel, gear shift, seats, all buttons and knobs on your dash, sun visor, anything touchscreen, the console and cup holders.

You can use disinfectant wipes on most surfaces, excluding any leather and touchscreens. There are specific wipes made for cleaning your car's leather. If your car has a touchscreen, you'll want to use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down (unless your manual says otherwise). For cloth seats, a spray like Lysol is considered effective when given time to dry.

Read more: The best cordless vacuum for 2020   

2020 Infiniti QX50 Autograph

If you've got a touchscreen in your car, clean it frequently.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Other household items you should consider disinfecting

As we're continuing to adjust to our new lives due to coronavirus, we have more tips to help keep you protected. Here are 16 tips to help keep yourself healthy when going out in public, how long coronavirus can live on your clothes and shoes and how to help keep the virus off your phone.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.