When killing surface germs is the name of the game, look for cleaning products that are certified germ-killers. Cleaning products that say "disinfectant" on the label are required to meet government specifications.
To ensure the product has met all government requirements for effectiveness in killing household germs, look for an EPA registration number on the label. Active ingredients in these germ-killers may include:
Bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol are good examples of generic products that are proven germ-killers on surfaces throughout your home, including tile, bathroom surfaces, walls, and floors.
You can also find many germ-killers (disinfectants) available under brand names.
Probably the easy way to disinfect and trust the results is to use a proven germ-killers. Fortunately, you don't need to be a disinfectant detective to find germ-killers that work.
The EPA publishes lists of products that it has tested and found to effectively kill viruses, bacteria, and all kinds of germs.
Chlorine bleach - the kind that's not safe for colors - is a strong economical disinfecting agent that has been used for decades. Look for bleach containing 5.2 to 8.25 percent sodium hypochlorite.
But you don't need to - and shouldn't - bathe your surfaces in pure bleach to get beneficial effects. Because bleach is so strong, always dilute it with water.
You will find different bleach-to-water ratios for use with regular bleach, depending on the source. The CDC recommends 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart.
Some product labels recommend a slightly stronger 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon or 2 tablespoons per quart.
The Cleaning Management Institute, a provider of training and certification for professional cleaning services, recommends a still stronger 1:10 ratio (about one and one-half cups of bleach per quart of water); some medical disinfectants are the same solution.
You can use your judgment and comfort level to determine what solution is best for what you're cleaning.
To make an effective disinfecting solution for colorfast, non-porous surfaces, follow the CDC recipe:
Let the bleach mixture rest on the surface for at least 10 minutes before wiping it off with a soft cleaning cloth. If you don't give a disinfectant enough time to do its work, you're not disinfecting. You're wasting time and product.
Follow instructions for application and these best practices for working with bleach:
Be on the lookout for a sequence that looks like this: MR20106. This seemingly random set of letters and numbers means it was made in 2020 on the 106th day of the year. Don't worry about the letters as much as the numbers.
Places to disinfect with bleach: Countertops, sinks, faucets, tubs, toilets, doorknobs, drawer pulls, light switches, plastic toy boxes, and painted wood furniture, cabinets, and doors.
According to the CDC, hydrogen peroxide is a safe and effective way to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi on hard nonporous surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide produces free radicals that attack potential sources of infection and disease.
The foaming bubbles you inevitably see when hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with a contaminated object? That's the result of the free radicals going to work for you.
Hydrogen peroxide comes in a variety of strength levels. Use the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide found at your local grocery store or pharmacy to disinfect at home.
It's inexpensive and easy to find. Skip the high-percentage hydrogen peroxide used for hair lightening or labeled as "food grade." At high concentrations, hydrogen peroxide is a powerful bleaching agent, which is the reason it makes hair lighten and can damage household surfaces.
As with all the germ-killers in your arsenal, this product's effectiveness depends on proper use during application. When it comes time to disinfect a surface, always clean it first. You can use hydrogen peroxide right out of the bottle. Let it sit on the surface for 1 minute before wiping dry.
To get the most benefit from your brown bottle, follow these guidelines:
When using hydrogen peroxide, test first in an inconspicuous surface area to make sure it doesn't discolor or fade the surface. Hydrogen peroxide is acidic and has bleaching properties, so it won't always be safe to use on every surface and object you want to disinfect.
If a surface is prone to bleaching or etching, hydrogen peroxide is not the product you want to use. These surfaces include but are not limited to:
PLACES TO DISINFECT WITH HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: Tubs, tile, and grout; toilets; small metal items, such as keys and tools; wooden cutting boards; refrigerator; sponges (both kitchen and bathing) and makeup blenders; thermometers; razors; and toothbrushes.
Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol will kill most bacteria and fungi, and many viruses. Somehow, the norovirus can hold its own against alcohol. However, keep in mind that rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly. That quick evaporation makes it tough to keep treated surfaces wet for the time necessary to disinfect. Rubbing alcohol is best used on small and hard surfaces. For the best disinfecting results:
PLACES TO DISINFECT WITH ALCOHOL: Computer keyboards, remote controls, smartphones, and anything else with a touchscreen. Just don't soak your electronics or get liquid near any openings.
When used properly, any of the above germ-killers can be counted on to get the deadly job done on your home's surfaces.
Do you have a great story about your challenges - or triumphs - with home disinfecting? Share it!