Cleaning and Disinfecting Safely

Cleaning and Disinfecting Safely
Posted on 04/06/2020

Many people are taking extra steps to clean and disinfect their homes. Although this is done in an effort to stay safe and healthy, using the wrong type of cleaner or mixing cleaning products can have dangerous, or even deadly, results. Here are some important guidelines and resources to stay safe while cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting – What’s the Difference?
Reading the labels of household cleaners can be confusing and overwhelming. To make label language easier to understand, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed recommendations for the cleaning and disinfecting of households, including breaking down the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.

  • Cleaning – Removes gems, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects
  • Sanitizing – Lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects
  • Disinfecting – Kills germs on surfaces or objects

The CDC recommends frequently touched surfaces (such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, etc.) be routinely cleaned with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface. Be sure to follow all label instructions for safe and effective use of the product.

To disinfect, the CDC recommends a diluted household bleach solution, alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol, or most EPA-registered household disinfectants. The EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products meeting the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19.

Proceed with Caution: Never Mix These Products Together
The following chemicals should never be mixed. These combinations create dangerous, or even deadly, toxic vapors and substances.

  • Bleach and vinegar or other acids like lemon juice and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners: These create toxic chlorine gas that can cause coughing, irritate eyes, nose, and throat, cause chemical burns, and be deadly at high enough concentrations.
  • Bleach and ammonia: These create toxic chloramine vapor that quickly causes eye, nose, and throat irritation and can be deadly at high enough concentrations.
  • Bleach and rubbing alcohol: These create toxic chloroform that can result in passing out or death.
  • Vinegar and peroxide: These create peracetic acid that is corrosive, can irritate the eyes, and may cause chemical burns.

Safe Storage and Disposal
Never flush wipes, including those labeled as “flushable”, down the toilet. Doing so causes significant, and expensive, sewer problems. Also, cleaning wipes and paper towels with cleaning chemicals are not accepted in organics recycling programs.

More information about safe storage and disposal is available in the Green Disposal Guide.