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Eight Tips for Safe and Effective Disinfection

  1. Hand washing. Washing hands properly (with soap, warm water, and friction for 20 seconds) frequently and after exposure to an
    infected person or object minimizes the opportunity for pathogenic microbes to enter our body and will reduce their spread to other people, objects, and surfaces.
  2. Cough and cover. Cover the nose/mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing. Coughing into the elbow is an alternative when tissues are not available. Don’t forget to wash your hands.
  3. Use tissues. Use tissues when possible to capture droplets and dispose of them in a waste receptacle after use, then wash your hands.
  4. Buffer yourself. If you are coughing or sneezing, try to step back and leave a 3-foot buffer between yourself and others.
  5. Clean first. Frequent and correct cleaning of high-risk and high-touch* areas with proper equipment will remove microbes. Microfiber cloths and mops are recommended for removal of up to 99% of microbes. Steam cleaning machines and spray-and-vac machines are also recommended to remove microbes and their spores.
  6. Sanitize when needed. Using a product designed to sanitize a surface will reduce but not necessarily eliminate microorganisms from surfaces. Sanitization is required for food service areas and in childcare centers.
  7. Disinfect only when needed. To minimize the use of unnecessary disinfectants and help protect our health and the environment, only disinfect when necessary. Situations that do require disinfection include accidents involving vomit, feces, body fluids, or blood; some bathroom surfaces; and for specific legally required activities in food preparation areas and in childcare settings. Disinfectants are not recommended for daily use other than on high-risk surfaces and where required by regulation. The surface will remain disinfected only until the next person or microbe touches that surface.
  8. Ventilate the area. Adequate ventilation can also help reduce the chance of infection by providing fresh air. Facilities are required to meet certain ventilation requirements and homeowners should air out the house and wash linens and other high-touch areas when an illness has been introduced to the house.

* High-risk areas: locations where there is a higher risk for bloodborne incidents, skin contact (MRSA risk), or contact with feces and body fluids.

High-touch areas: surfaces touched frequently and by a variety of hands over the course of the day. High-touch areas include door handles, faucet handles, handrails, shared desks, push bars, drinking fountains, and so forth. Areas touched by only one person, such as a personal computer keyboard, do not pose the same risk.

Information for the development of this tip sheet was taken primarily from a handbook titled “Cleaning for Healthy Schools – Infection Control Handbook”. The handbook was created in 2010 as a result of a 2 year grant funded the TURI community program. Download the handbook.

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Did You Know?

  • Disinfectants have been linked to acute and chronic health issues.
  • Work-related asthma can be triggered by some cleaning products.
  • Ingredients such as acids, ammonia, bleach, and disinfectants are asthma irritants.