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Posted on: May 11, 2020

Cleaning, Disinfecting and Poison Prevention

Two latex gloves and bottle of cleaner

Source: Texas Poison Center Network

A clean home provides a healthy environment for your family, especially during this time to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As we start to think about cleaning and disinfecting, we also should think about poison prevention.

Household cleaning products can contain hazardous chemicals, and mixing cleaners together can result in poisonous fumes. Consider these extra precautions to prevent unintentional poisonings in your home.

CDC Definitions

  • Cleaning - Refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs; however, by removing germs, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting - Refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

General Best Practices for Cleaning & Disinfecting

  • Wear gloves while cleaning.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Use chemicals in a well-ventilated area (open windows or turn on fans).
  • NEVER mix cleaning chemicals with one another. This may create hazardous gases.
  • Prevent chemical contact with food during cleaning.
  • Follow instructions on labels for safe and effective use of a cleaning product.
  • Only use products for their intended purpose.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronic.
  • Use EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface being cleaned.

Cleaning Products

Bleach Products

  • The CDC recommends using a diluted bleach solution for appropriate surfaces.
  • Bleach is a generic name given to any product that is used to remove color or whiten. It does not refer to a specific compound or chemical. Household bleach generally refers to a product containing the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite.
  • Prepare a bleach solution using household bleach by mixing:
    - 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) household bleach per gallon of water, or, 4 teaspoons household bleach per quart of water
    - Leave the solution on the surface for at least 1 minute
    - Never mix household bleach with ammonia, which creates a highly toxic fume.
  • Not all bleaching agents are the same. Some bleach products might not list the word "bleach" on the label, so it’s important to recognize other names for chemical bleaching agents. These include sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, sodium carbonate peroxide as well as many other chemicals.
  • Unexpired household bleach, as well as many other chemicals, are effective against COVID-19.
  • The CDC has a list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for (concentration, application method, contact time, storage, etc.).
  • DO NOT drink bleach as it will not prevent or cure a COVID-19 infection.
  • NEVER use pool chemicals for household cleaning.
  • Bromine and chlorine are chemicals often used to clean swimming pools or spas and usually come in tablet or powder form. If the dust from these chemicals is inhaled, which often occurs when the container is first opened, coughing and shortness of breath can result.


  • Alcohol solutions or alcohol based wipes should contain at least 70% alcohol.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • The EPA has listed Isopropyl alcohol & Ethyl alcohol as disinfectants effective against SARS-Cov-2 to be used on non-porous surfaces.
    - Treatment of surfaces with Isopropyl alcohol should remain on surfaces for 5 minutes.
    - Treatment of surfaces with ethyl alcohol should remain on surfaces for 1 minute. 

Disinfectant Sprays

  • Lysol® is one of the most commonly used brands; however, there are many brands that are EPA approved.
  • Disinfectant sprays should not be used on the body, whether it be humans or pets.
  • Do not spray disinfectants directly on clothes or face masks and immediately wear them. This will cause you to inhale the chemicals and can be hazardous to your health.
  • The incorrect use of disinfectant sprays could cause material damage, only use on surfaces listed on the label.

Poison Prevention

  • Use safety locks on all cabinets. Store all household and chemical products along with any potential poisons out of reach and out of sight of small children.
  • Install child resistant locks on doors and drawers.
  • If you are using a product and need to answer the telephone or doorbell, take the child with you. Most poisonings occur when the product is in use.
  • Store all products in their original containers. DO NOT use food containers such as milk jugs or soda bottles to store household or chemical products.
  • Store food and household and chemical products in separate areas. Mistaken identity could cause a serious poisoning. Sometimes products that are poisonous will look similar to common drinks or food. An example of this is apple juice and pine cleaner.
  • Return household and chemical products to safe storage immediately after use.
  • Discard old or outdated household and chemical products.


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