During the first few months of the COVID pandemic, when we weren't sure how the virus traveled, experts urged us all to disinfect all high-touch surfaces in our homes frequently. But now, over a year into the pandemic, we've all learned a lot about COVID, including that the virus doesn't tend to transmit via surfaces. With this information in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its cleaning and disinfecting guidelines on April 5, and now, the agency says there's only one instance in which disinfecting is necessary. To see the only situation when you need to disinfect your home, read on, and for more advice from the CDC, check out The CDC Says If You See This at a Restaurant, Don't Go Inside.
You only need to disinfect surfaces if someone with COVID has been to your home in the last 24 hours.
On April 5, during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the CDC updated its guidance on cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of COVID, which had been the same since Jan. 5. According to Walensky, the changes to the guidelines reflect the science on transmission that experts now understand. "People can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of transmission is actually low," said Walensky. As a result, the CDC now says it's unnecessary to disinfect surfaces regularly.
The only time that disinfection is advisable, according to the new CDC guidance, is "in indoor settings, schools, and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, within the last 24 hours," said Walensky.
And for more guidance on getting your shots against COVID, Don't Do This for 2 Days After Your COVID Vaccine, Doctors Say.
But you should still clean your home regularly.
Just because you don't have to disinfect surfaces every day doesn't mean you should let them get germy. Walensky explained that "cleaning with household cleaners containing soap or detergent will physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs but reduces the risk of infection by removing them."
Walensky noted that disinfecting is different in that it uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. "In most situations, regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergent, not necessarily disinfecting the surfaces, is enough to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread," she said.
And for more on how best to clean your house, check out 23 Cleaning Tips From the CDC You Need to Follow.
The CDC recommends homeowners focus on cleaning specific surfaces to reduce the chance of transmission.
The CDC's guidance suggests that homeowners clean high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables, handles, light switches, and countertops, daily, and especially after you have visitors. Other surfaces can be cleaned when they are visibly dirty or as needed, the CDC advises.
However, if people in your home are more likely to get very sick from COVID, the agency suggests cleaning more frequently. The CDC also says it is important that homeowners use products suitable for each surface and that they follow the instructions on the product's label closely.
And for more COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
There are other ways to reduce COVID transmission at home, too.
Wiping down the surfaces in your home daily isn't the only way to reduce COVID transmission, of course. Walensky pointed out that you can reduce the spread of COVID in your home by asking unvaccinated visitors to wear masks and having everyone wash their hands frequently when returning from activities outside the home.
To see what the CDC says to avoid after your shot, check out The CDC Says Don't Do This Until 4 Weeks After Getting Vaccinated.