How to Clean and Disinfect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Stuff

There’s something deeply unsettling about stepping out of the home-from-work boredom of self-isolation into the tense, ambient panic of grocery shopping during a pandemic. Normal is a double-sided coin now. At home, things feel hyperreal and outside they feel entirely surreal—two steps removed from the flashback scenes in a post-apocalyptic movie. You may feel a tension between helping yourself and helping your community. Daily life during the novel coronavirus pandemic is all about disorienting contrasts like these.

It might seem more productive to read our Coronavirus Gear and Supplies Guide and start filling your pantry with canned goods and essentials, but cleaning and sanitizing surfaces in your home can help lower the chances you or a loved one will contract Covid-19 and lower the chances you might spread it to someone else. Keeping your home (and self) sanitized helps everyone.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends we all take steps to clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces in our homes. Below, we get into the weeds of how long the virus might last on surfaces, which disinfectants may kill it, and the steps you should take to keep clean.

To Keep Yourself Virus-Free

Wash Your Hands

You’ve heard it a million times by now, and you’ll hear it a million more, but the best way to lower your risk of contracting Covid-19 (or pass it on to someone else) is to wash your hands after you cough, sneeze, touch your face, use the restroom, or are about to leave one place for another. You should wash your hands when you leave and return from the grocery store, for instance.

If you can find any, hand sanitizer is a fast cleaning method that works wonders. (Here's how to make your own .) Hand sanitizer is no substitute for washing your hands with soap and water, though. Using soap and water can also be a little easier on your hands. It won't necessarily kill all pathogens, but if you wash your hands properly, it'll wash them away. The World Health Organization has detailed instructions (which we've all seen in meme form) on how to properly perform the 20-second hand wash.It’s also important to liberally moisturize your hands. Dry, cracked skin is at greater risk for all kinds of infections, so after you wash, apply a little moisturizer. It's nice! Most moisturizing lotions have similar ingredients, starting with water and glycerin, so the brand doesn't really matter. (Here are some hand lotions on Amazon.) If your hands are extra dry, look for something dermatologist recommended with an "intensive" label, like Eucerin Advanced Repair or Neutrogena Hydro Boost.

(Note: If you buy something using the links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Here's how this works .)

Stay Home

Even if you're not sick, just stay home if you can. Being in large crowds or going out to restaurants pose unnecessary risks not just to yourself but to the people around you. The more you're in public, the more chances the novel coronavirus has to hitch a ride on your hands, clothes, or person. Millions of people are very vulnerable to this virus. Putting yourself at risk also puts them at risk.

"There will be a sizable portion of people who are older, or who have other health conditions, and if they get sick all at once, they're going to overwhelm the health care system. So we're trying to decrease the number of transmissions," Dr. John Townes, head of infection prevention and control at the Oregon Health & Science University, told WIRED.