In the era of disinfectant wipes and sprays flying off shelves because of the novel coronavirus, which causes the potentially severe respiratory disease COVID-19, we’re all a little obsessed with cleaning. The virus can hang out on surfaces for hours to days, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls cleaning and disinfecting a “best practice” for reducing your risk. You do have some power in this.

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But where should you be cleaning, and how? Let’s focus on the area of your home where there’s a lot of human interaction and a lot of smooth surfaces that get a lot of touching (and therefore could harbor virus): the kitchen.

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Areas in Your Kitchen That You Should Be Regularly Cleaning and Disinfecting

“Focus on high-touch surfaces,” recommends Donald W. Schaffner, PhD, a distinguished professor and extension specialist in food science with expertise in microbial risk assessment at Rutgers University. High touch means used often, and by multiple people. For instance, he says, if you use your microwave often, that’s high-touch. Here’s what the CDC says is “high-touch,” and here’s where you might find them in the kitchen:

  • Tables (this includes your kitchen table and counter)
  • Hard-backed chairs (for instance, kitchen chairs around the table you eat dinner on)
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Remotes (Do you use yours to watch the TV from your kitchen?)
  • Handles (Focus on the refrigerator handle, handles on drawers you’re always going in, like the silverware drawer, microwave handle, oven and countertop oven handles, etc.)
  • The sink (Not only the basin itself, but the water faucet, too)

How to Disinfect Your Kitchen’s High-Touch Surfaces

Now that you know what to clean and disinfect, how best to do it?

First, clean these surfaces with detergent or soap and water, says Schaffner. Next, it’s time to disinfect. When using disinfectants, know that they come with directions that you have to follow in order for them to work, and it’s important to use the product as the label suggests. For instance, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes recommends using enough of the product so that hard surfaces remain wet for four minutes. Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach is a spray that you’re advised to leave wet for 30 seconds before rinsing or wiping clean. Letting the solution sit gives it enough time to kill viruses, says Schaffner. Since the time varies between products, read each label before using.

Disinfecting DIY tip: You can also make your own disinfectant at home with diluted household bleach; an alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol; or these solutions from the EPA-recommended list, which have been pre-approved for coronavirus use. Just make sure you don't mix these common household cleaners together. The results can be dangerous to your health.

How Often to Disinfect Your Kitchen

Repeat this disinfecting routine on frequently touched surfaces daily, or more often if someone in your household is sick; the virus can survive for 16 hours on plastic surfaces, Schaffner says.

Remember, though, that keeping your kitchen surfaces as clean and disinfected as possible is secondary to practicing isolation techniques and washing your hands when you return home. “That’s your front line of prevention,” he says.

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