You may not need all of those disinfecting wipes or sprays after all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week updated its guidelines for cleaning to protect against COVID-19 transmission through surfaces. The agency now says cleaning alone is usually enough and that disinfecting is likely only needed in some circumstances.
“Cleaning with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent reduces the amount of germs on surfaces and decreases risk of infection from surfaces,” the guidelines say. “In most situations, cleaning alone removes most virus particles on surfaces.”
The CDC recommends disinfecting, however, if someone in the home has COVID-19 or if someone who has tested positive for the virus was in the home within the past 24 hours.
At the beginning of the pandemic stores were selling out of disinfectants and other products as people were “panic buying” and stockpiling supplies — such as Lysol and Clorox wipes — to protect against COVID-19. But scientists have since learned more about the coronavirus and how it spreads.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the guidelines were updated to “reflect the science on transmission.”
“People can be affected with the virus that causes COVID-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects,” Walensky said during a Monday news conference. “However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of infection — of transmission is actually low.”
The CDC says the main way the coronavirus is spread is through respiratory droplets and that studies have shown the risk of fomite transmission — or transmission through objects — is low compared to “direct contact, droplet transmission or airborne transmission.”
Still, the agency recommends regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces — such as doorknobs, tables, handles, light-switches and countertops — and cleaning after having visitors.
“Clean other surfaces in your home when they are visibly dirty or as needed,” it says. “Clean them more frequently if people in your household are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. You might also choose to disinfect.”
The CDC also recommends taking steps to reduce the contamination of surfaces, including asking visitors who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear a mask and following “guidance for fully vaccinated people,” isolating people who are infected with the coronavirus and washing hands often.
If disinfecting surfaces, the CDC says to follow directions on the product’s label and to clean “visibly dirty surfaces” first if the product does not contain a cleaning agent. It also recommends wearing gloves and ensuring “adequate ventilation” while disinfecting.
Walensky said that “fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and has several safety risks to consider” in most cases.
She also emphasized that wearing a mask “consistently and correctly” and regular hand washing can reduce the risk of “surface transmission.”