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Everyone likes a clean home, but is it disinfected? Every time someone goes in and out of your place, new germs are coming in with them. Disinfecting high-touch surfaces—those surfaces that are touched multiple times a day–we’re able to eliminate or slow the spread of those germs.

Effective disinfectants

Not every cleaning product is a disinfectant, and most green products are not. The CDC recommends using EPA-registered household disinfectants. Let’s start with the difference between cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants. To make matters worse, sometimes the words are used in combination. Sani-Spritz spray, for example, is a one-step disinfectant cleaner. Here’s a fast break down:

Cleaners remove dirt. This is a broad category of products that use soap or detergent to physically remove dirt and soli from surfaces. Cleaning doesn’t kill germs, it removes them. The EPA does not test or regulate cleaners for effectiveness.

Sanitizers kill bacteria. To know which bacteria the sanitizers kills requires reading the product label.

Disinfectants kill viruses, mold, mildew and fungi. To know which disinfectants kill which viruses requires reading the product label.

Dwell time is the time it takes for a product to kill the respective germs. Some chemical formulas take as much as 5 minutes to work, while others kill germs in a minute or less.

Sanitizers are often used where food will be present. If a product is labeled as a food contact sanitizer, it can be safely used to clean surfaces that will later touch food.

Household disinfectant sprays: Look for disinfectant on the label. A variety of commercial disinfectant sprays can be used on most solid surfaces.

Disinfecting wipes: Disinfecting wipes are useful for keeping the disinfectant exactly where you want it. They also travel well outside the home and are helpful around the office.

Bleach solution: Combine one-third cup bleach per gallon of water to create a disinfecting solution. Spray or wipe the solution on the surface to disinfect and let sit for at least one minute.

Alcohol: The solution should be at least 70 percent alcohol. Alcohol pads are great for quickly disinfecting small items like your phone.

Every disinfecting product works differently. It’s important to follow the directions on the product you’re using to disinfect your apartment, car, your space on public transportation or at the office. Many products recommend leaving surfaces wet with the disinfectant for a specific period of time to ensure it works.

When disinfecting the home, consider high-toch surfaces first, as they are the most likely to harbor germs: doorknobs, faucets, tables, countertops, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, remotes, toilets and sinks.

Focus on the kitchen and bathrooms

Aside from frequently touched surfaces, the kitchen and bathrooms are the most likely places for germs to be hiding out. In the kitchen, be sure to disinfect the counters every time you cook meat and keep your sponges clean to avoid spreading germs while you’re cleaning up.

In the bathroom, pay special attention to the toilet and sink when disinfecting.

How often to disinfect

The frequency of disinfecting is a personal choice, but there are guidelines to controlling health threats. When the flu, common cold or other illnesses make the rounds in your community, disinfect commonly touched areas in the home daily to protect your family. At times when you’re less worried about illnesses, two to three times a week should be plenty.

When you return home

One of the best ways to keep germs out of your home is to create a barrier from the outside. First, leave your shoes at the door. They bring grime into the apartment. Second, wash your hands for a full 20 seconds with soap and hot water each time you enter your apartment.