While avoiding contact with infected people is one of the best ways to avoid catching a virus, sometimes you just can’t prevent exposure. Such as when someone in your family has a virus such as influenza or other viral diseases. Here are the best ways to kill viruses at home (or prevent them).
If someone at home is sick, the virus can be spread through the air. And one of the most powerful ways to get rid of the viruses is with a HEPA air filter.
The best HEPA air filters can remove particles in the air that are extremely small. Which include viruses.
If your parents or grandparents always opened the windows to air out a home after someone was sick, they were smart. It was a way to get fresh air inside and virus-laden air out. It’s still a smart thing to do whenever you’re worried about viruses in your home.
However, sometimes you are unable to open the windows. Such as if the weather is bad outside, or it is allergy season. In that case, you definitely want to use an air purifier. Put it at the highest setting for the best filtration while someone in your house is sick or could have a virus.
Cleaning / Disinfecting Surfaces
When someone is sick, we always start wiping down any surface that they have touched, right? And it turns out, that is a super smart thing to do to kill viruses.
Viruses can linger on surfaces through the home. And by touching the same surface as someone that is sick, the virus can be transmitted at home.
What to Clean at Home
Among the surfaces you should immediately and routinely clean when someone at home is sick, include the following. You can download a free printable of this list in our Learning Academy.
- Toothbrush Holders
- Refrigerator Handles
- Cabinet Pulls
- Garbage Cans
- Hard-backed Chairs
- Light Switches
- Diaper Pail
- Potty Chairs
- Changing Tables
- Highchair Tray
How to Disinfect Surfaces at Home
Keep in mind that disinfecting and cleaning are two separate things. They could possibly occur together, but just cleaning a surface doesn’t necessarily mean you are disinfecting it.
For instance, if you wipe down a countertop with water and a paper towel. You might have cleaned it from dirt and debris, but you haven’t disinfected it from germs.
Cleaning can remove germs from a surface, which greatly helps in reducing transmission of a virus. However, using a disinfectant will kill any germs that were on that surface. Rather than just simply removing them.
To truly disinfect a surface at home, you need to use an EPA-registered disinfectant, such as Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes, which comes in several fragrances. There is also a Seventh Generation disinfecting aerosol spray (with three fragrances) or a multi-surface cleaner (just one scent).
When a cleaner is EPA-registered, then you know the formulation has been proven to kill the viruses it says it can kill. Whether or not the cleaner is made from natural ingredients or chemicals, all cleaning products that state that they are EPA approved have been proven to kill viruses and germs.
Which is why there’s nothing wrong with using plant-based or natural disinfectants. If they have an EPA seal of approval as a disinfectant, then they have prove to kill viruses.
Does Vinegar Kill Viruses?
Acidic vinegar will actually change the protein and fat structure of a virus, which will destroy their cells. So, yes, vinegar can help to kill a virus.
When UK researchers did scientific studies looking for what would kill a flu pandemic, they found that malt vinegar can actually inactivate the flu virus.
Using vinegar is a smart way to naturally clean your home year round. Here’s my list of how to choose what vinegar to clean with.
Does Bleach Kill Viruses?
Yes, bleach does kill viruses. If you are using bleach at home, consider using a hydrogen peroxide-based bleach (also known as non-chlorine bleach) rather than a chlorine-based bleach.
Think that you must use chlorine? Nope. Clorox has a Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant for healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.
To make an effective bleach cleaning solution, use the following measurements:
- 1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) of bleach for each gallon of water
- 4 Teaspoons of bleach to a quart of water
NEVER mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners! This can cause a toxic reaction with dangerous fumes.
Does Hydrogen Peroxide Kill Viruses?
As you see above, yes, hydrogen peroxide kills viruses. In fact, hydrogen peroxide is the ingredient used in non-chlorine bleach.
Why wouldn’t you want to use chlorine bleach? The smells and fumes can cause headaches and other medical problems. Plus, it’s not absolutely necessary to use toxic chlorine when hydrogen peroxide will work, too.
The problem with using hydrogen peroxide in an undiluted form is that it can stain or remove color, just like chlorine bleach would. So while wiping surfaces with hydrogen peroxide can kill viruses, it could also damage countertops and finishes.
Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Viruses?
Rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, does kill viruses. In fact, it’s one of the common ingredients in hand sanitizers.
However, not all rubbing alcohol is the same.
You want an alcohol percentage of 70-99% ideally. A percentage of 60% is not bad, but the higher the percentage of alcohol, the better it will kill viruses.
Again, just like hydrogen peroxide, be careful using rubbing alcohol not diluted. It could dry out or damage surfaces when used repeatedly without diluting.
Best Ways to Clean
If someone at home is sick or you think they might be able to transmit a virus, take the utmost precaution in disinfecting your home. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers these tips to properly kill germs at home:
- Wear disposable gloves when cleaning. Throw away immediately after finishing. If you are using reusable gloves, ONLY use them for cleaning. (I say it’s best to chose a place to store them where they won’t transmit germs. While it’s nice to be eco-friendly, health and safety have to take priority in this situation.)
- Wash and clean your hands after removing the gloves.
- Clean a surface before disinfecting it. For instance, wipe down a counter top with a soapy solution to clean it. Then apply an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill the viruses.
- Use either an EPA-registered disinfectant, an alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol, or a diluted household bleach solution.
- ALWAYS follow the instructions for a disinfectant. (I have been surprised to find that the instructions often state to apply a disinfectant, then let sit for 20 minutes or so. Each brand will be different. But it is very important to NOT wash off the disinfectant after applying. Otherwise you won’t be killing germs.)
- For clothing, towels and bed linens, wash in as warm of water as possible according to manufacturer suggestions. According to the CDC, try not to shake the laundry more than necessary to prevent dispersing germs through the air. Wear disposable gloves when doing laundry and throw away immediately afterwards. Or use reusable gloves dedicated to only cleaning. Wash your hands immediately after doing the laundry, even after wearing gloves.
- Consider using a liner for a laundry bin for the sick individual. It can be disposable to throw away afterwards. Or if you are using a cloth liner, be sure to properly clean afterwards. Otherwise, wipe down the laundry container with a disinfectant.
Does hand sanitizer kill viruses?
If you want to kill germs on your hands using a hand sanitizer rather than washing with soap and water, yes it will work. HOWEVER, it is not the BEST way to kill viruses.
The CDC has always said that washing hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds is the best way to kill germs. And if you have a sink available, there is no good reason to choose a hand sanitizer over proper hand washing. (Hand sanitizers are best in emergency situations where there is no water. For instance, your child was playing with toys in a public playground, but there’s no sink or water nearby. Then hand sanitizer is a good way to kill germs that were on the toys.)
Having hand sanitizer on hand is always a smart idea. And it’s much better than using nothing. Try our easy and simple DIY hand sanitizer recipe.
Sanitizing a surface with UV lights is an easy (if expensive) way to kill viruses and germs.
The process is known as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). It uses a short-wavelength of ultraviolet light to inactivate the virus by disrupting the DNA or destroying nucleic acids. Then the virus is essentially dead and killed.
Bacteria and viruses can be killed with UV light, including the flu.
You won’t be spreading viruses likely through water coming out of your taps at home. However, viruses could appear in your home through a municipal public water supply in an epidemic or pandemic where the water treatment is compromised. Which is why I include it in this list of how to kill viruses at home.
A really good water filtration system is essential for a healthy home all year round. And this includes filtering out particles, chemicals and toxins that are very small, including viruses.
Berkey Water Filters are some of the best for filtering out particles as small as viruses in the water that you drink.
For emergency situations, such as when the water supply has been tainted or compromised, Lifestraws are great at turning nasty water into purified drinking water. I have several on hand for emergency prepping, since access to fresh water is one of the most important survival methods you need. Be sure to get one for each member of the family.