Home Improvement & Cleaning

How To Clean, Sanitise & Disinfect Your Home To Keep It Virus-Free

How To Clean, Sanitise and Disinfect Your Home To Keep It Virus Free, covid19, coronavirus, Style Degree, Singapore, SG, StyleMag

With the frenzied shift in focus towards all sorts of cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting products, you may be feeling quite confused about what and when you should be doing any of these while you spend more time at home.

To help keep you and your loved ones safe, Learn more about the differences between these 3 terms, germ hotspots, as well as information drawn straight from the National Environment Agency (NEA) Singapore on how to keep COVID-19 at bay. 

1. Cleaning Vs Sanitising Vs Disinfecting

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These three terms are often used so interchangeably that many are left confused what each term actually means. 

Simply put, 

  • Cleaning (weakest): Refers to the removal of visible dirt, debris and dust from surfaces usually with soap and water.
  • Sanitising: Meant to significantly reduce the growth of fungi, viruses and other harmful bacteria to a level that’s safe for contact. This is often done as a follow up to cleaning as a preventative measure for infection and contamination.
  • Disinfecting (strongest): Kills microscopic organisms. Disinfectants typically have to be left on the surface for longer than sanitisers, but they are more effective in eliminating the harmful bacteria.

2. Keeping Your Home Virus Free

While cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting are important, prevention of contamination through ensuring personal hygiene and keeping a safe distance with others are quintessential too.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water as a way to protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19. 

2.1 Germ Hotspots – Where & How To Get Rid Of Them

Wondering what and where to disinfect at home? It all boils down to what you always touch, and what your family commonly uses. Take note of these high-touch areas and make sure to thoroughly disinfect them (we discuss how often below). 

The checklist below lists some common germ hotspots in homes to help you along in your cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting process!

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Click here to download this checklist to remind yourself of which areas need to be cleaned!

The hotspots in each area of your home have been arranged from the germiest to the least. These, along with any other areas that you and your family frequently touch, should be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as possible.

Clean low-risk surfaces, such as floors, windows, etc., where the likelihood of pathogen transfer from the surface is low. Sanitising should only be applied to food contact surfaces, which is required as part of the food code. Disinfection is appropriate for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces likely to harbor pathogens. Since sanitising does not make anti-viral claims, sanitising offers no confidence of killing the flu or other viruses commonly found on surfaces.”

Peter Teska, Americas portfolio lead for infection prevention, Diversey, Sturtevant, Wis

With reference to Teska’s advice, you should: 

  • Clean: As a first level of defence, before you begin sanitising or disinfecting. Also can be done for surfaces where the risk of bacterial transfer is low (e.g. floors).
  • Sanitise: For surfaces that are not in contact with harmful bacteria, or surfaces that should not be in contact with strong chemicals (e.g. kitchen counters, toys). 
  • Disinfect: Areas with more germs and are also frequently touched, such as the toilet.
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For sponges, which carry lots of bacteria but also come into contact with your food surfaces often, consider replacing them regularly (once-a-week basis). You can try to prolong a sponge’s lifespan by putting it in hot, soapy water daily and then microwaving it for two minutes. But be warned that this method does not kill all bacteria, and only eliminates some germs!

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Remember to also keep your cloths clean, especially if they come into contact with your kitchen counters. For microfiber cloths, rinse them out with warm water for about 30 seconds and submerge them in boiling water for 5-10minutes to kill bacteria. Then, soak in a bucket with detergent and put it in the washing machine and wash with warm water (60°C) and detergent.

“What products are effective at disinfecting the COVID-19 virus?”

You will find an interim list of household products and active ingredients for disinfection of the COVID-19 virus on NEA’s website. Click here to view the full list. 

NEA states that for general precautionary cleaning, detergent and water are enough. But for areas that are likely to be contaminated with the COVID-19 virus, you should use one of the products stated in the list that contains appropriate concentrations of active ingredients. 

Note: According to NEA, you should prepare the disinfectant according to the instructions on the label. For bleach, dilute 1 part bleach in 49 parts water.

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Explore our range of Cleaning Essentials here.

2.2 How Often To Clean Germ Hotspots

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Knowledge of how long the coronavirus lasts on surfaces may help you decide how often you should clean. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found that the virus lasts

  • 4 hours on copper
  • 24 hours on cardboard
  • 72 hours on plastic and steel
  • 96 hours on glass

Note: The amount of virus decreases rapidly over time on each of those surfaces. Hence, the risk of infection from touching them would probably decrease over time.

It would be a good idea to sanitise high-touch areas at least once a week, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Sanitising after cleaning in the kitchen is particularly important as kitchen surfaces will typically come into contact with food. 

With the spread of COIVD-19, it is recommended that you add a disinfection step on top of your cleaning routine. However, in normal times, disinfecting should be done every few months. particularly for frequently touched surfaces, such as sinks, taps, toilet bowls and seat covers.

3. Disinfecting Homes Exposed To COVID-19

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Image source: gov.sg

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has provided a 5-step cleaning guideline for those who suspect that their home has been exposed to COVID-19. 

You may also watch NEA’s video below for interim guidelines on how to clean and disinfect your residence to keep you and your loved ones safe from COVID-19. 

4. Get Your Family To Help Out

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Image source: Parents

With most of the world on standstill and cooped up at home, take the opportunity to spend some quality time and bond with your loved ones. You can do this over house cleaning! 

Here are some tips to help you with getting someone to chip in on the cleaning: 


If you have children at home as well, encourage them to do their part as well by incentivising them with a fun activity like a game after cleaning. This is a good chance to teach them about responsibility and how to keep clean. You can also create an upbeat music playlist to keep everyone motivated. 

We hope this information has cleared up any doubts you may have had on cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting. Do remember to take care of your personal hygiene and to stay positive during this period.

‘Tough times never last, but tough people do.’ The Style Degree team would like to take this chance to thank all front-line workers who have been working tirelessly at the frontlines. We appreciate you!

Get useful tips on home organization, decor and more by joining us on Instagram (@style_degree), Facebook and join our Telegram channel (@HomeownersSG)!

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