This is how to use cleaning wipes most effectively in your home

Don't let all that effort go to waste.

Cleaning Credit: Mihail Dechev/Getty Images

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Like most people, I hate to clean. I hate using sponges (I truly think they're disgusting) and filling a bucket with Pine Sol and water to scrub the counters and floors. It's just too much of a hassle (sorry, Mom!). So when I discovered the convenience that is disinfecting wipes, I was overjoyed. Until today, when I found out I've been using them wrong this whole time...

Here's the thing: I'm all for reducing waste, but trying to clean the entire kitchen with just one Clorox wipe might not be as effective as we think, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, it's more important than ever to make sure you're disinfecting surfaces thoroughly as the virus can live on surfaces for up to 3 days. Here is what the agency recommends for safely disinfecting your home:

Why you need to use more than one wipe

Credit: Undrey/Getty Images

There's more to cleaning than just wiping.

The CDC explains on its website that "disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (e.g. letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes)." It's highly unlikely that just one wipe will accomplish that, especially if you're using it on a larger area like the kitchen counter or floor.

So while one wipe (or any amount that doesn't follow those requirements) may clean the surface, it won't disinfect it. The CDC notes that cleaning simply removes germs, while disinfecting actually kills them.

The right way to disinfect your home

First, make sure you're choosing a product that you can trust will both clean and disinfect, a product that has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and that you're following the instructions for that specific product (check the back!).

Then—in the case of disinfecting wipes like the ones from Clorox—use enough so that whatever surface you're cleaning stays wet for the recommended amount of time (3 to 5 minutes if your product doesn't specify). You can set a timer to monitor your surface after you wipe to ensure that your efforts are actually killing germs instead of just spreading them around.

How bad is it if you've been using cleaning wipes wrong?

No need to panic, according to our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan. After all, you've probably been cleaning... just not disinfecting. "I think there is a common misconception between what's clean, sanitized and disinfected," he explains. "According to the EPA, to sanitize means to kill 99.9% of all germs within 30 seconds. The legal definition of disinfecting is to kill 99.999% of germs in 10 minutes. In my opinion, these definitions mean little to the average person."

He clarifies that disinfecting should be enough for the most part: "Yes, you should sanitize surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat and human fluids, but sanitizing your entire house is futile." A.k.a simply fix your cleaning wipe habits moving forward and you (and your house) will be good to go.

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