How to disinfect your home after being sick with cold, flu, or COVID

When you, a roommate, or a family member comes down with a cold, the flu, COVID-19, or any other virus, you can help keep yourself and the whole household healthy with a post-sickness round of cleaning. We’re trying to kill germs here, not just clean, so disinfecting is necessary. Go beyond your go-to all purpose cleaner for this job, and pick up a household disinfectant before you get started.

blue gloves wiping down wood table with sponge

Table of contents

Cleaning supplies that are effective against virusesRoom-by-room guide to cleaning after an illness

Cleaning supplies that are effective against viruses

To get rid of a virus, you need to finish each surface you clean with a disinfectant for the full contact time—that’s the amount of time the product needs to stay on the surface in order to be effective (your cleaning products should specify this on their label; or, you can look it up online). If you aren’t sure if your cleaning products are EPA-registered household disinfectants, you can search the EPA’s website to confirm that your products will kill any harmful germs. No matter which product you use, always, always, always:

  • Read the directions on the product.

  • Pay attention to the required contact time.

  • Never mix disinfectants with products that contain ammonia.

Bleach is likely a home disinfectant that you’re already familiar with and might even have on hand. The CDC’s bleach solution is great for when you’re cleaning around food areas in the kitchen that you or your sick roommate has touched, because it is sanitizing but also safe to use on food prep areas at this dilution. To use their bleach solution:

  • Combine 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water

  • Follow a contact time of 1 minute

multi color sponges

Room-by-room guide to cleaning after an illness

Deep cleaning should be a part of your regular home cleaning routine whether or not someone has been sick. When you need to disinfect due to cold and flu viruses in your home, you’ll have a leg up if you’re starting with an already deep-cleaned house. 

What you’ll need

  • Rubber gloves

  • Disinfectant cleaning product

  • Food-safe disinfectant cleaning product

  • Plastic bucket (if making a cleaning solution)

  • Spray bottle

  • Paper towels, washable cloths, or disinfecting wipes

  • Sanitizing laundry soap

Throughout your house

High touch surfaces

It’s especially important to disinfect high touch surfaces throughout your house when you or someone in your household gets sick. That includes tables, hard-backed chairs, door handles, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, the remote controls, keyboards—really anything that we frequently touch with our hands. Whichever room these high touch items live in, wipe them down with disinfectant as often as possible. If someone in your household has COVID-19, the CDC recommends disinfecting high touch surfaces on a daily basis.

Hard surfaces

In all rooms that you clean, hit every hard surface with a good disinfectant and let it do its work. A disinfectant spray makes it easy to get into hard to reach places, and disinfecting wipes can help make cleaning quick.

Tip: During flu season, it’s a good habit to include disinfecting in your weekly cleaning routine to help prevent the spread of harmful germs.


  • Clean all hard surfaces with disinfectant: countertops, toilet, sinks, handles, knobs, shower, bathtub, mirrors, and garbage can.

  • Gather any items that can be laundered, like bath mats, shower curtain, and towels—don’t forget the hand towel! Shared items are especially important to clean after you or someone in your household has been sick. Launder on the hot water setting with sanitizing laundry soap.

  • Sanitize your toothbrush by soaking in hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes.

Tip: Always let your toothbrush air dry to help prevent bacteria growth.


  • Clean all hard surfaces with disinfectant: countertops, sink, fridge handles, drawer and cabinet knobs and handles, garbage cans, food prep areas, kitchen table and chairs (if hard material). Note—clean with food-safe products in all food prep areas.

  • Launder dish and kitchen towels with sanitizing laundry soap.

Tip: It’s tempting to grab the sponge when you’re disinfecting the kitchen, but sponges can harbor bacteria, so always use paper towels or cloths that can be washed.


  • Clean all hard surfaces with disinfectant: desk, chair, bed frame, garbage can, and furniture knobs and handles.

  • Completely strip the mattress and launder all bedding—sheets, pillowcases, duvet, and mattress pad—in your washing machine on the hot water setting with sanitizing laundry soap. This will also give your mattress time to air out. Wash any dirty clothes you or someone in your household wore while sick in the same way.

  • Clear any dishes from the room and add straight to the dishwasher to sanitize, or hand wash with hot water and dish soap, or a food-grade sanitizer.

Living room or common areas

  • Ideally the sick person in your home stays in their room, away from other members of the household, as much as possible. However, everyone is going to make trips to other parts of the house for chicken soup and more tissues. Try to retrace your steps while sick, or the steps of the sick person in your household, and clean anything you may have touched.

  • Clean all hard surfaces with disinfectant: furniture, remote control, thermostat controls, and light switches.

Tip: Even when someone in your household is just starting to get sick, you can start cleaning in the common areas and make a daily pass at high touch shared surfaces like light switches and door knobs.

Tip: A great way to contribute to a germ-free common area is to wash your hands frequently so that you aren’t spreading any sickness. Lather up with soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds as is recommended by the CDC.

When you’re done cleaning, open the windows in every room for a while to let any lingering cleaning product smell out and to let fresh air in. It’s a simple step, but it’ll make your house feel like it has a fresh, clean start.

If disinfecting your home after someone has been sick feels like a daunting task, know that it gets easier if you’re starting from a relatively clean home. Doing a seasonal deep clean makes monthly and weekly cleaning easier—so if you haven’t established a cleaning protocol with your roommates yet, now is a great time to do so. 

Bungalow offers affordable private rooms in beautiful shared homes in 10 cities nationwide. In our homes, monthly cleaning service is always on the books—and it’s included in your monthly rental cost. Find a Bungalow near you.

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