Should I mop and dust my home differently during a viral outbreak?

There are a variety of ways to clean a home, and the methods to be used for viruses and bacteria are very different. Before we talk about cleaning for viruses, let's first talk about cleaning when bacteria are present. This will look and feel similar to what you do on a daily basis.


In a study [1] that compared various methods of mopping, the mopping style that worked the best was wet mopping. And that looks like, you guessed it. Plain warm water, soap, and an old fashioned mop.

Figure 1. Best method for bacteria mopping.

It is important to note that the soap used had no antibacterial properties. Plain soap, plain warm water, and a plain mop were used. These reduced bacteria counts much more than a spray mop, a dry mop, or even moist mop [1]. The most important thing to be learned here in this study [1] is that it is important that the surface be wet, dripping wet, with warm water.

In a study [2], cleaning with microfiber cloths was found to spread bacteria from one surface to the next. While overall, the presence of bacteria was lowered, their diversity increased when using this commonly used dusting tool. In another study [3], the most effective type of wipe used on both flat and ridged surfaces contained bleach. Two types of bleach containing wipes were evaluated, and a piece of gauze soaked in a homemade bleach solution outperformed a commercially available wipe containing bleach [3]. It should be noted that preparing your own 1:10 mixture of one part bleach and ten parts water will reduce bacteria more than buying wipes that contain bleach solution. The chemical formula for bleach is sodium hypochlorite, so you might see this under active ingredients on labeling.

Figure 2. Best method for dusting.

Regarding your phone, bacteria was lowered when using both a microfiber cloth and an alcoholic lens wipe [4]. Our phones travel everywhere with us. Cleaning it when you clean your hands isn't a bad idea. In light of microfiber cloths spreading bacteria from place to place, I would recommend investing in some lens wipes that have alcohol in them (which is most lens wipes). To find out if alcohol is present in your lens wipes, look on the back of the package where all of the tiny writing is, and look for the word "Contains". On my lens wipes this is in the Precautions section. You are looking for one of the following chemicals: isopropyl alcohol, isopropanol, ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. Any of these would work.

Figure 3. Best method for cleaning your phone


In evaluating which type of cleaning cloth would best prevent the transfer of viral material, a study [5] found that both microfiber cloths and cotton/cellulose blended cloths (think paper towels) worked well. However, microfiber cloths would transfer the virus to a new surface more than the cotton/cellulose blend did. So overall, a paper towel would be the best wipe to use. This study [5], did not evaluate sanitizers like bleach; however, another study [6] that did evaluate sanitizers found that first cleaning with a soap solution, and then cleaning with a bleach solution was effective to reduce viral presence in the case of some types of viruses. This soap first, bleach after approach to cleaning has also been supported by another study [7].


During this brief overview of cleaning strategies, it seems that some different steps need to be taken in targeting viruses while cleaning. While, for bacteria, cleaning with a bleach solution alone is enough to decontaminate a surface, an additional step of first cleaning with soap, and following up with a bleach solution is necessary to address the presence of a virus. In the first study about mopping, we learned that a surface must be soaked with the warm, soapy water to remove the presence of bacteria. This same method should be used when targeting viruses. Warm, soapy water should be used to decontaminate surfaces. In the studies about cloths, we discovered that microfiber cloths were not a good option due to potential transfer, and instead cloths containing cotton were a better option. After cleaning with soap, follow up cleaning with a solution containing bleach and a new cotton containing cloth. After drying your surface should have less bacteria and less virus presence.


Step 1: Create a warm, plain soap solution to clean with (does not need to be antibacterial).

Step 2: Using a cloth containing cotton, clean the desired surface with the soap solution, ensure that the surface gets properly wet.

Step 3: Allow to dry.

Step 4: Create a bleach solution (or get commercially available bleach containing wipes).

Step 5: Using a cloth containing cotton (or the commercially available bleach containing wipes), clean the desired surface with the bleach solution, ensure that the surface gets properly wet.

Step 6: Allow to dry.


[1] Andersen, B. M., Rasch, M., Kvist, J., Tollefsen, T., Lukkassen, R., Sandvik, L., & Welo, A. (2009). Floor cleaning: effect on bacteria and organic materials in hospital rooms.Journal of Hospital Infection,71(1), 57-65.

[2] Bergen, L. K., Meyer, M., Høg, M., Rubenhagen, B., & Andersen, L. P. (2009). Spread of bacteria on surfaces when cleaning with microfibre cloths.Journal of hospital infection,71(2), 132-137.

[3] Gonzalez, E. A., Nandy, P., Lucas, A. D., & Hitchins, V. M. (2015). Ability of cleaning-disinfecting wipes to remove bacteria from medical device surfaces.American journal of infection control,43(12), 1331-1335.

[4] Egert, M., Späth, K., Weik, K., Kunzelmann, H., Horn, C., Kohl, M., & Blessing, F. (2015). Bacteria on smartphone touchscreens in a German university setting and evaluation of two popular cleaning methods using commercially available cleaning products.Folia microbiologica,60(2), 159-164.

[5] Gibson, K. E., Crandall, P. G., & Ricke, S. C. (2012). Removal and transfer of viruses on food contact surfaces by cleaning cloths.Appl. Environ. Microbiol.,78(9), 3037-3044.

[6] Tuladhar, E., Hazeleger, W. C., Koopmans, M., Zwietering, M. H., Beumer, R. R., & Duizer, E. (2012). Residual viral and bacterial contamination of surfaces after cleaning and disinfection.Appl. Environ. Microbiol.,78(21), 7769-7775.

[7] Barker, J., Vipond, I. B., & Bloomfield, S. F. (2004). Effects of cleaning and disinfection in reducing the spread of Norovirus contamination via environmental surfaces.Journal of hospital infection,58(1), 42-49.


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