The Disinfection Enlightenment—Helping to Keep Homes and Workplaces Cleaner and Safer During a Pandemic

By Sarah Bell-West, PhD Associate Director – Clinical and Scientific Affairs, Clorox Professional Products Company

Also published on the CloroxPro Blog, the following post offers cleaning and disinfection best practices and various resources available for healthcare and cleaning professionals to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the midst of this pandemic, we’re all performing many actions every day to help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We wear masks and keep at least six feet from others in public. We wash our hands more frequently and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in our homes and workplaces.

My work life at Clorox, focused on cleaning and disinfection, has started to collide with my life outside work. I have witnessed what I’ve termed the “Disinfection Enlightenment” as people pay closer attention to the cleanliness of their homes and public spaces. In mainstream media and conversations with friends and family, I hear words like “sanitize,” “disinfect,” “EPA List N,” “dilution” and “contact time” that previously belonged to my work world. This mixing of my work and personal life became abundantly clear when my mom, a school teacher, called and asked, “How many desks can I clean with one disinfecting wipe and still be sure I’m killing the virus that causes COVID-19?”

Sure, most people will say that cleaning and disinfection are easy tasks. However, it takes training and practice to safely and effectively complete both.

When I started at Clorox many years ago, I became enlightened to the importance of using disinfectants properly. I “relearned” many of the basics — from the importance of using the proper dilution and freshly preparing bleach solutions when using Clorox® Germicidal Bleach to disinfect my bathroom to creating a cleaning path starting from the cleanest area of a room to the dirtiest area to prevent “cross contamination” to the way germs spread from one surface to another.

In fact, my team and I spend a lot of time educating healthcare and cleaning professionals about the three Ps of a robust cleaning and disinfection programs in public spaces. The three Ps refer to:

  1. Training people and dedicating resources to the cleaning and disinfection process
  2. Selecting products to enable effective cleaning and disinfection
  3. Developing sustainable processes for creating and maintaining safer environments

Our new reality is that many more people are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces today, which means an increased need for education. The cleaning and disinfection world has its own lexicon and there are many nuances. The difference among cleaning and sanitizing and disinfecting is one example:

  • Cleaning removes dust, debris and dirt from a surface by scrubbing, washing and rinsing; it’s an important first step for all surfaces.
  • Sanitizing reduces the bacteria (but not viruses) identified on the product’s label on surfaces and in laundry
  • Disinfecting, when properly performed, destroys or inactivates bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label (like coli or influenza virus) on hard, nonporous surfaces.

There are also a lot of questions around how to properly prepare and use surface disinfectants and where we should focus our disinfecting efforts. In fact, a recent CDC report highlighted gaps in knowledge around the safe use of cleaning and disinfection products in household settings. In the survey of 502 U.S. adults, only 42% of respondents strongly agreed that they knew how to clean and disinfect their homes to help prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Because I understand firsthand how much people need additional education on cleaning and disinfection, I’m thrilled to be part of the Clorox team partnering with infection-control experts at the Cleveland Clinic to  develop free educational resources to help both consumers and professionals.[i]

Consumers looking for a comprehensive guide to help them protect themselves, loved ones and communities from further spread of COVID-19 can access Safer at Home: Your Guide to the Coronavirus Pandemic , which includes practical cleaning and disinfection tips for your home.

Employers and professionals looking for resources to help them ensure they’re leveraging best practices for cleaning and disinfecting in their workplaces can check out Six Building Blocks of a Robust Cleaning and Disinfection Program: A Guide for Employers. This guide contains a more in-depth approach for public spaces, including recommendations for organizational support, policies, procedures, product selection, staff training and monitoring.

There are always ways to enlighten ourselves about cleaning and disinfection best practices and do more to help control the spread of pathogens on hard non-porous surfaces, and these resources are a great place to start.


[i] The response to the coronavirus pandemic is continuously evolving as we learn more about the virus and the best techniques to address the associated risks. The Clorox Company has contributed its expertise to these guides in the areas of cleaning and disinfecting. All other guidance was developed through the expertise of Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic’s materials are based on currently available data and guidelines from the CDC and other resources as of July 29, 2020. This guidance may change from time to time and should be used only as a general reference.