If you’ve braved the crowds at your local store only to find the disinfectant aisle picked clean, you might be absolutely freaking out right about now. Don’t lose all hope just yet: Coronavirus panic may have wiped out the supply of hand sanitiser and wipes, but I bet your store still has plenty of bleach.
Everyone’s been so focused on stocking up alcohol-based cleaners that we’ve completely forgotten about bleach, which works just as well and costs a lot less. As a former foodservice person, it’s always been my go-to for disinfecting surfaces; even at relatively low concentrations, bleach just works. Since it’s so concentrated, you won’t need bottles and bottles of it to survive a quarantine—even the half-empty jug in your laundry room will do just fine.
There is one important thing to know before you start dousing your home with bleach: it’s easily inactivated by organic material, like food particles or hair. This really isn’t a big deal—it just means your counters have to be clean in order for bleach to actually disinfect them. As long as you wipe everything down with your usual surface cleaner first to make sure there’s no lingering bread crumbs or coffee grounds getting in the way, a bleach solution will work flawlessly.
For all-purpose household surface disinfection, the U.S. CDC recommends mixing up a solution of 5 tablespoons (1/3 of a cup) of regular, unscented household bleach per gallon of water. (If you don’t need a whole gallon of disinfectant, try 4 teaspoons per 1.13 litres.)
Throw on some gloves, spray or wipe the solution on any non-porous surface in your home, and let it air dry. Done. Just keep in mind that porous materials like marble, porcelain, and unfinished wood can be damaged by long-term bleach use. If you have those in your home, proceed with caution; use as little bleach as possible and wipe up the excess, or stick to soap and hot water.
Household surfaces aren’t the only things that can collect germs—we carry all sorts of stuff around with us in public. You can soak your kids’ (plastic, non-electronic) toys in a bleach solution for about 30 minutes, which is especially helpful if they insist on bringing that one truck with them everywhere they go—or if they’re just super into putting things in their mouth. Unfortunately, bleach is too harsh to safely clean your phone’s screen, but a quick wipe on the sides and back should be fine.