Keeping your home clean has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Connie Goff Sharp, a Washington County extension agent for the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

In addition to personal hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing, Sharp said it’s essential for people to clean home surfaces properly. Sharp said she and Janie Burney, professor of consumer sciences, want to remind everyone to thoroughly clean surfaces before sanitizing them.

Sharp said “the two only work together.”

“I’ve seen people use just a Clorox wipe to clean off stuff, but you’ve got to use soap and water first. Soap and water gets rid of a lot of viruses,” Sharp said. “Doing all these things together kills 99.9% (of germs). Ammonia might take care of the other .1%, but you should never mix ammonia and bleach together because that ends up being a toxic acid that can affect people’s lungs.

“People have to remember before you wipe everything, you’ve got to do everything with soap and water first.”

Sharp said properly cleaning with soap or detergent and water removes germs, dirt and other impurities from surfaces ahead of sanitizing, maximizing cleanliness.

“This process does not necessarily kill (all) germs directly, but allows sanitizers to work more effectively, reducing pathogen numbers and the risk of spreading infection,” she pointed out.

“Sanitizing usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time, letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes, or air drying,” she later added. “It is really important that consumers read the label directions to be sure they allow the sanitizer to remain on the surface long enough to be effective.”

While there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19 and the best ways to kill the virus that may be lingering in your household, many common household cleaning supplies may be hard to access as others scramble to buy up household items.

As cleaning supplies continue to fly off the shelves in supermarkets and residents look to stay indoors to maintain social distancing as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sharp said many may look to what is cheap and readily available.

“A lot of the stores are running out of Clorox or out of bleach, and we don’t know how long many people are going to have to stay home,” Sharp said.

Because of this, the University of Tennessee released a list of “cleaning recipes” for consumers to make their own “green” eco-friendly cleaning supplies at home if they need to.

Vinegar’s acidic properties make it exceptionally helpful as a versatile household cleaner. Mixing it with water can be a good alternative to products like Clorox if Clorox isn’t readily available, according to Sharp.

Sharp said she has utilized white vinegar and water for floor and window cleaner, adding that baking soda can also be used to help clean refrigerators. All-purpose cleaner can be made with small amounts of borax, vinegar and water; tub and tile cleaners can be made with white vinegar and baking soda or salt.

“This is stuff you can use all the time,” Sharp said. “We’re not saying all these green products will kill COVID-19, but they will help clean your house, keep the germ count down and since people are at home, they should have more time to do cleaning …’

More details and guidelines on “green” cleaning recipes can be found at extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP776.pdf and extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W318-A.pdf.

CDC coronavirus-specific cleaning recommendations can be found at www.cdc.gov.