In light of current events, the subject of disinfection has been at the forefront of a lot of our minds. If there’s a silver lining in the COVID-19 crisis, it’s the hope that it will instill a higher standard of cleanliness across societies and shed light on the importance of taking actions to prevent the spread of germs.

While we may have already learned this lesson, the coronavirus pandemic that currently has much of the world on lockdown is far from over. As millions of people stay isolated in their homes, some of them are left wondering what extra steps they can take to reduce their chances of becoming infected.

The Center for Disease Control lists several recommended methods for preventing the contraction and spreading of COVID-19. In addition to hand-washing and avoiding touching of the face, which most people at this stage are well aware of, one way to protect against the virus that causes COVID-19 is by disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces such as sinks, door knobs, light switches, and of course, countertops.

While it doesn’t naturally occur to everyone to sanitize their door knobs or light switches, most people put at least some effort into maintaining a clutter-free and clean kitchen countertop. Kitchens are breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs that come from food waste, in the same way as bathrooms are for germs that come from our waste–and we typically find most countertop surfaces in those two areas of any given household.

Keeping your countertops clean is remarkably easy on a day-to-day basis, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive commercial products. Fresh spills and pieces of food that have not yet settled into a sticky, grimy mess can be cleaned effortlessly with warm, soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth or sponge. This will kill most bacteria and prevent more from forming.

Cleaning up messes immediately after they occur just seems like common sense. However, overtime–and especially in heavily-utilized kitchens–spots will be missed here and there. As countertops inevitably get dirtier, a thorough disinfection that goes beyond traditional dish soap becomes increasingly necessary to ensure a surface that is as free from bacteria as possible.

The CDC recommends two main disinfectants when it comes to countertop sanitization: diluted bleach and alcohol. Mix ⅓ cup of bleach with one gallon of water for an easy and effective solution. Alternatively, store-bought isopropyl alcohol with at least 70% alcohol content will kill pretty much everything it touches. In both cases, use of a spray bottle to efficiently distribute the cleaning solution can be handy. Allow the diluted bleach or alcohol to remain on the surface for three to five minutes, then rinse with water and wipe down with a dry cloth. 

While basic bleach and alcohol are the two most commonly-used household disinfectants, there are nearly 300 products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as being effective against viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease). Most of these products contain bleach, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide as an active ingredient, with some containing varying acids. It should be noted that while these products have not been directly tested against SARS-CoV-2, their proven ability to eliminate similar coronaviruses makes them plausibly formidable.

If you’re looking for a more natural approach to disinfecting your countertops, consider using vinegar and / or baking soda. Prepare two separate spray bottles of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Wash your counters with soap as you would normally, spray them with the vinegar, then immediately follow with the hydrogen peroxide. As the peroxide evaporates, the vinegar smell will dissipate, leaving your counters naturally fresh and clean.

Cleaning your kitchen countertops is easy, but remember that some countertop surfaces are sensitive to certain chemicals. Wooden counters, for example, don’t do well with bleach or Lysol. For these, it’s recommended to use white vinegar for cleaning. For tough stains, sprinkle some salt over the affected area and rub with lemon flesh to buff them out. Never use an abrasive cleaning tool such as steel wool or copper to clean countertops, as it will most likely scratch the surface.

Another technique you should consider to prolong the life of your countertops is regularly sealing them. Countertops should be periodically re-sealed to ensure that stains don’t penetrate the pores of the material and become permanent. Depending on how porous your countertop is, you may need to re-seal once a year or once every few months. Re-sealing will also make your countertops easier to clean day-to-day.
Whether your home has quartz, marble, wood, or granite countertops, regular and proper cleaning will ensure that your kitchen remains bacteria-free and looking great.