Stay safe while using household cleaning and disinfectant products to fight COVID-19


CONTACT: Karen Landers, M.D.
(256) 383-1231

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey conducted in May, about 1 in 3 adults used chemicals or disinfectants unsafely while attempting to protect their homes against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. This follows reports from poison control centers since the pandemic began that some people have used harmful methods such as swallowing bleach in an attempt to kill the virus.

According to the CDC, 25 percent of the people surveyed reported adverse health effects they attributed to unsafe cleaning, including nose, sinus, skin or eye irritation, dizziness, nausea and breathing problems.

The Alabama Department of Public Health advocates frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces as one important way to prevent the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease the amount of the virus that is on surfaces and objects.

Disinfection using Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce risk. When these are not available, however, CDC recommends that alternative disinfectants be used. Examples include one-third cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70 percent alcohol solutions.

Follow this guidance about the safe preparation, use and storage of cleaners and disinfectants:


  • Read and follow label instructions, such as keeping the surface wet for a specific amount of time.
  • Wear protective gear such as gloves and eye protection when using some household cleaning products.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after using cleaning products.
  • Only use water at room temperature to make a diluted bleach solution.
  • Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children and pets.


  • Use bleach to wash fruits, vegetables or other food products.
  • Spray, bathe in, or apply household cleaning and disinfectant products on skin.
  • Inhale, gargle with, or ingest cleaners and disinfectants, including soapy water.
  • Mix bleach solutions with vinegar or ammonia.

Mixing these chemicals can be deadly because it can generate gases that might result in severe lung tissue damage when inhaled.

Frequent disinfection of household surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in households. Be sure to keep safety in mind to prevent adverse health effects.

For more information, visit

County health departments throughout Alabama provide a wide range of confidential and professional services. Contact your local county health department for additional information.

Mission: To promote, protect, and improve Alabama’s health

Vision: Healthy People. Healthy Communities. Healthy Alabama.

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