Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.
It’s challenging to maintain cleanliness when selling your home in normal circumstances, let alone in the age of coronavirus. Now more than ever, you need to be on your game with keeping your home clean in order to protect household members and guests from the spread of COVID-19.
Current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. While transmission from person-to-person is far more likely than transmission via surfaces, the Center for Disease Control recommends cleaning and disinfecting your home thoroughly to mitigate risk.
“Generally the sellers are doing a lot of the heavy lifting as far as preparing the home,” shares Drew Coleman, a top selling agent in Portland, OR, who sells properties 53% quicker than the average agent. While your agent can help disinfect frequent touch points during showings, it’s your responsibility as a homeowner to clean your home before and after visitors.
Whether you’re looking for a basic disinfection or a full-blown deep clean, we’ll outline the techniques, processes, and products you need to maintain a safe and beautiful home.
Adhere to CDC recommended cleaning and disinfecting procedures
According to the CDC, cleaning refers to “the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces.” This step helps lower the quantity of germs, reducing the risk of spreading infection. While cleaning removes germs, disinfecting involves the use of chemicals which actually kill germs.
For extra protection while prepping your home, you can clean wearing reusable or single use gloves like these biodegradable SHOWA gloves from Amazon. If you wear reusable gloves, clean and disinfect the gloves after use.
Whether you choose to wear gloves or not, wash your hands before and after cleaning with soap and warm water.
Use recommended disinfectants or make your own DIY style
The Environmental Protection Agency provides an extensive list of disinfectants proven effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Here are just a few examples of approved products:
- Lysol Bathroom Cleaner
- Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Cleaner Spray
- Clorox Multi Surface Cleaner + Bleach
- Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Disinfectant Bathroom Grime Fighter
- Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
- Rely+On Multipurpose Disinfectant Cleaner
- Champion Spray-on Spray Disinfectant Formula 3
Unfortunately, high demand for disinfectant wipes and sprays has depleted online and brick and mortar inventories. Research firm Nielsen reports that the sales of aerosol disinfectants skyrocketed 230% and multipurpose cleaners 109.1% in March and April compared to sales the same time last years.
DIY disinfectant mixtures
If you can’t find a disinfectant in stock, or if you just want a new quarantine activity, you can make your own DIY disinfectant. Effective concoctions include bleach (unexpired), alcohol (at least 70%), or hydrogen peroxide. For added fragrance in non-bleach solutions, add drops of essential oils or tea tree oil to the mix.
Official CDC recommended DIY disinfectant recipes:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
- 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed with 97% water (let solution sit on surface for at least a minute)
* It’s worth noting that while vinegar is often a featured ingredient in DIY cleansers, it is not an effective disinfectant so should not be used as a substitute for bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol.
Safely use bleach on non-porous surfaces
Bleach is a potent substance so it should only be used on non-porous surfaces with proper precaution. When disinfecting with bleach, always wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area. After bleaching, rinse items with water or soap and water to completely remove the product.
Never mix bleach with substances besides water and laundry detergent (for fabrics only). Since the bleach loses potency fairly quickly, mix a fresh solution each time you clean. Once mixed, don’t keep the solution for longer than a day because the bleach will lose potency and can degrade certain plastic containers.
Due to its corrosive nature, bleach is not safe to use on all surfaces. Below are some common examples of what can and what cannot be bleached. When in doubt, research the material and test the chemical on a small, less visible area before committing.
Safe to bleach:
- Toilets, showers, bathtubs
- Sealed countertops like granite
- Tiles and grout
- Trash bins
- Litter boxes
- Sealed exterior wood decking
- Metal surfaces such as faucet handles and doorknobs
- Areas with run-off into planter beds
- Interior hardwood floors
- Stainless steel appliances
Clean and disinfect your home before and after visitors
The most important surfaces to clean and disinfect are those touched most frequently. Put yourself in your buyer, contractor, or home inspector’s shoes and consider what they will need to touch as they explore your home.
Examples of frequently touched areas include:
- Exterior door handles
- Interior knobs and handles
- Cabinet and drawer handles
- Handles and buttons on appliances
- Toilet seat covers
- Sink and faucet handles
- HVAC operating panel
- Remote controls
- Light switches
Next, clean and disinfect hard surfaces such as countertops, cabinets, tables, appliances, and floors. Wash soft items such as hand towels and floor mats in the washing machine following care labels with regular laundry soap, drying at a higher temperature. Current research indicates that coronaviruses survive for shorter periods at higher temperatures.
Pro tip: Achieve cleanliness next to godliness with HomeLight’s exhaustive cleaning checklist. Our guide details how to clean every inch of your home and even includes product recommendations to make this ever-more important chore that much easier.
Properly stock hand washing stations
We all know by now that the best way to lower your risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds. Help your visitors stay safe by keeping hand washing stations accessible and fully stocked.
Fill all soap dispensers with a soap of your choice. Since COVID-19 is a virus not a bacterium, antibacterial hand soap is not anymore effective than other varieties. Keep clean towels or paper towels next to the sink with an easily accessible bin for trash.
You may also want to include a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol at hand washing stations and entry and exit points such as the front and back doors. Coordinate with your real estate agent as they may also bring hand sanitizer for showings.
Since washing and sanitizing frequently can be drying, include hand lotion at your hand washing stations. Not only is this a nice gesture for buyers and visitors, it helps reduce their risk of infection since dry, cracked skin is more susceptible to germs.
Hand soap and lotion sets:
- Simple Pleasures Fancy Caddy Hand Soap and Hand Cream, $7.99
- Lightwell x Water Street Hand Lotion, Teak, $17.60
- Thymes Goldleaf Sink Set, $34.00
- Barr-Co. Hand Duo, $34.00
- Nest Bamboo Liquid Soap and Hand Lotion Set, $48.00
- Puracy Foaming Hand Sanitizer Fragrance Free, $5.99
- Biosilk Hydrating Hand Sanitizer, $12 (hydrating!)
- By Humankind Hand Sanitizer Refills, $20.00 ($1 of each hand sanitizer sold goes to The Robin Hood Relief Fund, a charity supporting to New Yorkers affected by COVID-19 with food, housing, and job security)
Your agent’s role in helping you maintain a safe environment
As best as possible, your agent will play their part to help keep your home virus-free. This may include providing hand sanitizer and single-use face masks for buyers who forget to bring their own, as well as liaising between the seller and buyer on household expectations. When choosing a real estate agent, check to see if they are Move Safe™ Certified. These agents are verified to use tools, technology, and practices that help keep you safe during COVID-19.
Coleman, a Move Safe™ Certified agent, shares that he and his team take extra precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering your home, especially during showings:
“There’s some minimal touching that’s required with the lockbox, the front door, and potentially a door to the garage or a door to the outside — that’s being done by the agent exclusively. Then our agents are often wiping down those services on their way out when they’re leaving the property.”
Coleman reports buyers have been respectful and understanding of the efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. For the most part, buyers are happy to have the opportunity to explore the home in person visually, with minimal to no touching.
“Buyers have been even more cautious in their walkthroughs to simply stay in the main hallway paths while observing the home but not touching anything,” Coleman explains. “We’ve also seen great cooperation from our sellers leaving lights on — kind of making the home so it’s not in need of being touched.”
COVID-19 acknowledgement form
Your agent may also ask buyers to fill out a document declaring if they do not have any known symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently been in contact with a person with the virus. If used, this document must be presented to all buyers to abide by the rules of the Fair Housing Act. Coleman shares, “we’ve gone through that protocol with everyone and that’s been really successful. People understand the place where that comes from and are very cooperative.”
Cleaning your home helps to keep everyone safe
Cleaning and disinfecting your home is a win-win: you maintain your home in its most beautiful condition while keeping your household, agent, and prospective buyers safe. For the most up to date recommendations, head to the CDC’s website.
Header Image Source: (Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)