How to Disinfect Table Surfaces

Whether it’s doing homework, playing a game with your family, eating a meal together, or sitting alone and gorging yourself on nachos at 2 a.m. (or is that just me?), the dinner table is the center of a lot of comings and goings in the home.

With everything going on at the dinner table, it’s no surprise that it’s also the center of a lot of unsavory stuff: traces of last night’s tikka masala, pencil shavings, smudges from your two-year-old’s sticky little fingers, and, yes, germs.

But what’s the best way to get rid of those germs? Or, for that matter, the germs on any of the table surfaces in your home? 

Between sanitizing wipes, store-bought cleaning agents, and DIY solutions, there are a lot of options for disinfecting the table surfaces in your home — and we’re here to tell you about the best ones.

Should You Use Alcohol-based Wipes to Disinfect Table Surfaces? 

Wood table in a kitchen

Alcohol-based wipes (more commonly known as “disinfecting wipes” or “sanitizing wipes,” typically of the Lysol or Clorox varieties) are convenient and easy to use — but should you use them on your table surfaces?

The answer, unfortunately, isn’t totally clear cut. There are a lot of different factors that come into play: what is your table made of? Are you using the wipe on multiple surfaces? Is the wipe EPA-registered? Are you using it exactly as according to package directions?

The short answers to those questions are that certain surfaces (like granite or untreated wood) shouldn’t be cleaned with alcohol-based solutions, wipes shouldn’t be used on multiple surfaces because they can actually just spread germs around, the wipe should ALWAYS be EPA-registered, and you need to follow the package’s directions to a T in order for them to work the way advertised (many brands specify that you need to let the solution sit for a certain number of minutes for it to take effect).

While there are probably other concerns and specifics that you could Google, the answer is basically that yes, you can use an alcohol-based wipe on table surfaces. Just make sure to follow the package instructions. 

How Long Does Coronavirus Survive on Surfaces?

Kitchen counter

According to the CDC, coronaviruses (including COVID-19) naturally die within hours to days on surfaces, especially when exposed to sunlight and warmer temperatures. And while that’s somewhat reassuring, we don’t usually have days to waste! To make absolutely certain that the surfaces you touch are coronavirus-free, use a disinfectant (don't worry: we've got more about that below).

Similarly, the risk for contracting the coronavirus via mail is low, but not impossible. The main way the virus is spread is through droplets from coughing, sneezing, etc. However, coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so if anyone handling a package you receive is contaminated, it’s possible that you could contract the virus, too. After you open any mail, be sure to dispose of the envelope, package, etc., and wash your hands thoroughly. (For the record, postal workers go to great lengths to make sure to handle your mail properly so they don’t spread any germs, but it’s best to be cautious, especially in case anyone else has touched your mail along the way.)

How to Sanitize the Workplace Against Coronavirus

The CDC’s website actually has guidelines for this specific question! They explain:

“Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.” Additionally, the website states, “Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk. Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.”

If sanitizing table surfaces in the workplace sounds simple, that’s because it is. The basics — soap and water — will work wonders, and for more heavy-duty cleaning, we’ve assembled a list of EPA-approved cleaning agents that will kill those icky coronavirus germs. There are even amazing DIY solutions you can make with items in your own home!

Creating a Bleach-Based Disinfecting Solution

In the infamous words of Darth Vader, “The DIY capabilities are strong in this one.” That is a direct quote, DON’T @ ME. But seriously, for those of you who are interested in making your own bleach-based disinfecting solution, you’re in luck: We’ve got just the thing.

Before we get into the specifics, here’s an important note: NEVER mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. Doing so can be extremely dangerous, so it’s imperative that you only mix the bleach with water. Also, it’s advised that you make a new bleach-based solution each time you clean — sadly, diluted bleach solutions degrade over time into just salt and water.

Now if you’re wondering about the specific type of bleach that you own, Clorox’s website has the niftiest tool telling you how to make a disinfecting solution with your specific bottle. For more info, click here.

Generally, though, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Using standard household bleach, mix 1 half cup of bleach into 1 gallon of cool water. For smaller batches, mix 2 tablespoons of bleach into a quart of cool water.
  • Clean the surface with your bleach/water solution and allow it to sit for at least 2 minutes before wiping it down.
  • When wiping the applied bleach, use a microfiber towel or synthetic sponge, as things like paper towels can degrade the solution and make it less effective.

 That’s it! Easy, right?

The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful enough and cleaning your tabletops and surfaces shouldn’t add to the chaos. Thankfully, with the right cleaning solutions, you can rest easy knowing that your home is safe and clean.

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