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Best Apartment Cleaning Tips for Sanitizing and Keeping Viruses at Bay

One of the highest risk places for transmission of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is in our own homes, according to research by UNC at Chapel Hill. That’s because at home we’re usually confined to smaller spaces with less air circulation, which can lead to greater exposure if any household member has the virus. In apartments this is especially true. The average U.S. apartment is 940 square feet, more than 2.5 times smaller than the average single family home, meaning there’s less space to escape if someone is exposed.

Just one sneeze can release 30,000 respiratory droplets into the air, and as they circulate, they land on surfaces, potentially leaving contamination behind. When it comes to surfaces made out of plastic or stainless steel, the coronavirus can survive for up to 7 days. That’s why it’s important to disinfect the home as often as needed and to be well-prepared when you leave the house for grocery runs so that you don’t bring home any viruses.

Keeping your apartment clean is an important step to protecting residents and guests from all kinds of viruses and is especially important to protect against COVID-19. Whether you’re moving in or out, or you just want to ensure your apartment is as clean and sanitized as possible, these tips will help protect your home against viruses.

Use approved cleaning products

Not all cleaning products are created equal, and when it comes to killing viruses, you need to use the right tools for the job. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has produced List N, which contains products that meet the EPA’s criteria on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There are plenty of familiar brand names on the list, including Clorox, Lysol and Purell.

List N Cleaners include:

  • Clorox Multi-Surface Cleaner + Bleach
  • Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
  • Lysol Heavy-Duty Cleaner Disinfectant Concentrate
  • Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist
  • Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner
  • Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Wipes
  • Sani-Prime Germicidal Spray

Whenever cleaning and disinfecting a property against pathogens, you should always use a cleaner that has been tested to kill germs and bacteria. Consult List N to find approved cleaners for use against the coronavirus, as well as other microbes that can make you sick.

Follow the instructions on the label

This might seem obvious, but some cleaning solutions don’t make it clear what you have to do in order to get the full power of their disinfecting potential. In particular, you probably have to use more solution than you realize and leave it for longer periods of time on the surfaces you want to clean.

Most disinfectants have to be applied until the surface is wet, not just damp, and then left for several minutes before wiping down. Some solutions need to air dry, and wiping will reduce or completely undo their effectiveness. Checking the label carefully to understand the right application method is important if you want a truly sanitized apartment, not just a false sense of security.

Make sure you always use solutions designed for the surfaces in your apartment. While multipurpose cleaners are great for everyday dirt busting, they won’t cut it with COVID-19. Choose the right disinfectant for your wooden, metal, enamel and stone surfaces to ensure you get the full benefit of their cleaning power.

Pro Tip: The novel coronavirus has a lipid envelope. This means its external layer is made of fat. Soap and water is very effective at destroying the coronavirus because soap is designed to break down fat. However, soap and water doesn’t work on all pathogens, so to ensure your apartment is cleaned against all viruses and bacteria, it’s better to use a professional cleaning solution.

Clean from the inside out

It’s always a good idea to clean the farthest room from the front door first. This prevents you from re-contaminating cleaned rooms as you pass through them. Most domestic use disinfectants require application on clean areas for maximum effectiveness, so begin by removing any visible dust and dirt from all surfaces. Don’t forget to wipe down walls, door frames, baseboards, and high touch areas like faucets, door handles and light switches.

If you’re moving into a new place, taking the opportunity to clean and sanitize the property before unpacking will give you peace of mind that you won’t be exposed to any pathogens the previous residents might have left behind.

Apartment cleaning checklist

Not sure where to start? This room-by-room checklist will help guide you.


  • Wipe down doors, doorknobs and frames
  • Wash the walls
  • Clean the floor with an approved cleaner
  • Disinfect keypads or security systems

Living Room

  • Clean ceiling fans, light fixtures, vents and above curtains or blinds
  • Wash walls and windows
  • Disinfect any furniture or fixtures made of non-porous material (wood, metal, etc.)
  • Clean wooden or tile floors with suitable cleaner 


  • Disinfect extractor fans, light fixtures and the top of cupboards and tall appliances
  • Wash windows and doors
  • Clean the sink and faucet
  • Sanitize appliances
  • Open cupboards and drawers and disinfect inside and out, including doors and handles
  • Wash down walls and floor 


  • Start with ceiling fans, light fixtures and window and door frames
  • Wash windows and doors
  • Clean any furniture using appropriate solutions
  • Sanitize walls and floor


  • Clean light fixtures, extractor fan vents and door frame
  • Disinfect the bath or shower, including faucets, shower heads and hand grips
  • Sanitize the toilet and sink, including faucets and handles
  • Open and clean cupboards inside and out
  • Wash down walls, floor and door

Don’t forget these areas

In any apartment there are lots of high touch and high exposure areas that are commonly overlooked when cleaning. Don’t forget to get all of these when you’re disinfecting!

  • Kitchen sink—you clean dishes in it, but how often is the sink itself cleaned?
  • Fixed toothbrush holder—COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory particles, which toothbrushes get covered in during every use.
  • Toilet handle—this is the most commonly overlooked area in the bathroom, and one of the most frequently touched.
  • Air vents—they spend all day sucking in air and particles, making vents a magnet for all kinds of microbes.
  • Switches, handles, knobs—every room has these designated touch points, and they are often overlooked when cleaning.
  • Ceiling fans—when was the last time you looked up while cleaning? The ceiling fan needs disinfecting too!

High touch areas vary from home to home. While you’re disinfecting, think about how the space is used and what was designed to be touched, from keypads to stair rails. Take five minutes in each room to look around and make sure you’ve cleaned all the handles, rails, doors and switches.

For more about the coronavirus and what you can do to protect your home, property and workplace against COVID-19, check out this extensive guide from experts to learn how to kill the coronavirus through cleaning.

Alexandra Ciuntu
Alexandra Ciuntu
Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email. Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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