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Knowledge and practices regarding safe household cleaning and disinfection for COVID-19 prevention — United States, May 2020
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  • Description:
    What is already known about this topic? Calls to poison centers regarding exposures to cleaners and disinfectants have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What is added by this report? An Internet panel survey identified gaps in knowledge about safe preparation, use, and storage of cleaners and disinfectants. Approximately one third of survey respondents engaged in nonrecommended high-risk practices with the intent of preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, including using bleach on food products, applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants.

    What are the implications for public health practice? Public messaging should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe cleaning and disinfection practices to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households, including hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces.

    A recent report described a sharp increase in calls to poison centers related to exposures to cleaners and disinfectants since the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic (1). However, data describing cleaning and disinfection practices within household settings in the United States are limited, particularly concerning those practices intended to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To provide contextual and behavioral insight into the reported increase in poison center calls and to inform timely and relevant prevention strategies, an opt-in Internet panel survey of 502 U.S. adults was conducted in May 2020 to characterize knowledge and practices regarding household cleaning and disinfection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowledge gaps were identified in several areas, including safe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of recommended personal protective equipment when using cleaners and disinfectants, and safe storage of hand sanitizers, cleaners, and disinfectants. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported engaging in nonrecommended high-risk practices with the intent of preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, such as washing food products with bleach, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to bare skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products. Respondents who engaged in high-risk practices more frequently reported an adverse health effect that they believed was a result of using cleaners or disinfectants than did those who did not report engaging in these practices. Public messaging should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as hand hygiene and recommended cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in household settings (2). Messaging should also emphasize avoidance of high-risk practices such as unsafe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of bleach on food products, application of household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhalation or ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants.

    Survey questions were administered by Porter Novelli Public Services and ENGINE Insights on May 4, 2020, through PN View: 360,* a rapid turnaround survey that can be used to provide insights into knowledge and practices of targeted audiences. This opt-in Internet panel survey was administered to 502 U.S. adults aged ≥18 years using the Lucid platform (3); panel members who had not taken a survey in the previous 20 waves of survey administration were eligible to participate. Quota sampling and statistical weighting were employed to make the panel representative of the U.S. population by gender, age, region, race/ethnicity, and education. Respondents were informed that their answers were being used for market research and could refuse to answer any question at any time. No personally identifying information was included in the data file provided to CDC.†

    Survey questions asked about general knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to use of household cleaners and disinfectants§ and about specific information regarding cleaning and disinfection strategies for prevention of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Weighted response frequencies were calculated using SAS statistical software (version 9.4; SAS Institute). Because respondents were recruited from an opt-in panel rather than by probability sampling, no inferential statistical tests were performed.¶ Differences were noted when a difference of ≥5 percentage points was found between any estimates being compared.

    Suggested citation for this article: Gharpure R, Hunter CM, Schnall AH, et al. Knowledge and Practices Regarding Safe Household Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 Prevention — United States, May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 5 June 2020.


  • Content Notes:
    Diagnostic Testing Strategy -- Nonpharmaceutical Interventions -- COVID-19 Cases -- Discussion -- Acknowledgments.
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