Cleaning to prevent the spread of germs

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Alternate Names

Disinfection procedures


Germs from a patient may be found on any object the patient touched or on equipment that was used during their care. Some germs can live for 5 months on a dry surface.

Germs from any surface can pass to you or another patient. Cleaning helps prevent the spread of germs.

Your workplace will have policies about how to clean:

Cleaning a Patient’s Room

Start with wearing the right equipment. This will include gloves, and you might need to wear a gown, shoe covers, and a mask. Your workplace will have a policy or guideline about what to wear.

When you remove bed sheets and towels:

  • Hold them away from your body, and do not shake them.
  • Watch out for needles and other sharps.
  • Do not put the sheets and towels down on another surface in the room. Place them in the correct container.
  • Items that are wet or moist should go into a container that will not leak.

Clean the bed rails, furniture, telephone, call light, door knobs, light switches, bathroom, and all other objects and surfaces in the room. Also clean the floor, including under the furniture. Use the disinfectant or cleaning solution your workplace uses for this.

Carefully put any sharps or needles in the sharps container.

When you clean the floors, change the cleaning liquid every hour. Use a fresh mop every day.

Always wash your hands after you take off your gloves.

Cleaning Spills after Contamination

If your workplace does not have a spill response team for cleaning up blood or other body fluids, you will need these supplies to clean up the spill:

  • Paper towels
  • Dilute bleach solution
  • Biohazard bag
  • Rubber gloves
  • Forceps to pick up sharps or broken glass. Never use your hands, even though you will be wearing gloves.

Make sure you are wearing the correct gloves, gown, mask, or shoe covering for the kind of spill you are cleaning up.

Before you start cleaning, mark the area of the spill with tape or barriers so that no one enters the area or slips. Then:

  • Cover the spill with paper towels.
  • Spray the towels with the bleach solution and wait for 20 minutes.
  • Pick up towels and put them in the biohazard bag.
  • Carefully put broken glass or sharps in a sharps container.
  • Use fresh paper towels to wipe the area with the bleach solution.
  • Throw away your gloves, gown, and shoe covers into the biohazard bag.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands.

When cleaning up large blood spills, use an approved solution to kill any viruses such as hepatitis.

Always wash your hands after you take off your gloves.


Rutala WA, Weber DJ, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities, 2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/28/2012
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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