Norovirus: Cleanup and Disinfect!

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

Norovirus is the leading cause of outbreaks of diarrhea and vomiting in the US, and it can spread quickly. Norovirus spreads by contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface or eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Norovirus particles can even float through the air and settle on surfaces spreading contamination. Norovirus particles are extremely small and billions of them are in the stool and vomit of infected people. Any vomit or diarrhea may contain norovirus and should be treated as though it does. People can transfer norovirus to others for at least three days after being sick. Some people can carry the norovirus but show no symptoms. There are many strains of norovirus and it can mutate quickly. A person can be infected by norovirus several times a year since there are so many different strains.

To clean up and disinfect your home when norovirus is suspected as the cause of illness, follow these steps.

Wearing protective clothing, such as disposable gloves, apron and/or mask, wipe up vomit or diarrhea with paper towels.

Use kitty litter, baking soda or other absorbent material on carpets and upholstery to absorb liquid; do not vacuum material; pick up using paper towels. Dispose of paper towel/waste in a plastic trash bag or biohazard bag. Use soapy water to wash surfaces that contacted vomit or diarrhea and all nearby high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs and toilet handles and light switches. Rinse thoroughly with plain water and wipe dry with paper towels. Don’t stop here! Germs can remain on surfaces even after cleaning. The area should be disinfected with a chlorine bleach solution. Prepare fresh bleach solution for cleaning hard surfaces by mixing 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of warm water. If you are cleaning porous surfaces such as wood floors, concrete or natural stone surfaces, use 1-2/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon warm water. Wipe surfaces, allow surfaces to air dry if there will be no food or mouth contact. Rinse all surfaces intended for food or mouth contact with plain water before using again.

Last, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Dry hands with paper towels and discard. Hand sanitizers may not be effective against norovirus.

Steam cleaning may be preferable for cleaning carpets and upholstery since chlorine bleach could permanently stain these materials. If clothing or other fabrics are affected by suspected norovirus, remove and wash all fabrics that may have been touched. Machine wash these items with detergent, hot water and bleach if recommended, choosing the longest wash cycle. Machine dry.