How to Sanitize Hard Surfaces

There are a number of different options for sanitizing hard surfaces such as countertops and plastic toys. Your choice of sanitizer will depend on what you are trying to sanitize for and what your surface material is made from. Below are the most basic options.


Soap and Water
  • Soap is a very effective antimicrobial if you create suds with it for several seconds.
  • This is a good choice for children’s toys, plastic cutting boards, sinks, and other surfaces that can be easily rinsed.
  • This is also a great choice for sealed granite countertops, because it won’t damage the surface.


Diluted Bleach
  • Bleach is a very strong oxidizing agent and this will eliminate an extremely large range of pathogens in a very short period of time. It is also very cost effective and safe, making it a highly recommended choice.
  • To effectively sanitize with bleach, start with plain concentrated germicidal bleach and dilute in water. In order to to be effective, it must be germicidal (i.e. 5.25% sodium hypochlorite on most labels; germicidal bleach will be anywhere from 5-10% sodium hypochlorite). It cannot be scented or splash-less, as these are not germicidal.
    Dilution ratios for bleach vary based on what the target of your sanitizing efforts:
    • For laundry, 1 Tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water is appropriate to sanitize. This includes common colds, as well as bodily fluids and fecal matter. Fecal matter is particularly easy to sanitize. Very little bleach will sanitize a hard surface or clothing from fecal matter. The stain may remain, but that is a separate issue. This will not sanitize against C Diff.
    • For some applications, 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon (a 3.0% solution) will be effective enough to sanitize hard surfaces. We recommend 5-10 minutes contact time and/or until it evaporates. This may bleach clothing.
    • For most applications, 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water with 5-10 minutes of contact time will be sufficient. This is not recommended for clothing, as it will bleach clothing. This will appropriately target the widest range of infections and/or viruses.
    • For some particularly nasty bugs like Norovirus or C Diff, a 10% dilution of bleach will give you better results.
  • Bleach never needs to be used at any higher concentration than 10% and by the time bleach is dry, it will have completely converted to table salt and oxygen gas and so it does not need to be rinsed off. Keep the area well ventilated until the bleach is dry.
  • This is a good choice for cleaning up after illnesses and for toilets. Bleach is also a great choice for sanitizing mold from hard surfaces.


Bleach Dilution Table
 Dilution Ratio
Ounces per Gallon
Cups per Gallon
Percent Solution
1 Tablespoon
* As germicidal bleach varies in amounts of sodium hypochlorite, this is a general guide and should be used as such.


Quaternary Amines
  • These are a class of chemicals commonly found in products such as Clorox wipes and Lysol disinfectant spray and will have names like benzalkonium chloride and benzethonium chloride.
  • These are effective against a wide range of pathogens and can be used on surfaces where bleach might give you trouble.
  • Wipes are a good choice for on-the-go sanitizing like grocery carts and Lysol spray can be used on both hard and soft surfaces, making it a good choice for toys with both plastic and cloth parts.


Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a very gentle chemical that can be used for delicate surfaces as long as they can be submerged.
  • Peroxide works slowly and so the surface needing to be sanitized needs to be completely covered with liquid for at least 1 hour.
  • This is a good choice for toothbrushes and pacifiers.


  • Also known as rubbing alcohol or 2-propanol, this acts by evaporation and while it is not as effective as an antimicrobial as these other chemicals, it is a good choice for surfaces that cannot be exposed to moisture for very long such as the casing of your phone and wood surfaces.




By Hilary Clay