How to Clean Up After Norovirus

5 tips to prevent spreading this tough virus

Cleaning supplies

Noroviruses are as easy to spread and hard to kill as they are unpleasant to experience. If you or a family member have had norovirus — the most common cause of gastroenteritis, often mislabeled as “stomach flu” — you know that’s saying something.

How can you avoid going through it again? Start with these tips to clean up after a bout of norovirus.

1. Use bleach and water

You can catch norovirus from contaminated surfaces, and many disinfectants won’t kill it. Use bleach water. The CDC recommends a solution that contains anywhere from 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water. Stainless steel and similar surfaces need less, while more porous surfaces need more. If you don’t want to mix your own, shop for bleach-based cleaners.

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2. Clean safely

Use rubber gloves or disposable latex or vinyl gloves. This will help protect you not only from the bleach but also from the norovirus itself, which can hang around on surfaces for several days. Wear a protective mask for safety — and be sure to air out the room when you finish cleaning.

3. Clean everything you touch    

That includes the toilet, the floor, all counters, doorknobs, light switches, telephones, remote controls — you name it. For the best results, let the bleach water or cleaner sit on the surface for about 10 minutes before wiping it clean with paper towels or other disposable products. In addition, you may want to steam clean upholstered furniture.

4. Separate your laundry

Use gloves to handle soiled sheets, towels and clothes, and keep them separate from other laundry if possible. Wash everything in very hot water. For whites or light clothing you aren’t concerned about lightening, add a little bleach. Wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length, then machine dry them.

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5. Wash your hands — then wash them again

Washing your hands is a good practice both during and after any illness, particularly a hearty one like norovirus. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after cleaning, too, so all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

5 tips to prevent spreading this tough virus. Infographic on HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic

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  • Carol Bappert

    Our family has had norovirus twice. Both times were after eating turkey stuffing in licensed restaurants. I no longer eat turkey stuffing,unless I make it myself.

  • Norma Wagner


  • Ashley

    Norovirus is not food-borne. It is transmitted via respiratory droplets. Please do not perpetuate your unfounded belief that a specific type of food or restaurant caused your illness. Perhaps you suffered from food-poisoning, are allergic to a portion of a substance involved in the making of turkey stuffing, or coincidentally happened to go to two restaurants in which someone with noro vomited and you inhaled the virus. My point is there are many, many variables that go into disease transmission.

    • Nancy

      1 in 15 will have it in a year.. with those kinds of statistics you could catch it anywhere! You could also catch a food borne illness with similar symptoms.

    • Drea

      Actually, you should do your own homework before getting on your know it all high horse. Norovirus is not caught by inhaling droplets. Rather, it is transmitted via a fecal/oral route. Therefore, one must have fecal or vomit matter containing the virus on their hands or another surface which they then place in their mouths in order to catch it. Mind you, there are billions of a Norovirus particles in just a single drop, and it takes fewer than 10 particles to infect you.

      Also, food poisoning is often actually Norovirus. It is common on leafy greens and other produce. It can become contaminated at any time throughout the process, from farm to table. Secondly, ill food service workers are the number one cause of food bourne illness because they transfer their virus to the food you eat.

      Again, I suggest you do your homework before shooting your mouth off. If you do not want to take my word for it, a virologist, then feel free to visit the CDC website, which will perfectly back up what I’ve just said.

  • Health Hub Team

    You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. This usually happens by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth; or
    having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness. —Muhammad Ali Syed, MD

    • Vivaldi

      Just dont trust shopping cart seats, or other areas, or restaurants without dining area service (buffets, etc) unless you know they clean the tables and chairs after each diner with the solution required by food laws. For example, parents should be required to cover chairs their diapered off-spring occupy. Its just wise, and considerate. Bleach should never be used carelessly; reading the label and following the directions will evidence very little is required, and also protect groundwater.

  • Nese

    Bleach is my best friend in my house!:-)

  • Christopher Sewell

    Making your dish washing liquid at least 10% bleach by adding it when the bottle empties seems to help cure yucky sponge. Has anyone ever tested a sponge to find out what grows there?

    • Luna

      I microwave my sponge for one minute after each use and toss them in the laundry when I run a load on hot. I never have yucky sponges!

    • erin

      Those scotchbrite Sponges actually have antibacterial properties in them it takes quite a while for bacterial to grow and by that point it should have been thrown out long berfore it wears off. I would use a sponge any dday over a towel or paper towels over and over. Yes you can microwave or put them in the dishwasher no problems and it will sanitize them if the antibacterial stuff finally gets washed out.

  • Vivaldi

    Sadly, today’s washing machines will NOT fill with HOT water; however it still wouldnt be hot enough so slightly increasing the amount of bleach or soaking 30 minutes in 5% white vinegar diluted with 1/2 water will do the trick. ..however wash linens, etc. first in cold water if body fluids are on them.

    • Jake Green

      Why not? I plumbed mine into the hot feed direct from the mains fed combi boiler, many people will disagree with this practice but it works very well. My dishwasher is plumbed into the hot feed too. Many manufacturers say not to do this but that is because they assume you might have tanked hot water and the manufacturer want to make sure you have mains pressure, people are too stupid to understand instructions so they just say, COLD ONLY and that saves them trying to explain, in the mean time you waste electricity using a machine designed to wash clothes to heat water, I’ll leave water heating up to the dedicated water heating machine! The washer never needs to heat the water and if I want a cold wash (rare) I just switch the boiler off on the panel (1m from the washing machine). Even materials which claim not to like anything hotter than say 40 are fine.