Poring Over The Facts

Porous Vs. Non-Porous Surfaces And How To Clean Them

If you’ve been poring over news and information to help keep your family protected from COVID-19, you might have come across the terms “porous” and “non-porous,” as they relate to household surfaces. These terms might sound too technical for your liking, but trust me; they are not as complicated as they seem.

Without a lot of extraneous explanation, porous refers to soft surfaces –such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes, or clothing. Non-porous, of course, are just the opposite – hard surfaces like your countertops, tub or a tile floor. Just as these surfaces are very different to touch and feel, they require different cleaning and disinfecting methods and products.

The following are guidelines for disinfecting both types of surfaces as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Biotechnology Information:

Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces

If possible wear disposable gloves for protection when disinfecting surfaces.

If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

Use an EPA-registered household disinfectant product. You can find a link to the list of approved products on the CDC website.

Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products, especially the recommended time the product should remain on the surface. 

Diluted household bleach solutions can be used on non-porous surfaces if it would not damage the item or alter it aesthetically. 

If using a diluted bleach solution, allow it to remain on the surface for at least 1 minute. Ventilate the area during and after treatment.

You can mix your own bleach solution using:

5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Soft (Porous) Surfaces

For soft (porous) surfaces, start by removing visible contamination if present and clean with a manufacturer-recommended product. 

If the item can be laundered, do so in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions on the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.

If there are no cleaning/laundering restrictions, use products that are EPA-approved to kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

*Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly after disinfecting, no matter the surface!

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine Website: