How to Kill Staph on Surfaces


Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is so common that it can be found in three out of 10 people at any given time. It is not dangerous unless it enters the body via cuts or other wounds. Even so, staph is usually benign and causes minor skin infections, at worst. Prior illness contributes to the likelihood of the staph infection becoming something worse. In hospitals, a strain of staph bacteria called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has taken hold. MRSA is resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap or detergent
  • Disinfectant
  • UV lamp
  • Alcohol-based sanitizer

Clean surfaces with soap or detergent to wash away dirt to make the next step, disinfecting, more effective.

Apply a disinfectant and keep the surface wet with it for the length of time indicated on the product label. If no time is indicated, a minute will usually suffice. Use household bleach as a disinfectant (if no other disinfectant is available) only after diluting it 100 times, i.e. half a cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

Wash linens with detergent and bleach using the hot water and hot dryer settings. Be aware that bleach can lighten colored items.

Wave a portable ultraviolet lamp over surfaces to kill staph. This approach is especially good for irregularly shaped items such as computer keyboards. The amount of time to hold the lamp over each point to completely kill the bacteria depends on the intensity of the UV rays used.

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 62 percent.

Tips & Warnings

  • Staph is spread by skin-to-skin contact and shared items such as towels, razors and bandages (especially if porous or able to cause cuts). While it's possible for staph to survive on other surfaces, such as a school bus seat, for hours or even days, it is unlikely to lead to infectious transmission due to the nature of how it infects (through open wounds, not through the nose or mouth).
  • Check the disinfectant label of the product you are using to make sure that staph is one of the bacteria it kills.
  • Don't confuse sanitizers with disinfectants. Disinfectants are meant to destroy bacteria or inactivate them. Sanitizers are meant to reduce germs to safe levels. Therefore, use disinfectants instead of sanitizers.

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