Home & Leisure



Living Space: 4 soft surfaces in your home you didn’t know you could sanitize but definitely should

Patricia Shannon, BHG.com on

Ever feel like you’re forgetting something? Maybe it’s the keys you left inside the car just as the door locks click. Or your phone sitting at the grocery store, probably after trying to wrangle open those tricky produce bags. Chances are those little sinking feelings don’t often pertain to cleaning your rugs, curtains or throw pillows, but they might just be the areas you’re forgetting to clean and sanitize regularly, if at all.

But first, it’s important to note the distinctions between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning is the removal of dirt, germs and impurities in a process that “does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.” Sanitizing, on the other hand, actually brings down the number of germs on your household surfaces to a level that is deemed safe by public health requirements or standards, which further lowers the chance of spreading infection.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cleaning calls on soap and detergents for the removal of dirt and other impurities, while sanitizing actually kills bacteria through the use of chemicals. Neither of these processes is meant to kill viruses, which is where disinfecting comes in.

Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting hard surfaces has become second nature to many of us over the past few years. (No doorknob, remote or handrail is safe from those lemon-scented disinfecting sprays.) But soft surfaces are often forgotten. So how does one even begin to sanitize items that deliver all those warm and cozy vibes to our home? Here we break down the most commonly forgotten surfaces when it comes to sanitizing and pair them with instructions for both cleaning (step one) and sanitizing (step two) to help you tidy up your home.

1. How to sanitize curtains.

To start, check the label on your curtains to determine whether they can go in the washing machine or if they’re hand-wash only. Unless the directions instruct otherwise, machine-wash window treatments on a short, gentle cycle, using cool water and mild detergent. Consider using a laundry sanitizer if it’s compatible with the material’s washing guidelines. Tumble-dry window treatments on the low or air setting, or line-dry. Complete the cleaning process by ironing curtains on their reverse side.


If you’re unable to wash your curtains in the washing machine, a sanitizing or disinfecting spray will get the job done as long as you’re using it as directed. These bacteria-busting products should also, in turn, clear up odors caused by bacteria. You knew there were smells lurking in your carpets and rugs, but we bet you never thought your curtains could be the culprit.

2. How to sanitize carpets and area rugs.

If you have pets or small children at home, sanitizing your rugs is an important item to regularly check off your to-do list. But let’s start with the cleaning basics. Most rugs are OK for at-home cleaning, but seek a professional’s help for delicate, hand-knotted versions like Persian or oriental rugs. For most other rug varieties and most carpets, you can start by vacuuming to remove dirt and debris. Spot-clean any heavily soiled or problem areas with soap and warm water.

Once the carpets are clean, use a sanitizing product and an antimicrobial fabric spray as the final step, following the label’s instructions for use in order to ensure you’re reaping those sanitizing benefits.


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