Back when I didn’t know better, I used disinfectant wipes for everything. I thought, why just clean something, when you can disinfect? I treated the wipes as if they were truly all-purpose. However these wipes are anything but.

They do a great job with what they were made for, but use them the wrong way and they can actually cause significant damage. Here are some dos and don’ts for dealing with disinfectant wipes.

DO: Clean up your refrigerator. Remove and wash the shelving with soap and water for deeper cleans. Use wipes for fixed surfaces like doors and around the shelves.

You can also use the wipes to clean up small spills in between deep cleans. Make sure to allow the solution to dry completely and to keep any food products covered during and after. Rinse areas that may come in direct contact with food.

DO: Go to the bathroom. Use them on water-friendly items like in bathtubs, on toilets and faucets and in sinks.

DO: Let it rest. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to sanitize a surface, you must use enough wipes for the surface to appear visibly wet for 30 seconds. To disinfect, the area should appear visibly wet for four minutes.

DO: Avoid porous items, like untreated wood. The chemicals in the wipes can stain the materials.

DON’T: Wipe sealed surfaces, like granite or lacquer tables. The chemicals can and will degrade the sealant. This can result in a surface that is sticky to the touch, stained or even eaten through. The fix often entails resealing entirely. Use a washcloth with soap and water instead.

DON’T: Apply to upholstered materials like sofas or pillows. The alcohol can cause discoloration.

DON’T: Use one wipe for the whole room. Instead, use one wipe for one surface and then use another. Using the same wipe for several surfaces can spread germs from one item to another.

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