You might be regularly cleaning them but, just as with hard surfaces, it’s important to sanitize cozy fabric items, too.
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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.

pink-and-blue themed open-concept living room and kitchen
Credit: David Tsay

But first, it's important to note the distinctions between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 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 have 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? We break down the most commonly forgotten surfaces when it comes to sanitizing and paired them with instructions for both cleaning (step one) and sanitizing (step two) to help you tidy up your home.

How to Sanitize Curtains

To start, check out our instructions on how to wash curtains, including what to do if your panels can go in the washing machine and what to do if they're hand-wash only. If you're able to go the machine route, consider using a product like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer if compatible with the material's washing guidelines.

If you're unable to wash your curtains in the 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.

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 okay 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 like OxiClean Laundry and Home Sanitizer or Febreze Antimicrobial Fabric Spray as the final step, following the label's instructions for use in order to ensure you're reaping those sanitizing benefits.

How to Sanitize Upholstered Furniture

Upholstered furniture follows a similar process as area rugs and carpets. Products in these categories aren't eligible for a run in the washing machine, so the vacuum, spot clean, sanitize process is key. And yes, you should be vacuuming your upholstered headboards, sofas, chairs, and more regularly. As with any cleaning agent or fabric surface, it's always best practice to test your sanitizing products for colorfastness on an inconspicuous spot before using it on the entire surface area.

How to Sanitize Throw Pillows

Sanitizing throw pillows requires more than simply freshening them up. Sure, you can douse them in an odor-masking spray, but sanitizing is about more than what meets the nose. If you're able to wash the pillow covers in your machine with a sanitizing product, you've hit the jackpot with ease. If not, you'll want to spot clean problem areas and follow up with a sanitizing product that's safe to leave on fabric.

No matter which of these often-forgotten soft surfaces you're setting out to sanitize, be sure to read all fabric care information prior. It's important to keep in mind that some sanitizing products made for soft surfaces are meant to be washed off (i.e., in the washing machine). Regardless of which of the items above you're planning to tackle, you'll want to read the sanitizing product's instructions prior to purchase to ensure you're selecting the right product for the job.

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