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Cleaning Up Diarrhea

Topic Overview

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear disposable gloves when cleaning up diarrhea or other body fluids. You may wear reusable rubber gloves if you wash and disinfect them after each use. If you don't have gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you are finished.

To clean up diarrhea from skin, such as on a person's bottom:

  1. Wear disposable gloves.
  2. Use damp paper towels to wipe up the stool, and put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag.
  3. Gently wash the area with warm water and a soft cloth. Rinse well, and dry completely.
    • Do not use any soap unless the area is very soiled. If soap is needed, use only a mild soap, such as Cetaphil.
    • If there's a rash on the skin, do not clean the skin with wet wipes that have alcohol or propylene glycol. These wipes may sting the skin.
  4. Remove gloves, and throw them away in a plastic bag. Then wash your hands with soap and water right away.

To clean up diarrhea from soiled linens or clothes:

  1. Wear disposable gloves.
  2. Wipe off any stool with paper towels. Put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag. Small amounts of easily removed stool can be cleaned with toilet paper and flushed down the toilet.
  3. Wash clothes in a washing machine, preferably with hot water, using household laundry detergent. You can add household bleach to the wash cycle, if you like.
  4. After you finish handling soiled clothes, remove your gloves and throw them away in a plastic bag. Then wash your hands with soap and water right away.
  5. Dry clothes in a hot dryer. Note: There is no need to disinfect the tubs of the washer or the dryer after a full cycle is completed.

To clean up diarrhea from hard surfaces, such as a toilet seat or the bathroom floor:

  1. Wear disposable gloves.
  2. Wipe up the stool with paper towels. Put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag. Rinse the surfaces with water.
  3. Disinfect hard surfaces with diluted household bleach or with disinfectants that you buy at the store. To dilute household bleach, use 5 tablespoons (about 1/3 cup) of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface with the diluted bleach or disinfectant, and let it air dry.
    • If you mix your own diluted bleach, use goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from splashes.
    • Be aware that diluted bleach may remove color from some hard surfaces.
  4. Remove your gloves, and throw them away in a plastic bag. Then wash your hands with soap and water right away.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as of June 4, 2014

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