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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 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 your baby'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 diaper 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 or Johnson's Baby Soap.
    • If your baby has a diaper rash, do not clean the skin with "baby wipes" that contain alcohol or propylene glycol. These wipes may sting the skin and allow bacteria to spread. For tips on caring for a baby with diaper rash, see the topic Diaper Rash.
  4. Remove your 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, and put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag (or 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 tumbler after a full cycle is completed.

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

  1. Wear disposable gloves.
  2. Wipe up the stool with paper towels, and put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag. Rinse the surfaces with water.
  3. Disinfect hard surfaces with diluted household bleach (5 tablespoons [about 1/3 cup] of bleach to 1 gallon of water) or with disinfectants that you buy at the store. Wet the surface with the diluted bleach or disinfectant, and let it air dry.
    • If you mix your own diluted household bleach, use goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from splashes.
    • Also, 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
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised February 21, 2012

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