July 26, 2020
Because the United States is still in the early stages of this pandemic, there is still a lot to learn about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To be safe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting regularly touched surfaces daily to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viral illnesses. For this, it is important to understand why disinfecting is so important and know which cleaning products and ingredients work best against the novel coronavirus.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
Current studies show the spread of the virus most often occurs among close contacts via respiratory droplets rather than through fomites (objects or materials likely to carry infection). These respiratory droplets may travel up to six feet through coughing and sneezing, which is why that is the recommended measurement for social distancing. Studies also suggest the virus may remain viable on certain surfaces, like plastic or metal, for prolonged periods of time. This is why regular cleaning and disinfecting should be a priority.
General Recommendations for Cleaning and Disinfecting Frequently Touched Surfaces
Cleaning and disinfecting are aimed at limiting the survival of the virus. Frequently touched surfaces include desks, tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, faucets, and electronics. Cleaning means physically removing germs and dirt with detergent or soap and water. While this does not kill germs, it can remove them and reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases. Disinfecting means using certain chemicals to break down the protective barriers on germs and viruses to kill them. This is why it is important to start by cleaning the surface and then immediately following up with a disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the infection.
Which cleaners and disinfecting wipes are best against COVID-19?
To help in the fight against the coronavirus and other viral illnesses, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a list of products that meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19. With these, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label, especially for concentration, application, and contact time. No disinfectant works instantly and some products require up to ten minutes of contact time. These are meant for cleaning surfaces and are not for use on humans. It is advisable to wear gloves during cleaning, dispose of them, and thoroughly wash hands afterward. The most common products include:
• Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
• Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
• Clorox Multi-Surface Cleaner + Bleach
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Lysol Brand All-Purpose Cleaner
• Lysol Kitchen Pro Antibacterial Cleaner
• Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
• Oxy-res (Concentrate)
• Sani-cloth Germicidal Disposable Cloth
For the full list of approved products visit the EPA website.
Can I make my own disinfectant?
Because many cleaning products are in limited supply or out of stock, the CDC suggests also making diluted cleaning solutions with bleach, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
For hard, non-porous surfaces combine a quart of water with four teaspoons of bleach, or a gallon of water with five tablespoons of bleach. Allow for a contact time (where the cleaner remains wet on the surface) of at least one minute before wiping dry.
For cell phones, touch screens, keyboards, tablets, remote controls, and other electronic devices consider disinfecting with wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol and dry thoroughly to avoid pooling liquid. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting these products.
For porous surfaces like carpets, rugs, and drapes follow manufacturer’s instructions. Fortunately, the virus is not known to last as long on these fibrous materials and disinfecting these products is rarely necessary. If it becomes necessary, use detergents and cleansers certified by the EPA and follow manufacturer’s instructions. If possible launder items on the warmest water setting that is appropriate.
Rather than trying to create a household cleaner from vinegar, tea tree oil, saline solutions, vodka, or other “natural” cleaners, the safest option is to rely on the tested and proven products certified by the EPA listed above. Otherwise diluted solutions of bleach, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide can be used to disinfect surfaces.