New reports of stores running out of chlorine wipes and hand sanitizer across the nation may leave you feeling concerned about protecting your loved ones at home as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout communities. Common good hygiene practices, including soap and water, go a long way in preventing infection.
“It isn’t possible to disinfect every single surface you touch throughout your day,” states Stephen Thomas, M.D., the director of global health and the chief of infectious diseases at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. “The planet is covered with bacteria and viruses, and we’re constantly in contact with these surfaces, so hand-washing is still your best defense against COVID-19.”
Thomas emphasizes that you should only increase your typical cleaning practices if you lived in an area with documented cases of novel coronavirus, or if an individual in your household is exhibiting signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection. If so, “Clean high-traffic areas that get touched frequently, such as kitchen counters and bathroom faucets, three times a day with a product that kills viruses.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, coronaviruses are fairly easy to kill in comparison to other types of viruses. Here is a list of common household cleaning products that will effectively kill the novel coronavirus. You likely already have these products in the house, and local stores are more likely to still have in stock. Also listed are common household products that do not kill the virus, and should be avoided as cleaning agents during this outbreak.
Household Cleaning Products That Destroy COVID-19
Soap and Water
The action of scrubbing with soap and water can effectively break down the protective barrier that keeps the virus alive. Make sure to wash for at least 20 seconds and remember to scrub between your fingers, your thumbs, and under your nails. Discard the paper towel you use to dry your hands. If it is a cloth towel, let it soak in a bowl of soapy water to destroy any remaining particles or the virus that may have survived.
The CDC recommends a diluted bleach solution for optimal disinfection. Mix 4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart of water or ⅓ cup bleach per 1 gallon of water. Make sure to wear gloves while handling bleach, and never mix bleach with any other substance other than water.
Solutions of alcohol that contain at least 70% alcohol are highly effective at disinfecting hard surfaces. To properly disinfect, clean the surface with water and a detergent. Then, apply the undiluted alcohol solution to the surface and allow it to sit for at least 30 seconds. This substance is especially effective in hard to reach places, such as behind furniture and between car seats.
Within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure, hydrogen peroxide is effective in killing rhinovirus, the virus most often responsible for the common cold. Since rhinovirus is more difficult to kill than coronaviruses, this means that hydrogen peroxide can break down the barriers of coronavirus faster. To disinfect surfaces, pour the undiluted solution into a spray bottle and spray it onto the surface. Allow it to sit for at least 1 minute.
As hydrogen peroxides isn’t corrosive, it is safe for use on metal surfaces. However, it can discolor soft fabrics, so avoid using it on your clothes or other soft material surfaces.
Products that Should NOT Be Used to Combat COVID-19
Homemade Hand Sanitizer
Right now there are many recipes for handmade hand sanitizers circulating through social media and other areas of the internet. Many medical professionals are warning against this, including Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist who is also a member of the American Chemical Society. “I’m a professional chemist, and I don’t mix my own disinfectant products at home,” he says. “Companies spend a bunch of time and money to pay chemists specifically to formulate hand sanitizers that work and that are safe. If you make it yourself, how can you know if it’s stable or if it works?”
Among the circulating recipes are those that state that vodka is an effective way to kill off coronavirus. Multiple vodka manufacturers have made statements telling consumers that though their product is 80-proof, it only contains 40% ethyl alcohol. 70% ethyl alcohol is required to kill COVID-19.
Distilled White Vinegar
While there are recommendations for using vinegar as a disinfectant online, there is no sound evidence that it is effective in destroying coronavirus.