Home Disinfecting Facts

There’s a time and a place for all things, as the saying goes, and now is the time for disinfecting. We live in a dangerous and terrifying moment in time: the age of COVID-19. And so we must do what we must to protect our homes and our families from the virus. This calls for disinfectants. In the interest of promoting their proper use, I present these home disinfecting facts.

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There’s a Difference between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are different processes. To clarify, the following information comes directly from the U.S. Center for Disease Control website:

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. 

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.”

Cleaning and disinfecting can be a two-stage process, or disinfection can take place independently, or they can occur simultaneously, such as with the use of a cleaning disinfectant. The more thorough approach involves both cleaning and disinfecting; however this may not be always be necessary, for example at times when all household members are healthy.

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Disinfecting Wipes Must Be Used Correctly For Maximum Effectiveness

Simply swiping a disinfecting wipe over the surface of a remote control doesn’t guarantee that the area will be disinfected. In fact, disinfection usually requires that the disinfecting agent be allowed to sit on the surface for a period of time ranging anywhere from three to ten minutes.

This means you may need to re-apply the disinfectant to the surface to maximize effectiveness.  Make sure to look at the instructions on the package of wipes to determine how long the liquid has to remain on the surface in order to kill pathogens.

Also pay attention to the surface area that each wipe effectively covers. If your wipe has run out of moisture, it’s not going to distribute the effective ingredients onto the surface that you’re aiming to disinfect.

Not All Disinfectants are the Same

There are many different types of disinfectants created from many different mixtures of ingredients. These do not all work in the same way.

According to Nyco, a leading cleaning chemicals manufacturer, “the ‘active ingredient’ in each disinfectant formula is what kills pathogens, usually by disrupting or damaging their cells.” Active ingredients vary along with the other components of the formula that are mixed together.

The correct choice of disinfectant depends on what surface needs to be disinfected, among other factors.

Use EPA Registered Disinfectants To Kill COVID-19

If disinfectants are not all the same, how do you know what to use?  To kill COVID-19, make sure you’re using EPA approved disinfectant products.

According to the March 5th news release by the EPA, “coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product. Consumers using these disinfectants on an enveloped emerging virus should follow the directions for use on the product’s master label, paying close attention to the contact time for the product on the treated surface (i.e., how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface).”

The list of EPA-registered disinfectant products can be found here:  https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

Many popular commercial products are on this list including Clorox Multi-Surface Cleaner + Bleach, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Clorox Commercial Solutions Clorox Disinfecting Spray, Lysol brand Heavy-Duty Cleaner Disinfectant Concentrate, Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist, and Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner.

Disinfectants Don’t Have to Be Fancy

Effective disinfectants can be mixed using simple ingredients that you may already have on hand, like chlorine bleach, isopropyl alcohol, and peroxide.

To disinfect hard surfaces that won’t be damaged by its use, mix 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart (according to CDC guidelines). Allow to work on the surface for one minute.

Also according to CDC guidelines, for disinfection of phones or other electronics: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids. (Also according to CDC guidelines.)

Finally 3% hydrogen peroxide is “a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces,” (again, according to the CDC website.

While the topic of disinfecting isn’t glamorous or sexy, it’s one of great importance to many people at this particular point in time. Although the recent trend has been toward minimizing the use of chemical cleaning products, we must be vigilant about eliminating germs until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.