During this confusing time in our lives, there has also been lots of confusion on what is safe to use and what is not safe to use in terms of cleaning products that kill COVID-19. As the virus is so new, we are learning more and more about it each day. As we know that it lingers on certain materials longer than others, some may think that is means different materials require different methods of cleaning.
- Cleaning vs Disinfecting
- How Long COVID-19 Lasts on Surfaces
- Necessary Precautions
- What Should Be Cleaned
- Tips for Cleaning Different Surfaces
Here we have provided a guide to inform you of how long it survives on certain materials, and the precautions in terms on cleaning that we should be taking. We will of course be informing you of the cleaning products that kill COVID-19, what areas of the house you should be cleaning and how to clean the certain surfaces.
If you want to know all about cleaning and what are the cleaning products that kill COVID-19, then read on!
We still have much to learn about coronavirus, or COVID-19, including what causes it and how to combat it. We know that the most common spread of the virus is through person-to person close contact. Transmission of the virus occurs through respiratory droplets when there is person-to-person close contact within 6 feet.
Not only is it possible for the virus to be transferred this way, but through touching surfaces that have been touched by an infected person who may have passed on droplets. Transmission between people is more common than transmission through objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, handles e.c.t, however, it is still important to ensure that all surfaces in the home are clean. This creates a safe home environment for you and your family, therefore it is crucial to know the cleaning products that kill COVID-19.
There is evidence that suggests the virus may remain on different surfaces for different amounts of times depending on the surface. Cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces in the home is therefore crucial to making the home a safe place for all.
Cleaning vs Disinfecting
To discuss the cleaning products that kill COVID-19 it is important to note the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. This is because you can therefore make sure that the surfaces are as clean and safe as possible.
- Cleaning – the removal of germs from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs and bacteria but removes them. Removing them lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection to yourself and other surfaces.
- Disinfecting – this is when chemicals are used to kill germs and bacteria on surfaces. By cleaning a surface then disinfecting it, this combination makes for an effective way to remove any germs and bacteria and lower the risk of spreading infection.
There are many different products that clean surfaces, including the store-bought products and homemade DIY products such as warm soapy water, vinegar solution sprays and even essential oil solution sprays. These products, however, do not disinfect but clean. This means that a surface may be clean using these products, however it is still possible for surfaces to be contaminated and able to spread infection.
Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface that needs cleaning. This will be effective against Coronavirus if the bleach is properly diluted and used as followed:
The bleach must contain 5.25–8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified. This is to keep everyone safe as large amounts of chemicals can be dangerous if not used properly.
It is of course important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring that the product is on the surface for the recommended amount of time so that it can be used effectively.
You should also make sure that the bleach is not past its expiry date and that the room you are in is properly ventilated during and after application. In terms of ventilation, also make sure that you are not mixing any household bleach with other cleaners as it can create fumes which are dangerous, even if the room is well ventilated.
These dangerous mixtures can produce toxic gases. Cleaning products should not be mixed unless it is recommended by the manufacturer. Below is a list of the household cleaning products that can cause dangerous reactions when mixed.
- Bleach and vinegar
- Bleach and ammonia
- Bleach and toilet bowl cleaner
- Bleach and rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar
This list is not inclusive, there are other products that if mixed can cause a dangerous reaction. If you are unsure about using certain products together check the label to seek manufacturers advice or use a different product to be safe.
To properly dilute the bleach solution, it is recommended that you make the solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room temperature water (cdc.gov). This bleach solution will be effective for up to 24 hours so will need to be used quickly so it is effective against germs.
It is important to always follow the instructions stated when using disinfectants to clean surfaces as they contain chemicals that otherwise can be dangerous (for example can irritate the skin). They usually will be something as follows:
- Spray the surface until it is visibly wet
- Use the product per instructions, let it stand for the recommended amount of time as this is where it soaks in and disinfects, killing the germs.
- Air dry or wipe as instructed when the time is up.
How Long COVID-19 Lasts on Surfaces
There is still research being conducted on this topic as the virus is a new strand of COVID and therefore we know little about it, hence the consequences that we all have faced over the past few months. There are, however, a couple studies that have been conducted, looking into how long Coronavirus lives on certain surfaces.
The first study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). For this study, a standard amount of aerosolized virus was applied to different surfaces.
The second was published in The Lancet. In this study, a droplet containing a set amount of virus was placed onto a surface.
For both of these studies the surfaces were at room temperature and samples were taken at different time intervals which were then used to calculate the results. It should be noted, however, that the virus was tested in laboratory conditions, therefore other environments may impact the amount of time the virus can survive. As this is a new strand, it is difficult to test while remaining ethical and safe.
The following is a list of materials and the amount of time it is thought that the virus can remain on each material for.
- Plastic – 3-7 days
- Stainless Steel – 3-7days
- Paper – up to 4 days
- Glass – up to 4 days
- Wood – up to 2 days
- Cardboard – 24 hours
- Copper – up to 4 hours
This information goes to show that there are varied amounts of time the virus can last for on different materials, further stressing the importance of keeping surfaces clean and using cleaning products that kill COVID-19.
Healthline (2020) put together a list of objects that are included in each of the materials above that you should therefore consider cleaning or putting aside until you know they are safe to interact with. This is because some items can be easily cleaned, for example anything plastic, but others cannot, for example items made from paper.
Many objects that we use every day are made of plastic. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Food packaging
- Water bottles and milk containers
- Credit cards
- Remote controls and video game controllers
- Light switches
- Computer keyboards and mouse
- ATM buttons
The NEJM article detected the virus on plastic for up to 3 days. However, researchers in the Lancet study found that they could detect the virus on plastic for longer — up to 7 days. This again stresses the importance of making sure that the items in your home are clean and shows that there is much more research needed to understand this virus.
Metal is used in a wide variety of objects we use every day. Some of the most common metals include stainless steel and copper. Examples include:
- Stainless steel
- Door handles
- Metal handrails
- Pots and pans
- Industrial equipment
- Electrical wires
While the NEJM article found that no viable virus could be detected on stainless steel after 3 days, researchers for the Lancet article detected viable virus on stainless steel surfaces for up to 7 days.
Investigators in the NEJM article also assessed viral stability on copper surfaces. The virus was less stable on copper, with no viable virus detected after only 4 hours.
Some examples of common paper products include:
- Paper money
- Letters and stationery
- Magazines and newspapers
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
The Lancet study found that no viable virus could be found on printing paper or tissue paper after 3 hours. However, the virus could be detected on paper money for up to 4 days.
Some examples of glass objects that we touch every day include:
- Screens for TVs, computers, and smartphones
The Lancet article found that no virus could be detected on glass surfaces after 4 days.
The wooden objects that we find in our homes are often things like tabletops, furniture, and shelving.
Researchers in the Lancet article found that viable virus from wood surfaces could not be detected after 2 days.
Some cardboard surfaces that you may come into contact with include objects like food packaging and shipping boxes.
The NEJM study found that no viable virus could be detected on cardboard after 24 hours.
What About Food?
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the general group of ‘coronaviruses’ generally survive poorly on food. It should be noted, however, that you should still be careful when handling food (obviously by washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds beforehand) as the food packaging could be contaminated.
In general, it is a good rule to wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water and use anti-bacterial wipes on plastic or glass food packaging items to be safe. As mentioned, you should always wash your hands when handling food. This includes:
- After handling and storing food
- Before and after prepping food
- Before eating
As the months have gone by there has been much confusion on what precautions are necessary and what precautions are questionable when it comes to cleaning and making sure that you are safe during this pandemic.
There are a few obvious and essential precautions that you should take to reduce your risk of catching or spreading coronavirus.
Wearing masks in public to protect everyone around you, physically distancing yourself from those not in your household, socialising outdoors and avoiding crowded indoor spaces are all examples of the precautions will help to keep the spread to a minimum.
What are these other precautions that may or may not be necessary? Do they help, or is it okay to proceed as normal in these situations?
Wearing gloves when running errands. It is true that a person can get infected if they touch a surface or object that has virus droplets or particles on it, then they touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. This is, however, not the main way the virus spreads as it is much more likely to spread through particles in the air. Wearing gloves, does not prevent the spread of infection, and could even make it more likely for you to touch your face.
What is more effective is washing your hands before you leave the house, using sanitiser when you are out (for example when entering shops), and then thoroughly washing your hands straight away for at least 20 seconds with soap and water when you get back home. You should also avoid touching anywhere on your face while you are out to prevent the spread of the virus.
Disinfecting groceries or takeout containers. It has been said that the risk if infection from food or food packaging is small. The CDC also advises against using disinfectant with harsh chemicals on items such as cardboard which can absorb them, as they are intended for hard surfaces.
If you are concerned about takeout containers, you can directly transfer your food from the container to your own plates or bowls. Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly and clean the counters if you are concerned after you have handled groceries or the takeout containers.
Leaving your mail for days before opening. Mail does not pose a risk to you in terms of infection. Some people think that leaving their mail aside for several days before opening it is necessary, however it makes more sense just to clean you hands after handling the mail or anything from the outside.
Inviting cleaners into the home. There are some who would prefer that professional cleaners come their home, either as a weekly job or especially during this time to make sure that the home is cleaned to a good standard.
If you do hire a professional cleaner, they will most likely wear a mask during their time at your home, they may ask that you leave the house while they clean or to go into another room and close the door. They may also open the windows to promote airflow, not only in terms of the virus but also because of their cleaning products and making sure that chemicals are in the air safely.
When talking about cleaning products that kill COVID-19, it is also important to mention how to keep safe. This is because certain products contain chemicals, especially disinfectants, that could cause a dangerous reaction. We have discussed the cleaning products that should not be mixed together, but there are other considerations to think about to stay safe.
- Always follow the instructions on the label
- Wear skin protection and consider eye protection for potential splash hazards
- Ensure adequate ventilation
- Use no more than the amount recommended on the label
- Use water at room temperature for dilution (unless stated otherwise on the label)
- Avoid mixing chemical products
- Label diluted cleaning solutions
- Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and pets
- Always wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
You should never eat, drink, breathe or inject these products into your body or apply directly to your skin as they can cause serious harm. Do not wipe or bathe pets with disinfectants or any other products that are not approved for animal use (cdc.gov).
What Should Be Cleaned
In general, you should aim to clean every surface in the home to keep everyone safe and prevent the spread of germs. There are, however, certain areas that need to be especially cleaned often, for example surfaces that are frequently used such as the kitchen counters.
There are areas in the home that you come in contact with regularly during day-to-day life that should be taken care of to ensure that germs are not spread around the house. The following are examples of the areas that are touched often:
- Door handles
- Appliance handles ex. Fridge, oven, and microwave handle
- Light switches
- Faucets and sinks
- Toilet flush
- Staircase railing
- Computer keyboard and mouse
- Handheld electronics and remotes ex. Games controller, TV remote, phones, tablets
- Kitchen surfaces
There are, of course, other surfaces and areas of the house that need to be cleaned often, especially during this uncertain time. Therefore, we must stress the importance of cleaning and using the right cleaning products that kill COVID-19.
Preventing Germs from Spreading
Focussing on the areas where germs are likely to spread is important to have a clean and safe home. The NHS have some general tips to follow to help prevent the spread of germs in your home in terms of the materials that you should be using and how they should be cleaned themselves.
Cloths and Sponges
- Use disposable cloths or paper towels when possible
- Reusable cloths should be disinfected or washed at 60C (140F) after each use
- Wash brushes in a dishwasher regularly or clean with detergent and warm water after each use
Mops and Buckets
- Use two buckets for mopping – one for detergent and the other for rinsing
- Mops and buckets should be cleaned and dried after each use
Products to Use
Similarly to when cleaning your hands, soap and water is one of the most effective methods to cleaning surfaces. According to Which.co.uk (2020), Dr Primrose Freestone, Associate Professor in Clinical Microbiology at the University of Leicester explains:
‘COVID-19 is an enveloped RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus, meaning that proteins and lipids are part of its structure.
Therefore, detergents by themselves – such as soap and even washing-up liquid – work very well at disrupting the virus structure by dissolving the lipids, which in turn inactivates the virus by stopping it binding to our cells.’
An alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol works in a similar way, dissolving lipids in the virus coating.
We’ve mentioned cleaning and disinfecting previously, the best way to make sure that germs are removed from the home to stop them from spreading is by using cleaning products that kill COVID-19, and then following up by disinfecting the surface.
There are many products in the store that are marked as antibacterial but will not work against a virus like COVID-19. They need to contain at least a 60% alcohol to protect against Coronavirus.
When buying disinfectant products such as sprays or wipes, then you will need to check it first to see if they work against viruses as well as bacteria. Normal household cleaners would have been perfectly fine to use pre-pandemic, however, to make sure that the house is safe from the virus and spread of the germs, it is crucial to check that they work against the virus.
Tips for Cleaning Different Surfaces
Here we are sharing the NHS tips to preventing germs from spreading on different surfaces or objects in the home. We have talked about the cleaning products that kill COVID-19, how they should be used (as per instructions), and how to make and use homemade cleaning products. Now, we are discussing the simple tips to follow to prevent the spread of germs which is particularly important during the fight against Coronavirus.
- Keep the U-bend and toilet bowl clean by flushing after each use
- Use a toilet cleaner and brush every few days
- Limescale should be regularly removed using a descaling product
- Keep the toilet seat, handle, and rim clean by using a disinfectant
Baths, sinks and showers
- Clean frequently, if they are used regularly
- Use disinfectant if they have been used by someone who is ill
- Ensure food-preparation surfaces are clean before use
- Use separate chopping boards for uncooked food – such as raw meat – and food that does not need cooking, like salad leaves
- Wash and dry your hands after handling foods such as raw meat
- Clean surfaces immediately after use
- Clean floors regularly with warm water and detergent to remove visible dirt
- If soiled, the floor should be cleaned using a disposable cloth and warm water, then disinfected – make sure the floor is dry before allowing children on it
Carpet and soft furnishings
- Steam cleaning is effective against germs on carpets and furnishings
- Curtains can be cleaned by laundering or disinfected by steam cleaning
- Follow cleaning instructions
- Consider buying wipeable covers
- 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
- Clean hard or plastic toys by washing them and putting them away once they are clean and dry
- Some soft toys can be cleaned in the washing machine
- Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry
- All underwear, towels and household linen should be washed at 60C (140F) or at 40C (104F) with a bleach-based laundry product to prevent germs from spreading
- Do not leave laundry in the washing machine – any remaining germs can multiply rapidly
- Foot-operated bins are more hygienic because they reduce the risk of getting germs onto your hands from touching the bin lid
- Always wash your hands after handling waste material
- Throw rubbish away carefully to avoid attracting vermin and insects
To summarise, to be safe when thinking about the cleaning products that kill COVID-19, it is good practice to clean and then disinfect. This means checking labels and instructions to make sure that they are effective against the virus and making sure that the instructions for use are followed.
We all want to stay safe during this time, and it starts by making sure that the products we buy are cleaning products that kill COVID-19. There are, however, ‘homemade’ options to consider when thinking about cleaning, but again they come with their own risks as you need to be aware of what is safe to mix and what is not.
Since we have covered all of this in this article, you can always refer back to us to check that the products you are using will be effective, how to use them, where to use them, and how to prevent germs from spreading in your home.