COVID-19 – Cleaning vs. Disinfecting
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information online, so we put together this post to help you safely clean and disinfect your home.
What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?
It’s important to note that cleaning a surface, such as removing dirt and particles, is not the same thing as disinfecting a surface that kills viruses and bacteria.
Often, you need to clean a surface with soap and water or another cleaning solution BEFORE you can effectively disinfect the surface.
For example, if you bake cookies and your kitchen counter is covered in flour, sugar, egg, and other ingredients from your baking adventure, you will want to wipe down the surface with a soapy solution to remove the visible dirt. Then you can use a bleach solution on the non-porous countertop to disinfect the countertop from any lingering germs left behind.
The same goes for any surface that may have been in contact with someone who was ill. You will want to wear gloves to clean away any dirt on the surface then use a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended disinfectant to decontaminate the area.
What’s a disinfectant product?
There are many products you can use to superficially clean hard surfaces, such as warm, soapy water, vinegar water solution sprays, or even essential oil solution sprays. However, those products have NOT been scientifically proven to effectively disinfect a surface from contaminants such as the coronavirus, influenza, norovirus, etc.
It’s essential to pay attention to the active ingredients in your cleaning products. Below are common active ingredients found in the CDC and EPA recommended disinfectant cleaning products that can kill many viruses and bacteria:
- Ethanol alcohol (60%-90%)*
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Isopropyl alcohol (60%-90%)
- Quaternary Ammonium
- Sodium hypochlorite
The above is NOT an inclusive list, but it can help guide you as you look for products. You can view the all-inclusive list on the EPA’s website.
*Note: alcohol for human consumption is not an effective disinfectant
How do I properly clean clothing, sheets, and more?
The CDC recommends washing clothing, towels, bedding, and more with laundry detergent at the highest heat recommended by the product manufacturer.
There are no specific products needed to clean cloth other than detergent and a washing machine.
However, if you are washing the clothing, towels, and bedding of an ill person, it’s recommended that you wear disposable gloves while handling the pre-washed materials and then dispose of the gloves and wash your hands with soap and water.
Top areas of the home to disinfect
It’s important to disinfect your home and to regularly launder your bedding, towels, and clothing to help prevent the spread of diseases.
Key areas you come into contact with numerous times a day should be regularly disinfected these include but are not limited to:
- Light switches
- Remote controls
- Backs of chairs
Do I need to follow the directions?
Following the directions listed on the cleaning product or outlined by the CDC is critical to successfully disinfecting an area.
If you do not follow the directions carefully, especially when mixing the ingredient quantities and waiting for the solution to work, you may not disinfect the area.
Adding more of an ingredient or product than recommended can damage surfaces or have other negative consequences and should be avoided.
Always follow recommended safety protocols such as wearing gloves and avoiding contact with your eyes. You can hurt yourself or others if you do not follow the directions and safety protocols.
Do products expire, and how do I store them?
Many ingredients found in disinfectant cleaning products expire and degrade over time, especially if they are improperly stored.
Before using any disinfectant or making a disinfectant solution, make sure the ingredients have not expired by checking for an expiration date and/or reading the label to see if the manufacture included “best used by” information on the label.
Before you store any cleaning product, read the label to ensure you’re storing it in the recommended condition, this will include providing the optimal room temperature and typically requires a product to avoid exposure to direct sunlight.
A word of caution
Mixing cleaning product ingredients is dangerous and can produce hazardous reactions and/or toxic gases.
Cleaning product ingredients should never be mixed unless recommended by the manufacturer or the CDC.
Below is a list of everyday cleaning products that when mixed, can cause dangerous reactions and/or toxic gases:
- Bleach and Vinegar
- Bleach and Ammonia
- Bleach and Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Bleach and Rubbing Alcohol
- Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar
Again, this is NOT inclusive, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s or CDC’s recommendations before combining any chemical cleaning ingredient or product.
The good news.
Properly disinfecting our homes and commonly touched objects helps prevent the spread of all contagious diseases, including COVID-19.
By implementing these best practices into our daily routines, we can build habits that won’t just help lessen the outbreak today but can help reduce the spread of other seasonal diseases as we look to the future.
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