Protecting yourself during cold and flu season has always been a struggle. You need to manage your interactions with other people, your own hygiene and also maintain a clean environment in your home. With the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, many people have found their at-home sanitization methods lacking.
COVID-19 is a virus that can live on many different surfaces, possibly for hours. If you want to lower your infection chances, you will need to keep your home clean and sanitize frequently-used surfaces.
Keep surfaces clean
The first step towards reducing the appearance of COVID-19 or any other virus in your home is to clean visibly dirty surfaces. Disinfection methods are much less effective when dirt and debris are in the way. You should clean the surface with appropriate soap and water until it appears clean before disinfecting.
“Killing” a virus
Viruses exist in a strange sort of in between where they are not fully inanimate but also don’t quite fulfill the requirements of being a living organism. So when we talk about killing viruses, what we’re aiming to do is render them inert. Oftentimes a “killed” virus will still exist and try to latch onto healthy cells, but will be unable to do so for whatever reason (missing DNA, a disrupted outer membrane, etc.).
Fortunately, the COVID-19 virus is one of the easier viruses to disrupt in this way. Due to its outer membrane, the coronavirus can be rendered unable to multiply by many cleaning products like hand sanitizer.
That said, it is important to note that not all cleaners or sanitization methods will affect a virus the same way they would bacteria.
At home cleaners
If you’re having trouble finding alcohol-based sanitizing materials like hand sanitizer and the like, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there’s no need to panic. There are ways to mix up your own cleaning materials at home to keep your environment as clean as possible.
A diluted bleach solution is recommended by the CDC as effective against coronavirus. One-third cup of bleach for every gallon of water is an appropriate mixture. Avoid using too much bleach. More is not better in this case. You will not kill more of the virus by doing this and you are only risking your own health.
Also avoid mixing bleach with anything other than water. When mixed with ammonia or some other chemicals, bleach becomes highly toxic.
Many people swear by cleaning with vinegar, as well. Solutions of vinegar and water have been popular cleaners (especially for glass surfaces) for many years. However, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that any form of vinegar is effective against the coronavirus.
Most studies involving vinegar have required long exposure times (up to half an hour or more) and have had mixed results. While cleaning with vinegar may be better than nothing, you should not convince yourself that your home is sanitary if vinegar is all you have.
If you do choose to mix a vinegar solution, try to use white vinegar because it is the most acidic. The ratio is 1:1 with water.
Standard rubbing alcohol of 70 percent is effective in taking care of the coronavirus. You’ve probably seen some of the hand sanitizer recipes going around. Note that if you are mixing the rubbing alcohol with something to create a new cleaner or hand sanitizer, this will dilute the concentration, possibly rendering the alcohol ineffective. (Most hand sanitizer recipes call for a percentage of 90 or higher.)
Instructions for sanitizing surfaces
Remember that sanitizating is not the same as cleaning. “Looking” clean does not mean that a surface is free from viruses or bacteria, as these microbes are too small to see.
- Avoid “drying” surfaces – A surface is only as sanitary as the last thing to touch it. By rubbing a dry towel over a sanitized surface, you are only inviting germs from the towel to make the leap back onto the surface. Allow surfaces to air dry if possible.
- Cover surfaces completely – Any area you miss is an area where viruses and bacteria will remain. A cursory swipe with a disinfecting wipe will do you little good, and the same goes for skimping on hand sanitizer. Always cover areas completely.
- Use disposable gloves – Gloves can carry germs just like your hands. Use disposable gloves while cleaning or properly sanitize your gloves after each use using disinfectant or boiling water.
The EPA keeps a list of registered antimicrobial products that are effective against COVID-19. Take the time to look over it and see if any of the mentioned products are still available in your area. Many of these products contain bleach.
For further sanitization advice, consult a trusted source, like the CDC.