The world is home to an estimated 10 nonillion individual viruses. That’s 10, followed by 30 zeroes. Of these viruses, though, only 200+ have exhibited the ability to infect humans.
The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is a perfect example of such highly infectious pathogens. The fact that there are now over 108.57 million confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of February 15, 2021) proves this. Of these, more than 48 million cases are in the Americas alone.
That’s why keeping the house clean and disinfected at all times should still be a top priority. Proper cleaning and disinfecting methods can kill COVID-19 and many other germs, too.
To that end, we created this guide on how to clean and disinfect your home to help keep COVID-19 at bay. Read on to discover how to reduce coronavirus exposure (and transmission) at home.
Importance of Keeping the House Clean (Even After Vaccination)
Kenneth Chien, a professor of cardiovascular research, reminded everyone about COVID-19 virus mutations. According to him, only some vaccines provide adequate protection against these evolved strains. Of these variants, the ones from the UK and South Africa have some of the highest transmission rates.
Now, keep in mind that the more transmissible a virus is, the faster it can spread. This doesn’t mean they’re deadlier, but they can still cause more serious infections. What’s more, they can evolve further, which is why there are now 12,000 known mutations of the COVID-19 virus.
Keep in mind, too, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain active on plastic and stainless steel for up to six days. A more recent study found that it can even survive longer in the dark, at a temperature range of 68 °Fahrenheit. In this case, the pathogen can live up to 28 days on surfaces like mobile phone screens, banknotes, and glass.
So, if your phone picks up the virus somewhere, the pathogen may get into your home via your smartphone. It can then spread onto anything that comes into contact with your phone. It can stay active on those surfaces for days unless you clean and disinfect them.
All that should be reason enough to clean and disinfect your home even after you get vaccinated.
COVID-19 Cleaning Practices that Get the Job Done Right
You should always clean your home first before you disinfect it. Cleaning means removing physical dirt, debris, grime, and contaminants. You can wash most high-contact surfaces with regular soap and water.
While cleaning won’t always eradicate germs, it helps reduce their populations. The fewer pathogens there are on a surface, the fewer chances they have of reproducing. This, in turn, helps reduce their ability to spread and infect more people.
Cleaning also helps disinfectants maintain their potency and effectiveness. Experts say that physical contaminants, like dirt and debris, compromise the disinfection process. These particles can impair the effectiveness of the disinfectants’ active ingredients.
A good guideline to follow is to rinse surfaces first, clean them with soap and water, and rinse them again. You can then wipe them dry before you apply disinfectant products. As always, be sure to follow the disinfectant’s directions to a T.
It’s also wise to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces as often as possible. These include doorknobs, water fixtures, light switches, handles, desks, and countertops. Do the same with your electronics, phones, tablets, computer keyboards, and screens.
Before you clean and disinfect gadgets, be sure to check for manufacturer guidelines. An example is Apple, which rolled out a guide on how to clean Apple products. If you can’t find any info specific to your brand, you may follow Apple’s tips for similar devices.
Proper (and Safe) Disinfection Strategies for Your Home
The EPA expects all List N products to be effective against COVID-19, so long as used as per their directions. Failure to follow the instructions on their label can make them ineffective. It’s especially imperative to follow a product’s specified “contact time.”
Contact time, or “wet time,” refers to how long a disinfectant has to stay wet on a surface for it to be effective. This can be as short as 15 seconds to one minute, or as long as 15 to 30 minutes (or more).
So, if a product’s wet time is 10 minutes, make sure you let it sit on the surface for no less than 10 minutes.
Only Use Disinfectants Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA subjects disinfectants under more rigorous tests compared to sanitizers. Those that pass these stringent procedures then make it to the EPA’s List N of disinfectants. These are the only products with approved virus claims, such as against COVID-19.
This means that List N products should be effective in killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Products not in this list don’t meet the meet EPA’s use criteria for COVID-19.
Here’s a quick look at some of the common disinfectants for use against coronaviruses.
Also known as “QUATs,” these products can kill some bacterial, viral, and fungal species. The ones on the EPA N List, such as some Lysol products, are effective against COVID-19. Most of these use only Quaternary Ammonia as their primary or sole active ingredient.
Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in most household bleach products. List N products contain a solution of 2% to 10% sodium hypochlorite. Some of them can also destroy other viruses, like Hepatitis A and norovirus.
Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) with a 70% concentration can kill the flu virus. However, most EPA List N ethanol products use other ingredients such as phenols or QUATs. This makes them effective against germs that are harder to kill than COVID-19.
Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) is a common ingredient in wet wipes and household cleaners. The EPA-listed ones also use other disinfectants, such as QUATs. They are effective against coronaviruses, but some can even kill rotaviruses or rhinoviruses.
Hydrogen peroxide kills germs by destroys their cells. In doing so, this substance deactivates many species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Scientists also say it can inactivate flu viruses.
EPA List N hydrogen peroxide products include all-purpose cleaners, sprays, and disinfectant wipes.
Clean and Disinfect Daily to Lower SARS-CoV-2 Risks
Keeping the house clean has always been paramount, even before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. However, COVID-19’s emergence has made proper cleaning and disinfection even more important. So, as much as possible, clean and disinfect the high-contact areas of your home as often as you can.
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