Now that we know coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for several days, it’s become all the more important to keep our home and surroundings clean. But, “clean” doesn’t necessitate contaminating our homes with carcinogenic chemicals and known toxins. We can make effective disinfectants ourselves, at home, with products that may already be around the house.
To be up front about this situation, however, it’s important to note that the EPA has endorsed some brand name products, specifically from Clorox and Lysol, but it hasn’t endorsed other (often natural) cleaners, such as vinegar. While these disinfectants have been used for eons, they have not been reviewed by the agency, which is also to say that, while not endorsed, their effectiveness has not been disproven.
Truth be told, Clorox and Lysol do include coronavirus on their list of 99.9% germs killed, but no actual study has been conducted to show their effectiveness against COVID-19. According to Dr. Sharma, of the Yuma Regional Medical Center, past coronaviruses, like SARS, were destroyed by regular home disinfectants and detergents.
With all of that in mind, for those wanting to make their own disinfectants at home, there are some options, both naturally and chemically derived, but all of which use basic products we might already have in the utility room or medicine cabinet. In the end, a trip to the store to buy a certain disinfectant would likely put us much more at risk than staying home and making one with what we’ve got.
Which Surfaces Are Troublesome?
Essentially, we’ve learned that coronavirus can survive out of a host in a plethora of circumstance. In the right conditions, such as a stuffy, poorly ventilated room, it can linger in the air for several hours. It can last a day on cardboard (and presumably paper), so all those packages and all that mail requires caution. On hard surfaces, like plastic and metal, it can last for a few days, so these surfaces especially require frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Some problematic surfaces we might not automatically gravitate towards include commonly handled items like door knobs, light switches and chair backs. We should also remember to regularly disinfect personal items such as phones, remotes and laptop keyboards.
Technically, a cleaner is not a disinfectant but rather an agent to remove dirt and grime, not necessarily germs. However, in order to properly disinfect a surface, it should first be cleaned. This is an important step in the process as no product, EPA recommended or otherwise, can sanitize a dirty surface.
- Soap and Water: Due to the coronavirus being an “enveloped virus,” i.e. encased in a lipid barrier, soap is one of the most effective cleaners at extinguishing it. Soaps break down that lipid barrier so that it can’t survive. Also of note: Anti-bacterial soaps are not proven to be any better than regular soap.
- Vinegar and Water: Vinegar is a common natural, DIY household cleaner with anti-bacterial properties, and it’s very good at removing scum, crud, and similarly offensive stuff from countertops, bathroom tiles and other surfaces. Though often used to sanitize spaces, it is anti-bacterial, not anti-viral.
FYI, cloth surfaces can be sufficiently cleaned and disinfected with normal (and natural) detergents. Of course, like with washing our hands, clothing, sheets, towels, and so on are lathered up for the necessary 20 seconds or more in this process.
Once a surface has been cleaned, it should then be disinfected with something known/believed to destroy the coronavirus. As well, it’s vital to leave the disinfectant on for an adequate amount of time, else we are simply sanitizing as opposed to fully disinfecting.
- Isopropyl/Methyl Alcohol: 70% alcohol is cited as the disinfectant to use for the situation, both on our hands and surfaces. It’s strong enough to kill the virus but not so pure that it’ll evaporate prior to getting the job done. The alcohol should remain on the surface for no less than 30 seconds. Vodka and other alcoholic drinks cannot be substituted for this!
- Bleach: It’s harsh and can ultimately be bad for our health, particularly the respiratory system, but sometimes life calls for such things. The CDC recommends a mixture 1/3 cup of bleach to a gallon of water (4 tsp to a quart) for a functional disinfectant that is relatively safe. This should remain on the surface for five minutes.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Typically sold as a 3% solution, this concentration is in fact exactly what we want. At 3%, hydrogen peroxide can be sprayed or applied to surfaces as is. It should be allowed a full minute to do its thing. You can make your own DIY Disinfectant Spray with this formula.
It’s is very important to recognize that mixing these disinfectants (and other disinfectant products) can result in the formation of dangerous gases. Do not mix bleach and vinegar, bleach and ammonia, bleach and alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, to name but a few. Choose a safe cleaning regiment and stick with it.
Stay at Home
Ultimately, the extent to which we must go to properly disinfect our homes is yet another obvious sign that we should simply quarantine (and, in fact, steer clear of bringing new things into our home), avoiding the potential exposure to coronavirus.
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