As schools and workplaces around the country make attempts to re-open in the coming months, we’ll all be looking once again for ways to keep our environments For people looking to clean surfaces in their home, a number of Lysol products have been touted as “able to kill the virus” — but what can you buy when you can’t get those ready-to-use virus killing consumer products?
SheKnows spoke with Gwen Murphy, Director of Epidemiology at LetsGetChecked, to get a better understanding of different cleaning options for families as we move into this next stage of the pandemic and the role hygiene and disinfecting plays in keeping everyone safe and healthy.
What should you clean with?
By now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named a number of cleaners that kill novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on surfaces — including recommendations for ready-to-use products (and particularly certain Lysol products) that are flying off the shelves as soon as they’re stocked. While these EPA-approved options are solid choices when you can get your hands on them, Murphy notes that consumers don’t need to freak out if you can’t get the exact listed products in each agency press release.
“The CDC has advised that we have no documented evidence of people becoming infected after contact with a contaminated surface. With that said, of course, regular cleaning is recommended,” Murphy said. “For disinfection any standard household detergent should be effective, once you follow the relevant instructions.”
So you do not need to bust down doors, hoard supplies or act like a Toys ‘R’ Us Cabbage Patch Kid rioter in 1983 over the last bottle of Lysol. Take a deep breath and consider alternatives — including safe DIYs.
“The CDC advises that you can prepare your own bleach solution for disinfecting surfaces by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water,” Murphy says. “As always you should wear gloves and avoid splashes, and keep the solution out of the way of children and pets.”
Per the CDC: “Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection and has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5 percent – 6 percent. Ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Some bleaches, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing or for whitening, may not be suitable for disinfection. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Leave solution on the surface for at least one minute.”
Otherwise, your biggest responsibility is to try and understand what experts currently know about the virus
“I think the most important thing for consumers to realize is that by far the biggest risk of infection is direct contact with someone who has Coronavirus,” Murphy says.
So, of course, this is a review of a lot of what we already know: staying home and away from other people outside your household is the best way to reduce your risk of catching the virus. Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough and shortness of breath) and being mindful of situations where household members can potentially be exposed is part of that framework too.
“All of us need to be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 to help us prevent the spread of infection. Within our homes, we should clean and disinfect any surfaces that we touch a lot (phones/tablets, tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, keyboards, handles, toilets, sinks etc),” Murphy adds. “If someone in your house is sick and self-isolating they should stay in one room, as much as possible, and away from everyone else, as the CDC recommends. This can obviously be very difficult to achieve, but it is important that we try and prevent everyone in the household getting sick.”
So cleaning surfaces is important in some ways as an added way of making sure any germs from the face (eyes, nose, mouth) are under control. Without verging into the territory of “Hygiene theater” (which the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson used to describe the way people are performing the hyper-vigilance — wiping down groceries, cloroxing everything, etc. — instead of just doing the more inconvenient, difficult work of staying home and staying apart), a good cleaning routine can still play an important role in your household.
“There are lots of misconceptions about COVID-19 generally, but the good thing is, we can all play a part in managing the pandemic! Our most effective tools are distancing, hand washing and good hygiene practices (such as coughing into your elbow, or using a tissues and disposing of it immediately)…these are all things that we can do everyday,” Murphy says. “We should all be cleaning the surfaces in our home that we touch a lot with regular household cleaning products. We need to wash our hands frequently, particularly when coming home from being outside, running errands etc: make handwashing your first step when you come in.”
But, in the end, the most important responsibility we have is to guide our families according to the advice of medical experts (when we’re in the position to do so) by staying home and focus on what the science is telling us — even if it’s aggressively un-fun and the real fix is less sexy than blasting the virus away with a bleach mixture and spray bottle.
“We’re all going through this together and we’ve seen nothing like it in our lifetime, so it’s frightening,” Murphy says. “I want my kids to know the power they have in cleaning their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes, staying home when they are sick and following the advice of the public health department. We need ‘fewer faces in bigger spaces,’ so if you are organizing playdates, keep them outdoors. If you arrive somewhere and you can’t maintain a 6 foot distance between your household and other people, you should leave — it is inconvenient but it will keep us all safe.”
Before you go, check out all of the cloth face masks available online in the gallery below: