How to Clean for Coronavirus
Whether you’re someone who keeps a spotless home as a rule, or someone who’s become newly converted to the practice in light of the novel coronavirus, our family practice doctors at Cohen Medical Associates want to share with you the best cleaning methods to help keep SARS-Cov-2 out of your home.
How to clean
To thoroughly decontaminate a surface, it is necessary to employ a two-pronged approach:
a) removing the virus, and,
b) deactivating the virus through the use of disinfectants. (We resist using the word “kill” in connection with SARS-CoV-2, because technically the virus isn’t alive in the traditional sense. It contains no DNA, only RNA, it cannot reproduce outside a host body, and it doesn’t eat, grow, or breathe. The medical term for breaking apart a viral particle is to “denature” it.)
Experts recommend that you clean in that order: remove first, then disinfect.
Removing the virus
Just as when you wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, you can use any cleaning product to remove the coronavirus from surfaces. Any type of detergent—even hand soap—will release the viral particles from a surface and allow them to be rinsed away.
“Regular cleaning with normal cleaning supplies does a great job of removing all kinds of germs, not just coronavirus, from surfaces,” Catherine Roberts, associate health editor at Consumer Reports, told NBC News.
Deactivating the virus
After cleaning, you’ll want to use disinfectants to deactivate any remaining trace of the virus. The SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus comprises three parts:
- the outer spikes which it uses to attach to a host’s cell walls,
- a protective coat of protein,
- and the disease-causing RNA contained within.
To denature—that is, deactivate—the coronavirus, you can use disinfectants to break down the protein shell of any virions (virus particles) remaining after a surface cleaning, which renders the virions inert.
What to use
“There are many bad things about the coronavirus, but there is one good thing: It is not very hardy,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an expert on infectious diseases, told NBC News. “It is easily destroyed by most disinfectants.” Swartzberg is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains an updated list of EPA-registered disinfectant products here that can be used on surfaces (not on humans or animals). Because these are chemical products, be sure to follow the label directions carefully.
The next most useful product to deactivate SARS-Cov-2 is bleach—on surfaces only, never on the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using gloves when using bleach, and reminds people never to mix it with anything but water, and to be sure to test it first on any surface you plan to use it on.
The CDC-recommended bleach solution is five tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach to one gallon of water, or four teaspoons to one quart of water. Such a solution will become ineffective in about 24 hours, so you must make a new batch every day.
Other products that will work effectively are undiluted rubbing alcohol (a 70 percent solution) or hydrogen peroxide (a three percent solution). Don’t, however, depend on lemon juice, vinegar, or vodka to deactivate SARS-CoV-2, because they won’t work to break down the virus’ protein layer, which is the goal for disinfecting.
What to clean
Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after returning home from any required outings.
Clean your face mask after each use. Place it in a bag until it can be washed with detergent and hot water, and dried on the dryer’s highest setting.
Clean any high-touch surfaces in your house, e.g., light switches, hard-backed chairs, desks, doorknobs, handles, tables, faucets, sinks, and toilets. Remember to clean high-touch surfaces in your car (door handles, steering wheel, gear shift, buttons, etc.) with soap and water only (stronger cleaning products can damage the surfaces).
Clean high-touch electronics such as smartphones and remote controls in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. You can also power down your device and wipe it with a disinfecting wipe containing at least 70 percent alcohol. Do not allow any moisture to enter the shell. Or consider using wipeable covers for such items.
And remember: Our offices will be open beginning next Monday, May 18th for those patients who require in-office visits. Rest assured, we will be providing the safest possible environment for our patients and staff, with strict safety protocols in place.
For those who prefer an in-home option, we will continue to conduct Telehealth visits.