COVID-19: Disinfectants

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Both at home and at work everyone is getting used to disinfecting wherever we go. But not all disinfectants are equally effective against coronavirus. Additionally, they must be used properly to kill the virus.

Coronavirus lives on surfaces for varying lengths of time. The following list can offer guidance:

Cardboard:  24 hours
Plastic:   72 hours
Stainless Steel:  72 hours

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of more than 350 disinfectants that can kill coronavirus. Click here for the full list:

Some of the more common products are:

Even when the right product is chosen, it must be used properly.

The EPA offers guidance on “contact time” or how long the cleaning product has to stay on a surface to kill the virus. The surface should be visibly wet for the length of contact time. Contact time can range from pretty much right away to up to 30 minutes, though many products require 10 minutes.

If you do not have access to any of the EPA-approved products, diluted bleach can be used. Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:

Contact time for this use is 10 minutes.

It is important to follow instructions and dilute the bleach properly.

Do not mix bleach with any other products, especially those containing ammonia. It can create a poisonous gas!

For clothing and other porous or “soft” items, launder in the hottest water possible according to the manufacturers’ instructions and make sure the items are dried completely. Do not shake them out before putting them into the laundry.

For electronics like phones or tablets, follow manufacturers’ instructions. If there are no instructions, use an alcohol based spray or wipe with at least 70% alcohol. Dry them off to ensure none of the liquid pools.

Note: This list is for surface disinfectants only. Hand sanitizers are not regulated by EPA so they are not included. Remember that using soap and water for handwashing is most effective. Thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday or Solidarity Forever twice).

When soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Avoid hand sanitizers that are alcohol free, no matter what claims they make about killing germs. They haven’t been tested against coronavirus.