Coronavirus • 20 March, 2020

Many common household cleaning products can kill the coronavirus if you use them properly

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Disinfectant products need to be used properly to be most effective, health experts say, NBC reports.

Photo credit: CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

The coronavirus causing COVID-19 is a nasty bug, but like other members of the coronavirus family, it’s no match for good disinfecting products, health experts say.

“There are many bad things about the coronavirus, but there is one good thing: It is not very hardy,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an expert on infectious diseases and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. “It is easily destroyed by most disinfectants.”

Experts at Consumer Reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations have weighed in with advice on the products that can help protect us — and our homes — against the coronavirus.

“Regular cleaning with normal cleaning supplies does a great job of removing all kinds of germs, not just coronavirus, from surfaces,” said Catherine Roberts, associate health editor at Consumer Reports. “Focus on high-touch areas — that’s faucet handles, doorknobs, stair rails and countertops — the things that you have your hands on all the time.”

Best practice is to disinfect these surfaces several times a day. Roberts suggests making a checklist of all the places you want to clean, so you don’t forget any of them. But commercial disinfecting products contain “pretty serious chemicals,” she warned. “They're actually EPA registered pesticides, so as much as you can, try to use them when kids are not around because they can trigger asthma.”

The demand for disinfecting wipes may be outstripping supply right now, but there are many other products you can use. In fact, you may already have some of them at home.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of those that meet its criteria for use against the novel coronavirus. The CDC website also has recommendations for households with suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases.

Here’s what you need to know about what will and won’t work against the coronavirus — according to experts.

Soap and water

It’s not fancy, but soap and water work. The soap removes the viral particles that have attached themselves to surfaces — whether it’s your hands, face or countertops — and suspends them in the water, so they can be washed away.

Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and a member of the American Chemical Society, said most of the cleaning products we call soap are actually detergents that not only remove the germs from surfaces, but also kill them.

“The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside — DNA or RNA — is what actually causes the disease. It's kind of like the casing on a bomb or torpedo,” Sachleben explained. “For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergent break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.”

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