COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has been sweeping the globe since it was first identified in China in 2019. As of late March 2020, the United States has become the new epicenter, with the highest number of identified infections in the world. COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, such as those contained in a cough or a sneeze, but it can also live on surfaces for up to three days. Most commercial disinfectants will kill the virus, but panic buying and hoarding mean that they can be nearly impossible to find in stores. Here are some alternatives to keep you and your home germ free.
What Is COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus is a member of the coronavirus family, which also includes infections ranging from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). It is highly contagious, with each infected person transmitting the virus to 2 or 3 others. For reasons that are not fully understood, some people are “super spreaders,” infecting dozens of other people.
Fortunately, COVID-19 is also remarkably easy to kill. Washing your hands for 20 seconds or applying a hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol content is all it takes to keep your hands germ free. Surface cleaners follow a similar principle – inactivating the virus and scrubbing it away.
How Do Cleaning Products Kill the Virus?
Like many, though not all, viruses, the novel coronavirus has a relatively fragile external membrane. Disrupting the membrane inactivates the virus, while scrubbing wipes it away. The EPA has released a long list of commercial disinfectants that are known to work against COVID-19. They also happen to be common products that work against other coronavirus strains. But they may be impossible to find on store shelves today.
Alternatives to Commercial Disinfectants
Thankfully, commercial disinfectants are not necessary to kill the COVID-19 virus. Here are some do it yourself options to keep your home clean and safe:
Hydrogen peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is a simple blend of hydrogen and oxygen with a wide range of applications. You can use it straight, with no dilution, as a household cleaner. Be careful of fabrics, though, as it may cause discoloration.
Bleach solution: If you can get your hands on standard chlorine bleach, you can water it down for use around the house. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends 1/3 cup bleach to a gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach to a quart of water. Bleach is highly caustic, so be sure to wear gloves and open a window. It can damage paint and corrode metal over time, so rinse well.
Alcohol: Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or ethyl (drinking) alcohol will kill the virus. For surface cleaning, make sure you use a solution that is at least 70% alcohol (140 proof).
Soap and water: Just like your hands, you can remove the virus from surfaces with plain soap and water. Scrub for 20 seconds and rinse well.