Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that may have the Covid-19 coronavirus sounds easy, right? Just keep repeating the phrase, “don’t inject the disinfectant into my body, don’t inject the disinfectant into my body,” and everything is straightforward, correct? Well, not exactly. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has heightened the need for good disinfecting practices. You can still make mistakes while trying to disinfect high-touch surfaces such as the statues in your Kanye West shrine.
So keep in the mind the following:
1. Clean before disinfecting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website explains the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is when you remove dirty or unwanted stuff from a surface. By contrast, disinfecting means using chemicals to inactivate or kill germs such as viruses. When you jump into the shower, you are actually cleaning your body and not disinfecting yourself, at least you shouldn’t be.
Cleaning typically should come before disinfecting. If you do the latter first, the chemicals may not even reach the surface that has the germs. It can be like showering with your clothes on and then taking your clothes off after you are finished. Instead, try to wipe away first the dust, grime, and six-inch layer of mud that is on your table before using disinfectants.
2. Use disinfectants approved or recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for SARS-CoV2.
Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially approved two Lysol products, Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist, for use against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) disinfecting surface. These are the first two products to receive such a designation.
The designation came because there is direct scientific evidence that these two products manufactured by RB can kill the virus. A press release from RB, which stands for Reckitt Benckiser and not Arby’s, mentioned a study that they had commissioned. As detailed in a letter published in the American Journal of Infection Control, this study tested how well various ingredients in Lysol products worked against the Covid-19 coronavirus. All of the tested components, which included ethyl alcohol, para-chloro-meta-xylenol, salicylic acid, and quaternary ammonium compounds, inactivated the SARS-Cov2 within five minutes of being in contact with the virus.
These two Lysol products are a step above the over 400 disinfectant products on the so-called List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). This list was initiated near the beginning of the pandemic when the White House was still scrambling to figure out what to do about the Covid-19 coronavirus, as opposed to now, when the White House seems to be scrambling to figure out what to do.
Since the EPA at the time couldn’t wait for disinfectants to be tested specifically against the Covid-19 coronavirus, they assembled this list of products that presumably work against the SARS-CoV2. This has included products that have proven to be effective against viruses that are seemingly “harder to kill” than the Covid-19 coronavirus. Seemingly “harder to kill” may sound a bit like a 2020 Steven Seagal movie sequel but is an apt description for many gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus. Unlike the SARS-CoV2 which is just surrounded by lipid envelope, norovirus has a much sturdier protein shell that can protect it against many cleaning products.
List N also has included products that could inactivate types of human coronavirus that are similar to but not the same as the SARS-CoV-2. If you can’t use the two aforementioned Lysol products, any of the products on List N should probably be fine.
What you shouldn’t do is compromise and use a disinfectant that’s not on List N. Since the beginning of the pandemic, finding appropriate disinfectants has often been as hard to find as true love, the Yeti, and toilet paper, not necessarily in that order. Store shelves may still be bare except for products that don’t appear on List N. So it may be tempting to home with something. But that means that you may risk using a disinfectant that doesn’t work against the SARS-CoV2
.3. Do not mix different cleaning and disinfecting chemicals together.
This is not chemistry class or Hell’s Kitchen. Mixing stuff like bleach and ammonia can cause bad reactions such as generating toxic gasses. Killing yourself this way may prevent a Covid-19 coronavirus infection but sort of has its drawbacks.
4. Follow the directions on the disinfectant packaging. Do not inject or ingest disinfectants.
Regardless of what you may hear from other sources, such as, oh maybe, a White House press conference, don’t put disinfectant on or in you. Recall that Lysol had to issue following tweet, back on April 24:
5. Protect your skin and potentially your eyes.
In a similar vein (which, by the way, is not where disinfectants are supposed to go), protect your skin, eyes, and other mucous membranes as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear a Darth Vader’s outfit while cleaning, but gloves and maybe even goggles are worthwhile. Use disposable gloves if possible, and dispose of them after a single use. Don’t use gloves that are not designed for cleaning like a baseball glove. If you must use reusable gloves, make sure that they can be re-used and clean them thoroughly after use. Otherwise, it can be a bit like re-using toilet paper, which you don’t want to do.
6. Use the recommended amount of disinfectant and no more.
Disinfectants are not like chocolate. More is not necessarily better. Too much disinfectant can damage the surface or leave a toxic residue. For example, make sure that you dilute bleach appropriately per instructions before using it.
7. Don’t miss areas such as corners or connectors. Leave the disinfectant on the surface for the recommended length of time.
Be systematic in cleaning and disinfecting a surface so that you get all of it. Don’t wipe off the disinfectant too hastily too. Follow the instructions. The disinfectant has to remain on the surface long enough to do its thing.
8. Make sure there is adequate ventilation.
Passing out while cleaning is not a good look.
9. Properly dispose of or store cleaning materials.
Remember these can be toxic.
10. Don’t disinfect everything.
Be careful with porous items like clothes or anything that may go into your mouth or on your body. Launder your clothes rather than spray disinfectant on them. There’s no need to add another possible cause for that burning sensation on your genitals. I wrote for Forbes back in early June that you shouldn’t put bleach or other disinfectants on your food. This has not changed since then. And it won’t change tomorrow or the next day.
In general, follow the directions on the disinfectant packaging and container. Don’t use a product on a soft, porous material that is supposed to be only used for hard, non-porous materials. Take precautions to minimize your exposure to disinfectants. After all, you are not the same as the Kanye West figurine in your bathroom.