Before you worry yourself sick over the coronavirus outbreak, know that there are plenty of precautions you can take to keep yourself (and your loved ones) healthy, including vigilantly cleaning surfaces in your home and workplace.
Clorox and Lysol labels have always listed human coronavirus as one of the "99.9 percent of germs" the products can remove from surfaces, and while there are a still a lot of lingering questions about this new strain, there's reason to believe that household cleaning agents can help keep you safe. "The majority of the virus cannot survive outside of the host animal or human body, except few which can survive for a slightly longer time on a contaminated surface," Ashish Sharma, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at Yuma Regional Medical Centre in Arizona, told POPSUGAR.
"Cleaning all 'high-touch surfaces' is an important and essential step to prevent transmission," Dr. Sharma continued. "The new coronavirus is an enveloped virus and is thought to be easily killed by disinfectant and cleaning products, though there is no test or report out yet for any particular product. But based on past data on other coronaviruses such as SARS, and according to information available at this time, general household detergent and disinfectant should be sufficient for cleaning surface to prevent transmission."
Still have questions? We did, too — keep reading for more details on your go-to cleaning products.
Does Soap and Water Kill Coronavirus?
Yes. "The best prevention method is washing hands with soap," Dr. Sharma said. Remember that term, "enveloped virus" from a moment ago? The lipid barrier that wraps the virus is broken down by soap. "Lather up soap for at least 20 seconds and scrub your hands well," he said. "Rinse hands with clean running water. After washing, dry your hands with a clean paper towel." It's important that you avoid recontamination by using a paper towel to turn off the sink and open the door, particularly if you're in a public restroom. Find more hand washing best practices here.
Does Alcohol Kill Coronavirus?
Yes, Dr. Sharma explained, "if [it is] used as disinfectant on a contaminated surface." The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns against dousing yourself from head to toe with alcohol — the chief ingredient in hand sanitizer — or chlorine, since they can be harmful to the eyes, mouth, and more.
Does Hand Sanitiser Kill Coronavirus?
As mentioned, alcohol is typically the active ingredient in hand sanitiser, and at a 60 percent or higher concentration, it should in theory help kill the virus. WHO recommends that you "frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water" to protect yourself against coronavirus, though experts stress that good old-fashioned hand washing should always be your first line of defence.
"In general, viruses tend to be much more resistant to disinfection than bacteria," Sandra Kesh, MD, deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, NY, told POPSUGAR. She noted that how you use hand sanitiser impacts the efficacy of your war on coronavirus. "The caveat to this is that the product must be correctly used," she explained. "Many people, for example, do not rub all surfaces of their hands and under their nails with gel products, as they should for them to be maximally effective."
This process should take at least 20 seconds, just as washing with soap and water would, and your hands should be completely dry when you're finished.
Does Dettol Kill Coronavirus?
Focus less on the brand name and more on the active ingredients when it comes to household disinfectants. "Viruses that have envelopes around them, like coronavirus, are susceptible to alcohol, and because most cleaning products are alcohol-based, these products are effective in killing viruses, as well as most bacteria, on contact surfaces," Dr. Kesh explained.
Dr. Sharma shared the main ingredients to look for in your disinfectants:
- Alcohol: 60 percent (or more) ethanol or isopropanol, specifically.
- Sodium hypochlorite: 0.1 to 0.5 percent of this ingredient, which is commonly used in household bleach.
These are in line with WHO's recommendations, though the agency suggests an even higher concentration of alcohol. "There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces," the statement reads. "These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, ether solvents, 75 percent ethanol, peracetic acid, and chloroform."
Dr. Sharma explained that both alcohol and bleach can be used to decontaminate your space "after cleaning the high-touch surfaces with detergent." When it comes to Dettol and other household cleaning products, specifically, Dr. Sharma told POPUSGAR that they "potentially can be used as an effective disinfectant to the new coronavirus as well, however, a definitive test report for commercially-available products has not been done or [released] yet." In other words, there's a good chance that standard household cleaners will work, but because this particular strain of coronavirus is so new, experts haven't had the opportunity to study exactly what knocks it out.
"The short answer is that all of these products must be used correctly every time in order for them to work as advertised," Dr. Kesh said. So be thorough, be diligent, and stay healthy and clean out there!