People who work in hospitals know the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. Most consumers haven't got a clue and often use the words sanitizing and disinfecting interchangeably. In ordinary times that's probably okay. With Covid19, we all need to understand the difference.
Until you understand how cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting work, you might not use the right materials. And just like we've had to learn to wash our hands for 20 seconds, you might not apply the required materials correctly … to all the high touch areas in our house.
Cleaning is Your First Line of Defense
We're all learning more effective ways to wash our hands with soap. Here's a fun and effective video showing the science kids washing their hands with blue paint, to demonstrate how easy it is to miss parts of your hands. We're already used to washing our hands with soap which does a great job removing many types of germs from our skin. Want to learn how soap works? This New York Times article illustrates and explains in lots of detail, How Soap Works.
Fortunately the non-profit, Clean the World recycles soap and donates it to third world countries.
There's other cleaning you'll want to do during the Covid19 pandemic. In fact you could continue this kind of cleaning during the flu season each year when lots of people get sick. You should clean frequently touched surfaces. These include countertops and tables, doorknobs and light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
Sanitizers – What & When to Use
Did you use hand sanitizer before Covid19? And if not, how long did it take you to find some as it was almost as difficult to find as toilet paper, LOL The challenge is figuring out which sanitizers are safe to use and perform as advertised.
According to the CDC, soap and water are preferred. If they're not readily available, use “… use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol (also referred to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol).”
Trying to find hand sanitizers right now is a challenge. There are lots of choices but many are from China and on Amazon, most don't give you a list of ingredients. Why is this important?
- Sanitizing is a chemical process that reduces, even kills germs on surfaces, to make them safe for contact.
- Use sanitizers in the kitchen and other areas that will come into contact with food, dishes and utensils, toys children put in their mouths, etc.
- For the hand sanitizer to kill 99% of germs on your hands, leave it on for 30 seconds.
Disinfectants Stronger than Sanitizers
Disinfecting uses a stronger solution than sanitizers, to insure it destroys germs (sanitizing reduce them). At home you might disinfect areas where you change a baby's diaper. With the Corvid19, we also need to kill the virus that we know is't visible to the naked eye.
Like toilet paper, finding EPA registered disinfectants has been a challenge. That's because lots of manufacturers (many in China) are trying to exploit the demand so you definitely want to buy from the product list provided by the EPA. You won't recognize the commercial products listed, so I suggest using USA Today's list of disinfectants with familiar brands like Clorox, Lysol and more.
Note: I've been using Clorox disinfecting wipes to date. After writing this article, I think a disinfecting spray so the disinfectant can sit on the surface for 30 seconds is preferred. But honestly, I can't figure out which product fits my requirements – disinfectant in a spray bottle! Some products say they're for industrial and institutional use only. Too many are for a specific (toilet bowl, washing machine, bathroom, etc) use where I want an all purpose product.
So scroll down for recipes to make your own sanitizer and/or disinfectant.
Recipes for DIY Sanitizers and Disinfectants
Start with bleach (here's the Clorox Germicidal Bleach my son got for me at Lowe's) and cool water in a bucket (hot water decreases effectiveness). Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Make sure you're using a bleach concentration meant for household, not industrial use. Concentrations of 5.25 percent or 6 percent hypochlorite are safe for use in the house.
- For sanitizing, use 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water (or 1 teaspoon to 1 quart). Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and spray the item you want to sanitize (or dip from the bucket and wipe the item with paper towels). Leave the solution on for at least one minute before rinsing. You can use this solution on toys, eating utensils and objects that will come into contact with mouths.
- For disinfecting, mix 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. This concentration is stronger so only use it to disinfect areas that will not have contact with food or mouths – like changing tables and floors. You also should expose the area to this long enough to kill all germs. The official test for disinfecting so all germs are killed is 10 minutes, but usually two to three minutes is enough.
As I'm not a health expert, here are the resources used to write this article:
- From the FDA, Hand Sanitizers | COVID – 19.
- From the NY Times, Why Soap Works (with great illustrations).
- From the EPA, Disinfectants including steps to follow shared above.
- From USA Today, a list of recognizable disinfecting products.
Good luck keeping your home and family safe from Covid19 and all other germs that make us sick. You might also realize that many of these new house cleaning (sanitizing and disinfecting) rules are important enough to adopt forever.
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