Experts Explain Which Cleaning Supplies You Should Keep on Hand to Fight Coronavirus

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POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

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 (and no studies to prove the efficacy of any specific household cleaning agents), it's possible that some of the products in your home could help keep you safe. "The majority of the [viruses] 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 Center 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 surfaces to prevent transmission."

Still have questions? We did, too — keep reading for more details on your go-to cleaning products.

Do 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 handwashing best practices here.

Does Alcohol Kill Coronavirus?

Yes, Dr. Sharma explained, "if [it is] used as disinfectant on a contaminated surface." The World Health Organization (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 Sanitizer Kill Coronavirus?

As mentioned, alcohol is typically the active ingredient in hand sanitizer, 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 defense.

"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 sanitizer 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.

Do Lysol and Clorox 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 Lysol and Clorox products specifically, Dr. Sharma told POPSUGAR 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.

Clorox bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, so that should be a safe bet for disinfecting. Lysol's ingredients are nearly impossible to find on the internet, but one safety data sheet reports that it's 30 to 60 percent ethanol, the top range of which would put it in the "good to go" category, if it in fact hits that mark.

"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!

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim