Safer Cleaning & Disinfecting Against COVID

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Cleaners and disinfectants can contain chemicals that harm brain health, are linked to reproductive harm, and/or other health problems. The good news is that safer alternatives for cleaning and disinfecting against COVID-19 are available.

Surfaces should be cleaned first, before disinfecting (learn helpful techniques in our webinar above). To find safer disinfectants, look for active ingredients including alcohol/ethanol/isopropanol, hydrogen peroxide, thymol, L-lactic acid and citric acid. Products with these ingredients are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of approved disinfectants against COVID-19, and they are by far much safer than chlorine, ammonia and quats. When cleaning or disinfecting, use gloves to protect your hands. Ventilation (opened window) is especially important for stronger chemicals.

For washing your hands, plain soap and water is just as effective as antibacterial soaps. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree that there is no added benefit to antibacterial soaps, so skip them and use plain soap (and avoid those phthalates often hidden under “fragrance” which are linked to neurological harm).

When it comes to foggers, misters and electrostatic sprayers, there are lots of misleading claims. There is no science available that has measured how long disinfectant particles stay suspended in the air after spraying. There is no science available showing that transmission is reduced or eliminated in rooms that have been disinfected.  Misting and fogging does increase cleaning costs and chemical exposure without any proven health benefits. Even worse, misting and fogging could create a false sense of security, leading to less adherence to other preventive measures. Finally, neither the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) nor the World Health Organization (WHO) support the use of foggers or misters for disinfection. Special thanks to Alexandra Scranton of Women’s Voices for the Earth and Betty Riggin for co-presenting this webinar.

Key resources we highlighted in our webinar:

Some additional points and resources cited in the webinar:

  • New England Journal of Medicine study on COVID-19 on surfaces. This may sound scary, but John Hopkins Hospital experts explained it this way: yes the virus can live for 72 hours on plastic but what’s more important is the amount of virus that remains over time.
  • In light studies about the significant number of people who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the CDC in April 2020 started recommending wearing masks especially in areas with significant community-based transmission.
  • New studies show masks protect the wearer as well as those around them, according to the CDC.
  • In terms of hydrogen peroxide, CDC says it deactivates rhinovirus which is harder to kill than this coronavirus.
  • There have also been successful tests of hydrogen peroxide and alcohol on other human coronaviruses, Not COVID-19 yet, but SARS and MERS and similar viruses, according to recently published paper by Kampf.
  • Study that looked at the effectiveness of 0.5% hydrogen peroxide against other human coronaviruses (like SARS and MERS) and found it was effectively killing those in one minute of dwell time. To kill rhinovirus, leave hydrogen peroxide on longer (8-10 minutes).

Please also check out our general coronavirus page with more resources, including mental health and educational resources.

You can view our original Safer Cleaning at Home webinar from April 2020 below.

Picture of Tracy Gregoire

Tracy Gregoire

Tracy Gregoire is the Healthy Children Project Director for the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and is a long-time advocate for children’s health.

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