3 Tips For Choosing Effective Household Cleaners

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 29, 2020

Cleaning and disinfecting our homes is more important than ever in the wake of COVID-19. A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the coronavirus can live in the air for hours and on surfaces for days. But do all household cleaners kill the virus? How do you know which products to use? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an extensive list of cleaners and disinfectants expected to be effective against the coronavirus, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines and advice for keeping your home disinfected. The ‘contact time’ required (i.e. how long the cleaning agent needs to be “touching” the virus) varies greatly by cleaning product and by its concentration. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right cleaning products.
  1. Start with soap and water.
    Washing surfaces with soap and water is key to curbing the spread of the virus. The CDC even recommends cleaning dirty surfaces with soap and water before using any sort of disinfectant, so the disinfectant will work more effectively. The reason soap and water works so well is the soap pulls apart the virus, which subsequently disintegrates in the water and is wiped away. Use a few drops of dish soap to eight ounces of water to create a soapy solution, then be sure to scrub in order to remove the coronavirus, as well any dirt and bacteria, from the surface. Scrubbing assists in breaking apart the virus’s “protective envelope.”
  2. Alcohol-based products.
    Alcohol-based products that are at least 70% alcohol are effective against the coronavirus on hard surfaces. Wipes and sprays that are alcohol-based are especially useful to disinfect electronics like your phone, laptop, or any screen. You can use alcohol solutions on countertops, appliances, faucets, door knobs or other “high touch” surfaces - just be aware that alcohol solutions can sometimes discolor plastics. When using your own solution to disinfect, be sure to leave the solution on the surface for at least 30 seconds to ensure the virus is killed.
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide.
    Many sanitizers used in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other places you’ve been shopping include this agent. It is effective on hard surfaces, but can affect the colors in soft materials. You’ll often see workers in retail using disposable towels and wearing gloves when cleaning with this agent- it’s a good idea to do the same at home.

One very important tip to remember: when applying any type of sanitizing agent, do not spray the surface being cleaned. The air disturbance caused by the forceful spray may simply lift the virus back into the air and onto another surface, long before it is killed by the sanitizer. In addition, no matter what cleaning product or solution you choose, it’s critical to follow the product instructions. Adhering to the manufacturer’s recommendations or instructions will ensure you are cleaning and disinfecting properly and keeping yourself and your family safe from any harmful effects. Be sure to review the product label so you don’t miss any important information. Should you have any questions about the product, contact the product manufacturer. Most products list the manufacturer’s customer service phone number and/or website on the product label. Handle all of these products with care, and under no circumstances should you utilize them topically or attempt to ingest them. Safety is key whenever chemicals and cleaners are involved.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.