We know that regular cleaning is essential to eliminate bacteria and viruses and prevent us from getting sick. It is critical to thoroughly clean our homes, our offices, and practice good hygiene at all times, but now more than ever.
However, in order to make sure you are properly cleaning your home, workplace, or yourself, what products should you use? There is a dizzying array of cleaning products available, and are they all the same or do some work better than others? Let’s take a look.
How do you know if a cleaner is effective?
In order to be able to assess a cleaning product for its efficacy, you need to know how these products work. Most household cleaning products contain surfactants, which are detergents that bond to germs, oil and dirt particles. Once bonded, these particles are suspended in water and can be washed away, thus eliminating them.
The key difference between cleaners and disinfectants is that cleaners bond to and remove germs and dirt, whereas disinfectants kill germs on contact. A disinfectant will kill germs on contact, including bacteria and viruses, and antibacterial products will kill or slow the growth of bacteria but are not necessarily effective against viruses.
Generally, the best process for a very thorough cleaning is to first clean the surface or area with a cleaner, and then disinfect with a disinfectant. Common household products that are available in the supermarket will be sufficient for most cleaning tasks, but for the toughest tasks and hard to access surfaces, a specialist cleaning service may be required.
Different Cleaning Products Compared
There are a large range of different soaps, detergents and cleaning products to choose from. Some are more effective than others, particularly when it comes to particular types of germs.
As mentioned, most household cleaners are detergents, which mean they contain surfactants that bond to germs and dirt so they can be washed away. Although they do bond to germs allowing them to be washed away, they do not kill germs on contact like disinfectants, meaning that they are not guaranteed to eliminate bacteria and viruses.
Bleach contains a chemical called sodium hypochlorite which is very effective in killing bacteria and viruses. The chemical works by breaking down the proteins of viruses and bacteria, and therefore destroying them. You can mix bleach with hot water and use it to clean surfaces as well as items like doorknobs. To make bleach more effective, you should leave it on surfaces for 10 to 15 minutes before removing.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has been used as a cleaner, either on its own or as an ingredients in other cleaners, for many years. Like bleach, it is a disinfectant that kills viruses and bacteria. Though it is not generally as strong as bleach, one study found it to be more effective at killing certain kinds of bacteria. It is most effective when used on hard, non-porous surfaces such as plastic and metal. You can generally buy hydrogen peroxide in 3% solutions that can be used straight from the bottle.
Alcohol, both isopropanol and ethanol, are effective disinfectants at high concentration. Alcohol destroys the proteins that make up both bacteria and viruses, therefore killing them. They do little to remove grease or germs, however. Cleaning products using alcohol generally contain 70% alcohol, whereas alcohol-based hand sanitiser is usually 60% alcohol. Make sure to check your cleaning product to ensure it contains at least these concentrations.
Regular soap is effective in killing 97% of germs when we wash our hands, but doesn’t work so well on surfaces. Soap needs to be rubbed into a lather for it to work properly. Disinfectants, on the other hand, kill germs on contact and therefore work to clean surfaces properly. Having said that, soap and what is effective in killing many viruses (including COVID-19: see more below) because it dissolves the viruses’ external lipid layer, dissolving and killing them.
Which Cleaning Products are most Effective Against COVID-19?
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using diluted household bleach solution, alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol, or a household disinfectant that has been approved by the EPA. In all cases, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the cleaning product. This will make sure that you use adequate quantities and use them in the right way and therefore that the product will be effective.
Also remember not to stockpile on these cleaners, as this may result in a shortage that means other members of the community cannot get the supplies that they need. Soap and other detergents are also effective in killing the coronavirus. This is why the CDC also recommends regular hand washing with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, as well as washing your clothes with laundry detergent if you are worried they may be contaminated.