With the Conditional Movement Control Order and work from home becoming the norm, it has never been more important to ensure the house is clean and free from bacteria and virus. But first, why do you need to disinfect the home?
The Covid-19 coronavirus is known to be transmitted through respiratory droplets that spread when one coughs, sneezes or spits.
The virus can survive for up to three hours as airborne droplets, 24 hours on porous surfaces like cardboard, fabric and paper, and 72 hours on shiny surfaces such as glass, plastic and stainless steel.
The droplets can easily spread, especially in crowded public areas and on “high-touch” surfaces, such as lift buttons and door handles, making it easy to bring the virus home.
Disinfecting helps to reduce the chance of getting exposed to viruses and bacteria in the home.
Compared to cleaning, which removes germs, disinfecting uses chemicals to kill viruses and bacteria. Germicides and biocides found in disinfectant chemicals kill microbes by oxidising or denaturing the protective layer around them.
One of the most common household disinfectants is 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach). It is often used in hospitals where the risk of coming in contact with the virus is much higher.
Medical staff use it to clean the surfaces most likely to be contaminated, such as bed rails and doorknobs.
Most common household bleach brands, such as Clorox, Cocorex, Kao, Tesco and Giant home brands, contain sodium hypochlorite, which oxidises the molecules in virus cells and kills them.
Hospitals use a highly concentrated solution but for households, a 0.1% concentration will deactivate the virus within a minute.
The concentration of a bottle of bleach is normally about 5.25%, which is too high for regular usage. Add 6 ml of household bleach to 240 ml of water to prepare a 0.1% bleach solution, which is safe to use directly to wipe surfaces.
How to use: Wear gloves when handling bleach. Spray some of the solution onto the surface, let it sit for at least one minute and wipe with a wet cloth.
Ventilation is important, so make sure your windows are open while disinfecting.
2. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol)
Ethanol is an ingredient commonly found in solvent cleaners and is known to be bactericidal, germicidal and virucidal.
Products containing ethanol are primarily disinfectant sprays and hand sanitisers from common brand names such as Dettol and Lysol. It is also sold on its own.
For alcohol-based disinfectant to be effective against viruses, it needs to be at least 70% alcohol in order to dissolve the lipid layers on the virus membrane and effectively deactivate it.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, it is effective for wiping small surfaces.
How to use: For disinfectant sprays and pure alcohol, leave solution on the surface for 30 seconds before wiping it off. Do not spray a room with disinfectant as there are no proven disease-control benefits.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is used to clean wounds but it works as a surface disinfectant too. It is usually available in pharmacies and drugstores.
Like bleach, it is antibacterial and antiviral. Typically, it is sold at 3% concentration and it is safe to use to remove traces of Covid-19 from surfaces.
Hydrogen peroxide attacks membrane lipids, DNA and essential cell components to kill bacteria and viruses.
How to use: Leave solution on the surface for one minute before wiping it off.
4. Benzalkonium Chloride
This is a substitute for alcohol and can be found in alcohol-free antibacterial sprays and wet wipes from household brand names such as Tesco, Dettol and Clorox.
According to a 2005 study, this disinfectant proved effective against the SARS coronavirus. Benzalkonium chloride penetrates the cell walls of bacteria and damages the cell membrane’s structural integrity.
How to use: Spray the solution onto the surface and leave it for up to five minutes before wiping off. As for wet wipes, wiping down items and leaving them to dry is sufficient.
How to properly disinfect the home
Step 1: Disinfect high-touch surfaces
Clean household surfaces to remove dirt before spraying disinfectants. According to guidelines from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from a surface.
It does not kill germs but only removes them. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to the use of chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not remove germs but kills them after cleaning and lowers the risk of infection.
According to Prof Brett Mitchell of Australia’s Newcastle University, disinfectants cannot break through organic materials such as dirt and soil so surfaces must be cleaned or swept up before being disinfected.
The most commonly touched household surfaces should be prioritised, including door knobs, tables and countertops, light switches, handles, desks, taps, and sinks.
It is important to let the disinfectant remain on the surface for about three to five minutes, depending on the product’s directions for use.
Technique also matters because disinfection differs from merely wiping a surface clean. Wear disposable gloves while cleaning (especially with bleach products) and wipe in an S-shaped pattern to ensure the whole surface is covered.
Do not mix disinfectant products because the chemicals may react and cause damage to surfaces.
Step 2: Disinfect soft fabrics
For soft surfaces such as carpets, rugs, curtains and other types of cloth, laundering with warm water or according to the manufacturer’s instructions and drying them thoroughly is sufficient.
Step 3: Disinfect your gadgets
Electronic gadgets such as cell phones, TV remotes and touchscreen gadgets should be wiped down with wet wipes (preferably containing more than 70% alcohol) and allowed to dry.
Alcohol wipes are the best as it evaporates quickly and will not soak into your phone’s sensitive electronics.
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