Coronavirus: How to ensure your home is free of Covid-19

Experts at Rutgers University advise on the most effective coronavirus-fighting cleaning products

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We might already be aware of advice relating to hygiene in public spaces amid this global pandemic, but what about at home? How can we ensure our villas and apartments are free of Covid-19, too? Well, Rutgers University experts have shared new tips to make sure we're using the most effective products in the battle against coronaviruses.

“Not many scientific studies have asked which are the most effective disinfecting agents to use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because it was discovered so recently,” says Siobain Duffy, an associate professor of ecology with expertise in emerging viruses and microbial evolution. “So scientists are assuming that what works against other coronaviruses can work against this one.”

But that's not the case, say the experts, who shared the following recommendations in a statement on Saturday.

General guidelines

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. These include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, taps and sinks.

It also advises we use detergent or soap and water on dirty surfaces before disinfecting. The virus has been shown to survive for 16 hours on plastics, so make sure you regularly disinfect throughout the day if someone in your home is showing flu-like symptoms.

Let it sit there long enough to kill viruses first

Donald Schaffner, a professor and extension specialist in food science with specific expertise in microbial risk assessment and handwashing, adds: “Each disinfecting chemical has its own specific instructions. But an important general rule is that you shouldn’t immediately wipe a cleaning solution off as soon as you’ve applied it to a surface. Let it sit there long enough to kill viruses first.”

But make sure you don’t use different cleaning agents at the same time, either, as some can create poisonous gases when mixed.

Effective products

Bleach can be diluted with cold water to make an effective disinfectant against bacteria, fungi and many viruses, including coronaviruses. One-quarter cup of bleach per one gallon of cold water can be used, while following the directions on the specific brand of bleach. Take note that it must be used within 24 hours, as its power to disinfect fades over time.

Any non-porous items, such as plastic toys, can be immersed in bleach for 30 seconds, advise the experts. Household surfaces that can’t be damaged should get 10 or more minutes of exposure.

Alcohol in many forms, including rubbing alcohol, can also be effective. Alcohol can be diluted with water and, as long as the concentration is about 70 per cent, it has the ability to kill coronaviruses. Any containers holding the concoction should be sealed to prevent evaporation, so that it remains potent.

It should be left on surfaces for 30 seconds, including on mobile phones (as long as the model can withstand it – check with the advice of your phone manufacturer first).

This advice extends to hand sanitisers, which should have a concentration of about 60 per cent alcohol in order to be effective against the virus. Do not use any 70 per cent varieties on your hands, as it's too harsh.

Finally, products using hydrogen peroxide are also effective. These should be left in their concentrated or diluted forms on surfaces for one minute before wiping.

Products to avoid

The experts do not advise using vinegar, tea tree oil and other natural products to fight coronaviruses. While a study on the influenza virus found that cleaning with a 10 per cent solution of malt vinegar was effective, they add, few other studies have found vinegars in general to be effective enough to ensure your household is safe.