Since 2020, the demand for disinfectants and sanitizers has increased dramatically, and you might be a bit lost with all the different choices. Furthermore, we have been asked a lot whether cleaners can kill this virus. So we want to take this opportunity to clean up a couple of facts. A cleaner is not a disinfectant. Any cleaners, including ours, aren’t able to disinfect surfaces, but they are a vital part of the disinfection process.
- How to protect yourself from germs
- How to clean and disinfect your home
- What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting
- Steps for safe and effective disinfectant use
- What are the risks of chemical disinfectants
- How Can I Disinfect My House Naturally?
How to protect yourself from germs?
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19, the flu, germs and bacteria is to wash your hands regularly with running water and soap. Soap breaks down grease, so it can dissolve the coronavirus’ fat membrane and thereby render it inactive.
Palli Thordarson, a chemistry professor at the University of New South Wales, says soap works better to deactivate viruses than disinfectants. Disinfectants are typically designed to work against bacteria and fungi, not viruses, and therefore usually contain a mix of soap, alcohol and antibacterial agents - and of those, only soap and alcohol really affect the virus.
So when washing your hands with water and soap: make sure to soak them completely and rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds to ensure the soap reaches all wrinkles and crevices and has time to break down the grease. Alcohol wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great addition to washing your hands.
During flu season or any epidemy: avoid shaking hands. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth so that if you have touched and picked up the virus, it won’t be able to infect you.
How to clean and disinfect your home?
The easiest way to keep your home safe is by making sure you don’t carry the virus, germs, and bacteria into the house.
So after coming home, make a habit of washing your hands immediately and thoroughly with running water and soap. Often clean and disinfect any surfaces you might touch. This includes your door knobs, light switches, tap handle and soap dispenser.
Don’t forget the small, often overlooked things we touch every day; mobile phones, keys and wallets etc. Be sure to wear gloves while cleaning and disinfecting, and throw away the gloves after use. Wash your hands immediately after removing your gloves.
You can protect yourself and your family by keeping pathogens away from your home by simply washing your hands regularly and cleaning and disinfecting only a few areas regularly.
What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?
Many people seem to confuse cleaners with disinfectants. So here is what you need to know:
A cleaner doesn’t disinfect, and a disinfectant doesn’t clean.
A cleaner is a solution with surfactants, which are ingredients that lift dirt off a surface. Using a cleaner will remove a large part of bacteria, viruses and germs, but it doesn’t disinfect, as in kill 99.9% of all germs. Just the same, a disinfectant doesn’t remove stains and soil from your surfaces.
If you want to clean and disinfect surfaces in your home, you will typically need to clean the surface with a cleaner first, then use a disinfectant to kill the germs. But the disinfectant will only work if used correctly.
Steps for safe & effective disinfectant use
Unfortunately, the idea that a surface that is sprayed with disinfectant and wiped is disinfected is common but just plain wrong. Soiled surfaces are a breeding ground for germs, and disinfectants don’t clean, as in removing soils from the surfaces. They only work on clean surfaces, so you need to use a cleaner to remove soils and stains before being able to disinfect.
This two-step method is supposedly cut short by the use of disinfecting cleaners. The ads suggest that you just need to spray and wipe, and voila - the surface is clean and disinfected! But disinfectants do not work as immediately as the ads suggest. Depending on which product you look at, the disinfectant has to sit on the surface for 1 to 10 minutes to effectively kill germs. Only then should it be wiped, or left to air-dry. So even with disinfecting cleaners, you should clean first, then disinfect.
You should also know that most disinfectants only work on hard, non-porous surfaces. Carefully read the manufacturer’s directions to find the right disinfectant for your purpose.
AspenClean house cleaning service now offers professional disinfection as well as natural house cleaning service.
What are the risks of chemical disinfectants?
However, please exercise caution when choosing your disinfectants. Some disinfectants are hazardous to humans and domestic animals, and many state that they need to be rinsed if used on food surfaces - always read the product label with the ingredients list, warning statements and directions of use carefully before purchasing a product!
Health concerns about the ingredients
Many disinfecting agents and common ingredients in conventional disinfectants are linked to health concerns. They can be absorbed into the body through the skin or mucous membranes, inhalation or ingestion.
Our skin absorbs many chemicals at contact, which can lead to health concerns. When using disinfectants, we breathe in particles of sprays, as well as any fumes that might gas off. Ingestion can either happen by accident (think of your kids getting into your cleaning cabinet) or by eating your food off a surface which has been disinfected but not rinsed.
Formaldehyde, for example, causes severe skin burns and eye damage, is toxic if inhaled and in contact with the skin, and is suspected of causing cancer in humans. Quaternary ammonium compounds irritate mucous membranes, eyes and skin. They are known asthmagens and are suspected inducers of occupational asthma. They have also been linked to decreased fertility and birth defects.
Find more potentially dangerous ingredients in cleaning products in our blog.
What are the effects of the wrong handling of chemicals?
Many ingredients might not be dangerous by themselves - if they are used according to instructions - but they might pose a threat in certain circumstances.
For example, alcohols are highly flammable, so using an alcohol-based disinfectant on hot surfaces or near sparks can cause fire and burns. Sodium hypochlorite (also known as chlorine bleach) is not only a strong irritant but also dangerous if mixed with ammonia - it releases chlorine gas, which is toxic to humans.
Excessive use of disinfectants has been linked to higher levels of asthma and childhood wheeze in children, and to childhood obesity. Therefore, it is advised to use conventional disinfectants only when the situation calls for them. Right now, it is important to use the disinfectants correctly to ensure their effectiveness against the novel coronavirus.
But there is good news! Natural options do the job just as well as their toxic counterparts.
How can I disinfect my house naturally?
Resistance to using natural products as disinfectants stem from the belief that they are not as powerful as their toxic chemical counterparts. However, with research and creativity, there are all-natural options which safely disinfect without any harmful residue for you or your family.
1 - Vinegar
This clean, natural and biodegradable liquid is more than a cooking product. It’s made up of 95% water and 5% acetic acid, which kills about 80% of germs. As such, it’s a powerful, natural disinfectant that can be used to clean your sweat-stained clothes, wash your dishes, clean rusty tools, and remove hard water deposits. It also acts as a deodorizer and easily cuts through grease. Look for vinegar with higher acetic acid concentration to up its germ-killing power, and for more tips on "how to clean with white vinegar" check out our other blog posts.
2 - Hydrogen Peroxide or Oxygen Bleach
Wondering what is oxygen bleach and how to use it? While it lacks a green-sounding name, it’s an incredible, natural, biodegradable compound. Oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide is basically water with an extra oxygen molecule, and it breaks back down into oxygen and water. That means that, unlike chlorine bleach, it is kind to the environment. It’s best to use hydrogen peroxide at a 3% concentration, which is how it is usually sold in stores. It can be used for your laundry, bathroom and kitchen, greasy pots and pans, and kids' toys. Use it as a spray, create a paste with baking soda, or use it for soaking. Add it to your laundry as a stain remover. It removes stains and is colour safe. Some laundry detergent already contains oxygen bleach and stain remover, like AspenClean unscented laundry pods. Word of advice: don’t mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. They cancel each other out if mixed. It’s better to use them one after another. The order doesn’t matter!
3 - Alcohol
Alcohol is a great natural disinfectant and a common ingredient in many hand sanitizers and disinfectants. It can be used as a disinfectant for surfaces, as an ingredient in DIY cleaners (especially window cleaners!) and to remove bad odour from your laundry.
But before you turn a bottle of vodka into a DIY disinfectant to fight against viruses: CDC recommends that your alcohol should have at least 70% alcohol content, so at least 140 proof, for surface disinfection. If you have strong spirits with at least 70% alcohol, you can mix your own surface disinfectant from this. Rubbing alcohol of at least 70% also works!
4 - Essential oils
These concentrated liquids are distilled from plants. Studies have shown that essential oils such as lavender oil, clove oil and many others have natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
Mixing them with other natural disinfectants will not only enhance the disinfecting properties but also leave a refreshing, natural scent. Make sure to use only pure organic essential oils to avoid impurities, artificial preservatives and pesticides.
- Teal Tree Oil: Not just for pimples! This beautiful-smelling organic essential oil is a powerful natural disinfectant, which is why it’s a key ingredient in the heavy-duty AspenClean SuperScrub Powder. For a DIY spray, add about 30 drops to a vinegar/water mix in a 650 ml spray bottle, mix it up and work away.
- Lavender Oil: More than just a delightful summer scent, this organic essential oil has distinct disinfectant properties. Another key ingredient to the SuperScrub Powder, as well as to AspenClean natural lavender dish soap, eco-friendly natural lavender laundry detergent, and AspenClean All-Purpose Cleaner. A handy DIY is to mix a few drops with water-diluted white vinegar for a great floor cleaner. This essential oil is also an antispasmodic, meaning it helps your muscles relax.
- Thyme Oil: The EPA has thyme oil listed as having the same effectiveness as bleach as a disinfectant, with no adverse health effects. Because it’s so effective against food-borne pathogens like salmonella, you can add thyme oil to your washing water when you clean cutting boards and kitchen utensils that have encountered raw eggs and meat. Follow with AspenClean natural kitchen cleaner.
There are many natural sanitizers and disinfectants to choose from. Just remember to clean the surfaces before disinfecting. Choose natural cleaners, soaps and detergents whenever possible, to protect yourself and your family. Finally, AspenClean cleaning service offers disinfecting services when using their cleaning services in Vancouver, cleaning services in Calgary, as well as house cleaning services in Toronto. You can choose them when booking online.