You look around your home and see dozens of surfaces to clean and keep germ-free, knowing that this chore has never been more consequential. The novel coronavirus spreading across the globe can live on some of them for up to three days, and be transmitted when two or more individuals touch the infected area. What are the most effective products to use for the safety of your family and the proper maintenance of your home?
Kathleen Stanton, the American Cleaning Institute’s vice president of technical and international affairs, agreed to answer questions on this topic. Not being a healthcare professional or infectious disease specialist, the cleaning products industry association executive defers to the Centers for Disease Control where defeating the novel coronavirus is concerned. Her expertise is in selecting and using cleaning products that are safe and effective for the many surfaces you’re likely to find in your home.
Jamie Gold: Let’s first define what “sanitize” means in terms of cleaning your home’s surfaces. Does it remove viruses like the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19?
Kathleen Stanton: According to the EPA, sanitizing is reducing the number of germs on hard surfaces or objects to a safer level, at least 99.9% reduction. Disinfecting is taking this a step further and inactivates 99.999% of germs on surfaces or objects if allowed to sit visibly wet or “dwell” on the surface for the recommended amount of time. There is an EPA list of disinfectants for use against the novel coronavirus.
Gold: Do homeowners and apartment managers need to do anything differently than they normally do to kill this virus?
Stanton: Homeowners should clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the household, per the CDC, and launder or dispose of cloth after disinfecting. Check for the latest recommendations from the CDC. For apartment managers, the CDC has resources on cleaning and disinfecting your facility, including cleaning high touch surfaces and soft surfaces.
Gold: Does your organization suggest using dishwasher-friendly cutting boards as opposed to wood versions?
Stanton: Food hasn’t been a known source of transmission, so there shouldn’t need to be much change to the routine here. Continue to practice good hygiene habits in the kitchen, washing hands before and after preparing food and cleaning food prep surfaces thoroughly. Use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables and a different one for baked goods and sanitize food prep surfaces when prepping any food with potential foodborne bacteria, like E. coli.
Gold: Are there changes people should make to how they use their dishwashers and clothes washers to kill the virus?
Stanton: The same settings should be fine, just make sure you are washing your hands after loading in dirty dishes or clothes and after transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer and wear disposable gloves if someone in the house is sick. For more information, visit ACI’s coronavirus cleaning landing page.
Gold: Now let’s look at the most popular home surfaces and the best way to remove this virus from them. Let’s start with granite and marble. Do sealers help at all?
Stanton: For any porous stone, like granite or marble, some cleaning products are only recommended for use on sealed surfaces. Therefore, sealers can help ensure you can clean properly without damaging the stone.
Gold: Wood is frequently used for countertops, cabinets, flooring, trim and paneling and furniture. What’s the best way to sanitize it?
Stanton: Pre-clean first to remove any excess dirt or grime, with soap and water or a cleaner designed for use on the surface. Then use a disinfectant on the EPA list of products effective against COVID-19. Follow the instructions on the label, paying attention to amount of time the surface needs to stay wet after disinfecting. The product will say on the label which surfaces it can be used on. For food contact surfaces, rinse with water after it dries. This will not only help against the novel coronavirus, but also against other food-borne microbes that can cause illness.
Gold: What about disinfecting other hard surfaces, like stainless steel, engineered stone (e.g., Silestone, Caesarstone), glass, laminate, ceramic and porcelain tile and grout?
Stanton: Same as above.
Gold: Let’s look at wool and synthetic carpeting. What’s the best way to sanitize those?
Stanton: Use a cleaner that is appropriate for carpeting, according to the label or disinfect with a disinfectant on the EPA list (there are some that work on soft surfaces). If disinfecting, pay particular attention to getting the carpet to stay wet for the necessary amount of time noted on the label. The CDC has additional advice for cleaning soft surfaces.
Gold: Most homes have fabrics covering their couches, armchairs and other furniture. They may also have drapery panels and other fabric elements like decorative pillows that can’t necessarily be thrown in the washing machine. Some are synthetic. Some natural. How should those be disinfected?
Stanton: Read the fabric care instructions on the tag. If washer and dryer safe, launder on the warmest water setting safe for the fabric, then leave in the dryer until fully dry. Do not shake dirty laundry and wash hands after handling dirty laundry and after transferring it to the dryer. Also, wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry if someone in the home is sick, per the CDC.
For delicate garments, hand wash with the warmest water allowed by the care label with an appropriate dose of high-quality detergent. Ideally soak for 20-30 minutes before rinsing. Follow care label instructions for drying. Wash hands afterward. If you can’t wash an item, seal it in a plastic bag. After several days, the virus should no longer be at infectious levels.
Gold: Anything you’d like to add about this topic?
Stanton: For information on cleaning different surfaces, see our hard surface guide.
Many households have more cleaning products on hand than usual at this time and kids are home from school. It is especially important to be storing cleaning products out of reach of children.