Sanitizing with Bleach in the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19, also known as coronavirus disease 2019, is sweeping the world. The pathogen causing this disease, a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), can survive on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for up to seventy-two hours, making infection from surface contact problematic.
Coronaviruses, unlike biological germs such as bacteria, are not easily destroyed. Many viruses, including coronaviruses, are encased in sturdy lipid envelopes that protect them.
These envelopes make coronaviruses hard to destroy. But some cleaning agents—such as alcohol, disinfectants, and soap—can break down these lipid envelopes.
This is why the Centers for Disease Control is recommending washing hands with soap and water for twenty seconds to clean them. Hand sanitizer, though not as effective as using soap and water, can clean your hands in a pinch if you’re away from a sink.
However, cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces at work are more effective with sanitizing solutions such as hydrogen peroxide and bleach solutions high in sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite destroys coronaviruses’ lipid envelopes, releasing the genetic material they need to replicate in cells to the environment, killing them.
By sanitizing work surfaces with the right mix of bleach and water in a spray bottle and allowing them to air-dry, you put yourself and your employees in a safer work environment.
Using chemical solutions such as hydrogen peroxide and bleach for cleaning surfaces is a smart choice—these days being what they are. But don’t use them in concentrated form. We recommend mixing these chemicals with water for better, safer results.
Hard, nonporous surfaces are safe to disinfect with chlorine bleach and water. The CDC has outlined bleach solutions and concentrations you can use to eliminate germs on surfaces at work.
However, we recommend that you or your employees use these products on hard surfaces only and don’t use them again until surfaces have air-dried. Hydrogen peroxide as a liquid solution or in disinfecting wipes also works if you don’t have bleach at the office. But a bleach-and-water solution is still our best recommendation for cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces.
In normal circumstances, sanitizing hard surfaces with cleaning products once a week is more than fine. However, you should sanitize surfaces more frequently for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic—daily if you can. If your employees have to step out of the office, ask them to wash their hands with soap and water when they return, and then sanitize touched surfaces with bleach and water or disinfecting wipes.
Cleaning is the process of removing soil and dirt on the surface. Disinfecting is the process of clearing a surface of bacteria, viruses, and other submicroscopic infectious agents. We normally believe that because something looks clean, it’s clean. But cleaning by itself isn’t disinfection.
To help you understand what you do and don’t need to disinfect, imagine coronaviruses as glitter. As soon as you touch coronavirus glitter, it’s on you, spreading to anything you touch.
Cleaning glitter takes lots of determination. You’ll need to remember everything you touch—such as doorknobs, light switches, and desktops—and sanitize each thing individually and with care.
And remember to wash your hands as you move from surface to surface. You soil clean hands as soon as you touch a new surface that has or might have come into contact with germs. Remind your workforce of the same.
It’s important to remember that even though using cleaning products and sanitizing solutions such as hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite bleach solutions is critical at this time, misusing them can cause dangerous, potentially fatal health complications.
Used correctly, bleach is a safe cleaning and sanitizing chemical. However, here are some precautions from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) to bear in mind to prevent harm to yourself, your employees, and your work environment.
When preparing and using diluted bleach, NCBI has the following recommendations:
Prolonged exposure to fumes from household bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, and lungs. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated space when cleaning with diluted bleach to prevent side effects.
The best way to protect your work environment from the coronavirus is to disinfect hard surfaces with cleaning products and sanitizing solutions. Disinfect surfaces with Clorox, other bleach solutions, or disinfecting wipes.
A virus, unlike bacteria, isn’t a living organism. But it does carry genetic material such as DNA within a protective lipid envelope.
Viruses use this genetic material to take over host cells and replicate. Clorox bleach solutions and other bleach products destroy this lipid envelope, exposing the genetic material within to the elements, killing the viruses.
UCHealth Today states that four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water—or for larger loads, five tablespoons per gallon—is the perfect mixture to kill viruses and other germs. With standard Clorox or a similar product, a five-minute exposure to those mixtures should kill coronaviruses, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Washing with soap and warm water for twenty seconds or using hand sanitizer works wonders for disinfecting your hands. How can you achieve that level of disinfection on work surfaces?
For safe disinfection, cleaning, and sanitizing of surfaces, make sure you have the following:
Mix bleach and water in the amount you need and use as directed.
Check out our website—we make online ordering easy! And if you’re looking for more resources on this and other topics, check out our Beyond the Products page for informative blogs and training videos.