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Sanitizing with Bleach in the COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

Guidelines for properly disinfecting and sanitizing with bleach

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.

What surfaces can be safely disinfected with bleach?

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.

How often should you sanitize with bleach?

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.

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

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.

Cautions about sanitizing with bleach

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.

How safe are bleach products?

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.

  • Liquid chlorine bleach can corrode metals and damage painted surfaces. In high concentrations, it can also take the color out of fabrics.
  • Avoid touching your eyes. If bleach gets into the eyes, immediately rinse with water for at least fifteen minutes, and contact a doctor.
  • Don’t use bleach with other detergents. Doing so reduces its effectiveness and can cause dangerous chemical reactions. For example, bleach produces toxic chlorine gas when mixed with acidic detergents, such as those used for toilet cleaning. If necessary, use detergents first, and rinse thoroughly with water before using bleach for disinfection.
  • Undiluted bleach produces a toxic gas when exposed to sunlight. So store bleach in a cool, shaded place.
  • Sodium hypochlorite decomposes with time. To ensure its effectiveness, buy recently produced bleach, and avoid overstocking.
  • If using diluted bleach, prepare the diluted solution when you or your employees intend to use it. Label and date it, and discard unused mixtures twenty-four hours after preparation.
  • Organic materials inactivate bleach. Clean surfaces first so they’re clear of organic materials before disinfecting with bleach.
  • Keep diluted bleach covered and protected from sunlight. If possible, store it in a dark container.

What are some steps to take to work safely with bleach?

When preparing and using diluted bleach, NCBI has the following recommendations:

  • Use a mask, rubber gloves, and a waterproof apron. Wear goggles to protect the eyes.
  • Mix and use bleach solutions in well-ventilated areas.
  • Mix bleach with cold water (hot water decomposes the sodium hypochlorite and renders it ineffective).
  • If using bleach containing 5 percent sodium hypochlorite, dilute it to 0.05 percent.

What are the side effects of breathing in bleach?

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.

How can sanitizing with bleach help protect against the coronavirus?

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.

What effect does bleach have on the coronavirus?

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.

How do you disinfect surfaces for the coronavirus?

  • Soap and water can clean work surfaces—as long as you really scrub.
  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol with at least 70 percent alcohol (undiluted) will kill coronaviruses on surfaces in about thirty seconds.
  • A straight 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution takes out rhinoviruses—which are tougher to kill than coronaviruses—in six to eight minutes on hard surfaces. So this solution should be at least as quick in disinfecting for coronaviruses.

What percentage of bleach solution is needed to help clean and protect against the coronavirus?

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.

Resources and supplies for sanitizing with bleach

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?

What supplies do you need to sanitize with bleach?

For safe disinfection, cleaning, and sanitizing of surfaces, make sure you have the following:

  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Water
  • Well-ventilated space
  • Chlorine bleach or household bleach

Mix bleach and water in the amount you need and use as directed.

Where can you find resources and supplies for sanitizing with bleach?

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.

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