A few months ago, I apologized to my business partner, Susan, for taking so long to call her back. I had been busy washing my groceries. I don’t always wash all of my groceries - usually, I wash the fruit and veggies, just before I use them. But as coronavirus cases continue to spike in my home state of California, I disinfect everything that enters my home, even my freezer bags of vegetables and bags of potato chips.
Susan cleans everything coming into her home too. She told me that she prefers to use Lysol wipes because they are more convenient. We wondered which was more effective, and I set out to research the matter.
Sanitize vs. Disinfect
Lysol and Clorox wipes meet the EPA’s Viral Emerging Pathogen Policy, which includes a list of disinfectants that are effective against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Now here’s where things get tricky…
According to the manufacturer’s website, Lysol “kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria*”. Asterisk?! At the bottom of the page, it explains, “*When used as directed.” How hard could it be to use a disinfecting wipe? But let’s see what they say about using it correctly.
“Pre-clean surface. Use enough fresh wipes to thoroughly wet surface. To sanitize: Allow to remain wet for 10 seconds. To disinfect: Allow to remain wet for 4 minutes.” Clorox wipes offer similar instructions. Four minutes seems like a long time to keep wiping a surface wet, so next, I needed to know if sanitizing is good enough, or if it’s really necessary to re-wipe for four minutes.
Clorox was able to answer the question for me. According to its website, “Sanitizing reduces the bacteria. Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses.” Well, we are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, so Susan and I have part of the answer. The way that she and I (and everyone else) use disinfecting wipes is not killing 99.9% of viruses.
Soap & Water
Pall Thordarson, a Professor in Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, recently published an article, The science of soap – here’s how it kills the coronavirus. In it, he says, “the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.”
A Harvard Medical School publication recommends washing with soap and water for 15 seconds to eliminate 90% of germs and for 30 seconds to eliminate 99.9% of germs. (I’m going to have to slow down washing those groceries.)
UVC Light Disinfection
Of course, washing with soap and water isn’t always practical. Take your phone for example - washing most phones in soap and water would be a disaster! At Modern Hygiene Solutions, we recommend UVC disinfection for electronics and other objects that cannot be washed with soap and water.
Ultraviolet light disinfection is relatively new to consumers, and many wonder, “Is this for real?” Don’t take our word for it! UVC light disinfection is a proven technology. Hospitals like The Mayo Clinic have been using UVC disinfection since 2015 to safeguard their patients.There is a 2014 article, “Portable UV light as an alternative for decontamination”, that affirms the 99.9% effectiveness of wands and other consumer-oriented UVC disinfection products against bacteria and viruses, as well as other microorganisms. Like Lysol, we’re adding an “*When used as directed.” Stay tuned for our next blog, in which we discuss the proper use of UVC disinfection devices to ensure they live up to the promise.