While the coronavirus took most of us by storm during 2020, we have learned a number of things to slow it down and even stop it in its tracks: Of course, wearing a mask and practicing social and keeping your hands clean by using hand sanitizer or washing your hands.
While washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds can remove 97% of germs, household cleaners have proven better disinfectants for surfaces.
That’s because for soap to be effective, it has to be rubbed and worked into a lather, while disinfectants kill germs on contact, says Mary Schmidt, MD, an infectious disease specialist in Virginia.
Here’s a breakdown of the different active ingredients in household cleaners and what to look for to make sure you’re using an effective disinfectant.
According to Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer at home-cleaning franchise MaidPro, sanitizing removes 99.9% of germs and disinfecting kills more than 99.999%, if done correctly.
An antibacterial product means it contains ingredients that can help kill or slow the growth of bacteria, though be careful of these, as antibacterial soap is no better than regular soap.
“If you want to kill COVID-19, you need a true disinfectant, not a sanitizer or something antibacterial,” Homer says.
So what makes a “true” disinfectant?
Well, thanks to the CDC, we know what’s not true.
Consumers are being warned that certain locally sold sanitizers and disinfectants may also not work against COVID as advertised. The main issue? How much residual protection these products claim to offer.
The new warning comes from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), which is responsible for the regulatory oversight of all disinfectants and sanitizers (other than hand sanitizer and wipes) in the state.
Since the start of the pandemic, with increasing numbers of people using these products, UDAF inspectors have been monitoring the claims made by brands about the efficacy of their products.
In a statement, the department detailed how they “have found numerous improperly labeled or repackaged sanitizers, the improper use of sanitizers, and a number of fraudulent claims.”
The department advises that in most cases, a product will require a “wet time” of up to 10 minutes after application, and will not be effective if wiped away sooner. “The fact is, painfully few disinfectants will last beyond the time they’re wet,” UDAF Pesticide Program Manager Henry Nahalewski said in a statement.
The safest advice is to ignore any claims made on packaging or advertising and to instead