By Karen Bassler
Staff Writer 

Sanitizing Surfaces Helps Control Virus Spread

Series: Coronavirus | Story 86

Coronavirus is more deadly than the seasonal flu viruses, spreads more easily and is a totally new virus to humans.

The average flu strain kills about 0.1 percent of those infected, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) deaths are closer to 2 percent. Because it is a new virus to humans, we have no natural immunity or vaccines against it. Because up to 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild, that makes it more likely to spread without detection.

Area healthcare providers are strongly advising people to follow Pennsylvania Department of Heath (PaDOH) guidelines in dealing with the coronavirus.

Hand washing frequently with soap and water especially after coughing or sneezing into them, using the bathroom or being in public spaces is our first line of defense against contracting and spreading COVID-19. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, as well as visibly dirty surfaces should also be practiced in our fight against the coronavirus.

According to Science Alert, a science-based news organization, the coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to nine days and in the air for a few hours.

The coronavirus can last the longest amount of time on stainless steel and plastic surfaces at up to nine days. The shortest surface survival time is one day on paper and cardboard.

The coronavirus is in saliva and fluids coughed up from the lungs. It can also be present in fecal matter. This is why hand washing is so important in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

Exactly what products should be used and how should we use them?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a listing on its website,, listing cleaning products effective in combating the coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2. Many of the products listed are professional and hospital grade sanitizers, but you may have others already in your cleaning arsenal.

Many of the Lysol-Brand products are listed by the EPA as effective sanitizers. Lysol Laundry Sanitizer used as a 5-minute presoak is also listed for use in washing laundry.

Most product requirements include at least two-to-five minute contact with surfaces being cleaned. Make sure to read product labels.


Regular soap and water helps to remove the coronavirus from surfaces. The soap interferes with the fats in the shell of the virus and lifts the virus from surfaces and is then rinsed away by the water. Soap and water do not kill the virus but are highly effective in washing it away. This is why handwashing is so very important.

Hand Sanitizer

To be effective, the alcohol content in hand sanitizer must be 60 percent or higher and should not be used instead of washing hands with soap and water.

Always wash with soap and water if the option is available as hand sanitizer is not as effective. It is also wise to keep your hands moisturized as dry, cracked skin is more susceptible to infection.


The active ingredient in bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is very effective at killing the virus. It works by destroying the virus protein and the ribonucleic acid, RNA, which gives the virus the blueprint for making more virus particles. The bleach should have a sodium hypochlorite solution at 2 to 10 percent. Check the ingredients on the label.

Be warned: Bleach expires one year from production date. It will lose potency quickly after opening if not stored correctly. Keep opened containers in a cool dark place with the lid securely in place and discard after a year. Don’t use old bleach. You may think that you have disinfected when you have not. Old bleach will not disinfect.

Only make enough of a bleach solution that you will use within 24 hours, as it loses its effectiveness over time. Make sure the bleach has time to work. The surface should remain wet for 10-15 minutes before wiping with a clean cloth. Bleach should not be used on body parts.

Ethanol and Alcohol

Ethanol works by attacking the proteins and dissolving the lipids in many types of bacterial and viral cells. Typically, concentrations of 70 percent are most effective. Isopropyl alcohol is best used for surface disinfecting.

Isopropyl alcohol works the same as ethanol but is not as dehydrating so is a better solution for disinfecting skin. Both ethanol and isopropyl alcohol are nearly equal in effectively disinfecting surfaces. Using a rubbing motion while using alcohol makes it more effective.

None of the products mentioned should ever be taken internally and should be kept away from eyes and mucous membranes. Keep all toxic materials away from children and anyone not able to comprehend the danger of these products.

The Poison Help Line at The American Association of Poison Control Centers is (800) 222-1222.


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