Killing The Coronavirus On Surfaces: How To Clean, Sanitize and Disinfect Your Workplace and Home [Updated October 2021]

With so much news circulating about the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be hard to know what to trust, and how to protect yourself and your employees. At Pro Housekeepers, we understand how important it is to maintain a clean, healthy environment at work and home. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to teach you everything you need to know about Covid-19, based on all the latest advice and information from reputable sources. Get informed now.

Pro Tip: While we’ve compiled this guide using the most reliable sources and up-to-date information, we’re learning more about the coronavirus outbreak every day. Always check the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites for the latest news and advice.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronavirus (CoV) is the family name for a type of virus that causes a range of respiratory infections in humans. Most coronaviruses are very benign and are responsible for mild symptoms like those associated with the common cold. A few coronaviruses, however, are much more dangerous and cause severe symptoms, including death. Some more serious coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and SARS-CoV.

The coronavirus currently in the news is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), and it was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. The disease it causes is known as Covid-19.

At any given time, there are countless active cases of human coronaviruses around the world. Coronaviruses are responsible for 15-30% of cases of the common cold, for example. What makes Covid-19 so worrying is how infectious it is, and the fact it can cause lethal symptoms.

electrostatic sprayer effectiveness covid-19

Why is Covid-19 so dangerous?

At the beginning of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 was classed as a novel coronavirus, meaning it was new to humans. This made it especially dangerous because nobody had prior immunity, and so everybody was potentially susceptible to infection.

At the time of writing, there are over 237 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally, and 4.85 million confirmed deaths.

Pro Tip: You might have seen news reports talking about the morbidity, mortality, and fatality rates of coronavirus. Morbidity means how many people in a population will be affected, while fatality means how many infected people will die. Another measure, the mortality rate, means how many people in the general population (infected or not) will die from the disease.

For example, if Disease A had a morbidity rate of 10%, then there would be 10,000 cases for every 100,000 people. If its fatality rate were 2%, then 200 people of those 10,000 infected would die. That would give it an overall mortality rate of just 0.002% (200 people in every 100,000). Fatality rates are always several factors higher than mortality rates because mortality takes into account the entire population, not just those who are infected.

It could be years before we have an accurate picture of Covid-19’s morbidity, fatality, and mortality rates. There are many reasons for this, including delays in reporting, differences in approaches to social distancing and public health, and access to and uptake of available vaccines.

At the time of writing, the United States has an approximate morbidity rate of 13% (44.1 million cases out of a population of 333.5 million). It has a fatality rate of 1.6% (709,000 deaths from 44.1 million cases). That gives Covid-19 in the U.S. a mortality rate of 0.21%. In 2020, Covid-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the USA, a trend that is continuing through 2021.

The Delta variant

One reason why Covid-19 cases have accelerated this year is due to mutations in the virus. The most concerning of these is the Delta variant, which was first identified in India in December 2020. Delta now accounts for 99% of all new cases in the United States.

Delta is the most dangerous variant identified so far because it is much more infectious than earlier variants. It is about 50% more infectious than the original strain, and that means every person who contracts the Delta variant is likely to infect many more people. This leads to what is called exponential growth, where the cases of Covid-19 double at a much higher rate.

Vaccines against Covid-19

There are three Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. 

Vaccine Name
Type
Approved For
How Delivered
Booster
Pfizer-BioNTech
mRNA
Ages 12+ (12-15 under Emergency Use Authorization)
2 shots, 21 days apart (3 shots for severely immunocompromised)
Some people are recommended to get a booster after 6 months
Moderna
mRNA
18+ (EUA)
2 shots, 28 days apart
No booster available
Johnson & Johnson
Viral vector
18+ (EUA)
1 shot
No booster available

The mRNA vaccines use the latest science to treat infectious diseases. Most vaccines use a weak or inert version of a virus to teach your immune system how to fight it. This is how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works, by injecting a different, harmless virus that has been engineered to share enough similarities with SARS-CoV-2 virus to create effective antibodies.

The new vaccines, like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, teach your body how to make a protein that is unique to the virus. In the case of the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, they target the protein spike found on the virus surface.

Our cells follow the code in the mRNA vaccine to make the target protein. Our immune systems recognize the protein as an imposter and create antibodies to remove it. The next time we are exposed to the same protein, we already have the antibodies to get rid of it, and this provides immunity against Covid-19.

Currently, all vaccines provide protection against all known variants of the novel coronavirus. This may change in the future, which is why widespread vaccine uptake is important to protect against Covid-19. The more people are vaccinated, the less chance the virus has to find new hosts and mutate.

Pro Tip: Having immunity to a virus doesn’t mean you never contract it. Instead it means your body can defend itself more effectively if you are exposed. The higher viral load from the Delta variant means more vaccinated people will get symptomatic infections, because the virus can overwhelm their immune systems. However studies show that the current vaccines still provide strong protection against serious disease.

covid-19 symptoms

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

For the majority of people, symptoms of Covid-19 will be mild, cold or flu-like coughs and fevers. Some will experience respiratory distress, while a minority will suffer pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure, and death. An important early symptom that can be a key identifier of Covid-19 is the loss of taste and smell.

According to the latest data, Covid-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days, although, on average most people start to show symptoms after 5-6 days. What that means is you can be infected with the virus but show no signs (known as being asymptomatic). The first symptoms to appear are often coughing, fever, and loss of taste and/or smell, sometimes worsening to more serious upper respiratory tract (URT) symptoms as the illness progresses.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Telling Covid-19 apart from common infections can be difficult because there are so many similarities in symptoms. However, people who develop a fever in tandem with a dry, scratchy cough should contact their doctor.

While the thought of contracting a deadly virus is scary, about 80% of cases are considered mild and patients can recover at home. Of the remainder, 14% of cases are classed as severe, causing breathing difficulties and low blood oxygen saturation. And 5-6% of cases are critical, with patients suffering from respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure.

Those at highest risk from Covid-19 are people over 65, and anyone who has an underlying condition that leaves them immunocompromised, such as cancer patients, people with diabetes, and those with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. According to data from the CDC, over 80% of deaths from Covid-19 occur in people over 65, and 95% of deaths occur in people over 45.

Long Covid — What we know

Some people who had otherwise mild or moderate cases of Covid-19 may continue to experience ongoing symptoms for months after infection. This has become known as long Covid, or post-Covid condition. The World Health Organization now recognizes that 10-20% of people may experience long Covid symptoms, which include fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, and depression.

Long Covid symptoms can emerge while patients are sick with the original infection, or appear up to three months after recovery. They last for at least two months, but in many cases continue for much longer. Long Covid is most common in women aged 35-69, those with other health conditions or disabilities, and people who live in deprived or low-income areas.

How is Covid-19 transmitted?

Early research into the coronavirus molecule suggested that it was transmitted by droplets and fomites (inanimate objects touched by infectious people), but it wasn’t airborne. Today we know that the virus can survive in the air for up to three hours. That means if somebody coughs in a grocery store aisle and you walk down that same aisle an hour later, you could get infected.

Despite this risk, airborne transmission isn’t the most likely way of contracting Covid-19. That remains through contact with respiratory droplets from when people cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets are too heavy to remain in the air for long, so current guidance is to keep six feet apart from others.

Early data showed that the most likely place to catch Covid-19 was in the home, with household transmission rates up to 30%. New data continues to show that being indoors with lots of other people increases the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Prisons, nursing homes, and food processing plants are other common locations of Covid-19 outbreaks. Dining inside restaurants is also high-risk for Covid-19 transmission.

covid-19 spread through respiratory droplets sneezing and coughing

How to prevent the spread of Covid-19

The steps to limit your exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and reduce your risk of catching Covid-19 are very straightforward:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Use hand sanitizer with 60-95% alcohol if soap and water is unavailable
  • Don’t touch your mouth or face when out in public, and ideally wear a face mask
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or sneezing (maintain social distancing)

Studies of the virus show that it has a lipid bilayer, meaning its outer layer is made up of two fat membranes. Household soap is designed to dissolve fats, breaking them apart and making them water-soluble. This means that when the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 comes into contact with soap and water, it breaks down, and the virus is effectively destroyed.

It’s especially important to wash your hands after being out in public and touching surfaces that may have been touched by others. This includes door handles, handrails, shopping carts, shared pens, and credit card processing machines. While the virus has a low survival rate on inanimate surfaces, it is possible that some cases of Covid-19 have been contracted that way.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to access soap and water when out and about, you can use hand sanitizer as an alternative. Sanitizier is less effective than soap, and not all hand sanitizers are the same. The CDC says you must use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol in order to be effective at removing microbes. Even so, the CDC cautions that no hand sanitizer is as effective as washing properly with soap and water.

Pro Tip: You don’t need to use specialist antimicrobial soap to combat this coronavirus. The reason soap is so effective is that it breaks down the virus’s lipid bilayer, destroying it. In viral terms, SARS-CoV-2 is incredibly easy to destroy because of this weakness, and that means plain old hand soap really is the most effective cleaner you can use.

Using a DIY hand sanitizer against Covid-19

You’ve probably seen a lot of recipes for DIY hand sanitizers available online since panic buying began, and many stores sold out. Most DIY recipes suggest combining 91% or 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) with aloe vera gel. The alcohol provides the antimicrobial properties needed to protect you from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while the gel prevents your hands from being dried out by the alcohol.

While this works in theory, the problem with all of these recipes is accuracy. Calculate the percentages wrong and you could create a hand sanitizer that’s too strong and will damage your skin, or too weak, in which case it will be completely ineffective. And because these are DIY solutions, there’s no easy way to test them and know if your homemade hand sanitizer is helpful or harmful. There’s also the risk of contaminating your DIY sanitizer if you don’t use sterile equipment when you make it.

You might have seen the recipe for hand sanitizer the WHO published and think that means DIY solutions are recommended for personal use, but the World Health Organization intended its guide to be used by medical practitioners who have access to sterile equipment and alcohol meters that measure the concentration of alcohol in the final mixture. Instead, stick with soap and water.

How to wash your hands effectively to kill SARS-CoV-2

While the hand-washing message is getting out, many people are failing to wash their hands effectively enough to kill the virus that causes Covid-19. You should always use soap and water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. That’s about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” all the way through twice.

Pro Tip: Sick of Happy Birthday? Try the chorus of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” or Beyonce’s “Love on Top” instead.

Step 1: Wet your hands thoroughly with water

Step 2: Add enough soap to cover your hands in a lather—about 1 standard pump of foam soap, 2 pumps of liquid soap

Step 3: Rub your palms together to lather the soap

Step 4: Place your left palm over the back of your right hand, interlace fingers, and rub back and forth

Step 5: Repeat with the right palm over the left hand 

Step 6: Place palms together, interlace fingers, and rub back and forth

Step 7: Make a fist, press your knuckles against your palm and rub the back of your fingers. Repeat for each hand

Step 8: Clasp your hands and rub from the side of your pointer fingers down, enclosing your thumbs

Step 9: Rinse your hands thoroughly with running water

Step 10: Dry your hands thoroughly using a paper towel

Remember to conserve water by turning off the faucet while rinsing your hands. Before washing, you can use your hand to turn off the faucet. After washing, use the used paper towel to touch the faucet. This will minimize the risk of re-contaminating your hands.

When you should wash your hands

There’s very little risk attached to excessive hand washing beyond drying out your skin, so you can feel free to wash your hands as often as makes you comfortable. However, the CDC recommends you wash your hands after these particular circumstances: 

  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After using the restroom
  • Before eating or preparing food
  • Before and after providing care for others
  • After touching public surfaces with high contact, such as door handles and shopping carts

How to properly disinfect and sanitize to avoid Covid-19

Transmission of Covid-19 is most likely between people in close proximity to each other, which means keeping your workplace clean is the most important thing you can do to prevent community spread. At Pro Housekeepers, we’ve investigated all the claims about what works and what doesn’t to bring you the latest information on what Covid-19 disinfection cleaning methods and solutions are the most effective at destroying this novel coronavirus.

What cleaning products kill the coronavirus?

Because this coronavirus has a lipid bilayer, any cleaner that’s designed to destroy fats is going to be highly effective at killing the virus in your home or workplace.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a list (known as List N) of antimicrobial products that are suitable for use against SARS-CoV-2. These include:

  • Clorox Multi-Surface Cleaner + Bleach
  • Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
  • Lysol Heavy-Duty Cleaner Disinfectant Concentrate
  • Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist
  • Lysol Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner
  • Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Wipes
  • Sani-Prime Germicidal Spray

There’s no need to use any of these detergents more often or for longer than they recommend on the label. All of these products meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

commercial office cleaning services

How to disinfect surfaces against coronavirus

You can check if your cleaner is suitable for use to protect against COVID-19 by looking up the EPA registration number on the EPA website. There you will find if the cleaner has the coronavirus listed as a target pathogen.

Alternatively, you can clean surfaces with a simple bleach solution:

Step 1: Put on a pair of disposable rubber gloves

Step 2: Clean any visibly dirty surfaces using detergent or soap and water

Step 3: Make a bleach solution by adding 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) of bleach to 1 gallon water

Step 4: Wash down surfaces using the bleach solution

Step 5: Rinse surfaces with clean water and dry thoroughly using a microfiber cloth or paper towels

Step 6: Dispose of the cloths, paper towels, and gloves used for cleaning

Step 7: Wash hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water

laundry for covid

How to clean soft surfaces to kill coronavirus

Although SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to survive long on soft surfaces, it’s still a good idea to maintain a thorough cleaning routine during the outbreak to minimize the risk of transmission. The CDC recommends cleaning porous surfaces such as carpets, curtains, and clothes using appropriate cleaning solutions according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many detergents are designed to work effectively on lipids and will be suitable for breaking down the virus that causes Covid-19.

Where possible, use hot water for the materials you’re cleaning, and ensure you completely dry all items. Don’t forget to clean your washing machine after using it to clean any items that might have been contaminated.

How to clean the laundry of an infected person

If you’re cleaning clothes, towels, and linens used by a person who might be infected with Covid-19, there are some simple steps to take to ensure you stay safe.

Step 1: Use disposable gloves when handling laundry and discard them after you’re done 

Step 2: Avoid shaking clothes to prevent scattering any droplets containing the virus

Step 3: Wash fabrics using a detergent and the hottest water suitable for the material

Step 4: Ensure all items are dried thoroughly

Step 5: Clean the liner of any laundry hampers they may have used, or consider switching to plastic bags and dispose of them after use

Step 6: Clean the washing machine and dryer

Step 7: Discard gloves and wash your hands immediately using soap and water

How often to clean to protect against coronavirus

Frequent cleaning is most effective at eliminating any SARS-CoV-2 pathogens that might be in your workplace. Encourage your staff to use household cleaners or disinfectants registered with the EPA to clean high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, desk surfaces, toilets, faucets, and sinks, as often as they are used, especially if your workplace admits the public and it’s harder to control who touches what surface.

At home, clean high-touch surfaces after new contaminants have been potentially introduced. For example, after family members return from work or running errands. Encourage all members of your household to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon reentering the home and wipe down any surfaces they might have touched before doing so.

To prevent community spread, try to clean all the major surfaces of your home and workplace on a daily basis. This should minimize the risk of accidental transmission if you come into contact with a person shedding Covid-19 in public.

If there has been a known exposure to Covid-19, immediately clean all surfaces using EPA-approved disinfectants. If the exposure is ongoing, for instance, a member of your family is sick with Covid-19, consider reducing the frequency of cleaning in the sick person’s room in order to minimize exposure to the virus.

Encourage the ill person to remain in one area of the house and provide them with personal cleaning supplies. If isolation within the home isn’t possible, other members of the household should wait as long as possible before touching any surface the sick person has used. This will increase the chances of the virus dying on the surface before it has a chance to infect somebody else.

The CDC has also provided a detailed home care guide for keeping you and your family safe.

The most at-risk places for contracting Covid-19

Unless a member of your household or workforce is already exhibiting symptoms, the most likely place for transmission is out in public. Human-to-human transmission remains the most common way people are becoming infected, so try to avoid any areas where you’ll be in close proximity to lots of other people. Public transport systems such as subways are an obvious location where your proximity to a lot of strangers is high. 

Most infections occur between people less than six feet apart, so simply by maintaining distance from others, you’re protecting yourself from contracting Covid-19. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of anyone who is coughing or sneezing because the virus is transmitted most commonly through respiratory droplets.

When you leave home, wearing a face covering, even a homemade mask, can help keep everybody safe.

Those who should take extra precautions include people over 65, and those who are suffering from preexisting conditions including respiratory diseases such as COPD, cancer patients, and the immunocompromised. 

How to clean your workplace to protect against Covid-19

Staying on top of regular cleaning is important to keep your workplace safe from the risk of infection from any virus or bacteria, not just Covid-19. By following this guide, you can play a part in protecting your employees and coworkers from common causes of exposure:

Cleaning entry and reception areas

The areas where the most people come and go are at most risk of viral contamination. You’re less likely to be able to control who enters your workplace, or what they touch. Therefore these areas should be cleaned regularly in order to minimize the risk to your workforce.

Door handles will be the most frequently touched objects in the room. Try to wipe them down with an EPA-approved disinfecting solution between uses, or on a regular schedule depending on how busy your workplace is. Don’t forget to clean the door or window beside the handle, as more people will touch there instead of the handle itself if they’re also trying to avoid possible exposure to the virus.

The front of reception desks are often leaned on or touched by visitors, and also need to be regularly wiped down. If possible, use a disinfecting wipe after each contact. If that isn’t possible, either because your workplace is very busy, or to avoid being seen by and upsetting visitors, try to wipe down the desk at regularly scheduled intervals.

Consider putting away any pens that you usually make available for public use. Instead, offer visitors a pen if they need one, and ensure it’s cleaned before being reused. If you usually display business cards for visitors to take, consider removing the cardholder and offering visitors a card instead.

Clean point-of-sale card readers according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging the machine.

If you have a waiting area with chairs and tables, try to wipe them down using EPA-approved disinfectants after each use. If your waiting area is usually busy, take advantage of lunch hour if your workplace is closed to the public or quiet periods in the day when you can clean. Pay attention to armrests and other places where people most usually place their hands.

Remove any magazines, toys, and other distractions you might put out to entertain waiting visitors. These items are often too difficult to clean effectively. If you do choose to keep some distractions available, particularly toys, choose ones with surfaces that are easy to access for cleaning.

If your staff members have individual, wired telephones, clean them with disinfectant wipes before the start of each shift, and before and after any other person uses the phone. Pay particular attention to the handset and the dial pad. Consider removing shared telephones, as they’re harder to keep track of cleaning and more likely to result in any sickness spreading rapidly through your company.

Cleaning desks and conference rooms

For the most effective containment of any type of virus or infection in the workplace, it’s best if your staff have their own desks and chairs. If this isn’t possible, ensure that everything is wiped down between changes.

Desk surfaces should be cleaned with EPA-approved solutions when new staff members begin to use them, and after anyone has eaten at the desk.

You should also encourage employees to clean telephones and computer mice and keyboards at the start of each shift, and before and after changing users.

Cleaning break rooms and kitchens 

Covid-19 is most commonly transmitted through close contact, so having many employees eating in the same area could increase the risk of the virus being transmitted through your workforce. Encourage all employees to clean tables and chairs before and after each use with disinfectant wipes.

Wash shared plates and utensils with hot, soapy water, and dry thoroughly using disposable paper towels. If you have a shared microwave, coffee maker, cooking facilities, or water dispenser, make sure they are all wiped down before and after each use. Charge one employee with the responsibility of cleaning the handles and buttons of the most commonly used appliances to ensure they are all disinfected on a regular basis.

Cleaning bathrooms

While it isn’t your employees’ duty to clean the bathrooms in your workplace, they can take precautions to minimize the spread of all diseases in this area. Encourage them to avoid touching door handles, toilet handles, and faucets with bare skin, and to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom. Make sure the soap dispensers are filled, you provide plenty of disposable paper towels, and have your cleaning company pay extra attention to high-touch areas during nightly cleans.

After hours cleaning

When your workplace is closed is the best time for intensive cleaning. Your regular cleaning company probably already takes most of the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of disease transmission, but ask them to use EPA-approved cleaners, and to focus on high-touch areas such as telephones, keyboards, and door handles.

 

How to clean your home to protect against Covid-19

At home, you’re the most protected against SARS-CoV-2. Providing nobody in your household is showing symptoms, your main concern should be in minimizing the risk of introducing the virus into the house. You can do this by encouraging everybody to wash their hands as soon as they enter, and regularly wiping down high-touch areas such as door handles, light switches, TV remotes, and faucets using EPA-approved disinfectants.

Maintaining a clean home is always a good idea to protect against all kinds of infections and viruses. A clean home can help you stay healthier and live longer. Covid-19 isn’t the only organism that can make you and your family sick, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection at home.

For more assistance, follow Pro Housekeepers’ simple checklist to stay on top of keeping your home clean.

Don’t panic

While the news might be full of horror stories about Covid-19, there’s no need to panic. The steps you need to take to minimize your risk of contracting the virus are straightforward and simple. Maintaining good cleaning habits and regular hand washing are the best things you can do to keep yourself, your workplace, and your family safe.

At Pro Housekeepers, we know a thing or two about keeping your home and business germ-free. Our cleaning pros are trained to get the spots that other cleaners miss, and they know the best cleaning solutions to use on every surface. Whether you’d like to have your home or workplace cleaned to minimize the risk from Covid-19, or just enjoy the results of a visit from a professional cleaning service, Pro Housekeepers is here to help. 

Contact us today to see how we can help you protect your workforce and household from germs all year round.

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