Disinfectants for Coronavirus Explained

We are in the middle of a Pandemic and the world is gradually opening up. 

In this situation, it is imperative that we remain safe. 

Safety will come from preventing the spread of the Coronavirus from an infected person or things (Fomite) to ourselves – through our skin, nose, and throat.

So what is available to us to protect ourselves and when to use which product? Let me try and explain.

1. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) – SOAP!

Did you wonder why frequent hand washing with soap is being touted as the single most important precaution we can use in our fight against the Coronavirus? 

The RNA sequenced SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus. It is a tiny bit of protein surrounded by a layer of fat.

 Soap is a Surfactant – it reduces surface tension.  

The bubbles in the soap reduce the surface tension on the lipid layer of the Virus thus releasing the protein and the virus dies. 

This process needs foam (so bubble up the soap in your hands) and time – 20 seconds.

And that is truly the cheapest, easiest, and one of the best ways of staying safe! And do it frequently, especially if you have entered the house from a visit outside.

2. Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

Alcohol, in a minimum concentration of 60 %, preferably 70 % and above is effective in eliminating the virus. Alcohol denatures the protective outer proteins of the virus and dissolves the cell membrane thus killing it. Though a minimum 30 seconds contact/ hand rub is recommended it should be at least for 20 seconds. Sanitizers do not work so well on dirty or greasy hands (as when working outdoors with machinery etc). 

It is a substitute for handwashing – either when inconvenient like for healthcare workers inwards in between patients or when outdoors and with no access to running water.

Alcohol can also be used to clean surfaces especially doorknobs, handles, and other frequently touched points including metal and granite surfaces. 

3. Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)

The common household bleach is a good disinfectant for surfaces. It can be diluted and used as a spray for surfaces or added to water during wet mopping of the house. It is corrosive so either avoid on metallic surfaces or wipe down after a while with a towel. Remember to use protective gloves when handling concentrated Sodium Hypochlorite! 

Chlorine works on some active sites in the virus in various ways to make it perish.

It is usually available as a 5 % or 10 % liquid and needs to be diluted and brought to 1 % concentration for surface disinfection. It must be prepared fresh every day and used/ discarded within 24 hours of reconstitution. A minimum period of 1 minute contact time is required. 

You know the medicine is in use when you get the familiar smell of bleach in the room – like going to the swimming pool!

4. Hydrogen Peroxide 

The activated Oxygen molecule in Hydrogen Peroxide helps to kill the cell membrane and lipids.

It is used at a concentration of 3 % for household use.

The advantage of Hydrogen Peroxide is that it can be used on fabrics, clothing as well as for washing your fresh produce from the groceries!

Hydrogen Peroxide is also likely to be used in the so-called Sanitation Tunnels.

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