Disinfecting Against Coronavirus

March 30th, 2020

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the coronavirus (COVID-19) is a very hardy virus and can live on surfaces in some cases for a few days.  Here are some highlights of the study:

  • Coronavirus was able to live on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours.
  • It was not able to live as long on cardboard or copper surfaces.
  • It does not like extremely dry or extremely humid environments.
  • It may live longer in mucus and fluid droplets.

Want to keep yourself safe?  Here is some advice based of these findings and general knowledge about viruses.

  • Wipe down metal surfaces such as doorknobs regularly with a disinfectant.  Chlorox wipes are the best, but any cleaning spray that says “active against viruses” would be fine.  You can also use alcohol (make sure it’s 70% or higher) and put it in a spray bottle.
  • Be careful with deliveries such as groceries and take out food.  If the person packing those items has coronavirus, you could get sick.  I advise unpacking those items carefully, possibly dumping the food onto your own dishes immediately and discarding the containers.  Afterward, you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (>20 seconds!).  If you get boxes or packages that you don’t need right away, let them sit out.  All viruses will die out and become inactive on surfaces with time.
  • Try to get deliveries in paper bags rather than plastic.  It appears that paper/cardboard is not a good environment for viruses.  Cloth is another option.
  • If you are living with someone with coronavirus, be very careful with the utensils and dishware they use.  You may want to consider having them use disposable utensils and plates.  If you use your own dishware, make sure you put it in the dishwasher and use “heated dry”.  The heat in most dishwashers is enough to kill viruses.
  • UV light can make viruses inactive. However, most UV ray light machines sold (not medical grade) may not kill all of the viruses.
  • Go outside when it is warm and sunny.  Viruses do not seem to like these environments.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.  When someone sneezes or coughs, a large plume of droplets is thrown into the air around them.  These can contain millions of viruses each!  If you can smell someone’s cologne or perfume you are likely too close.
  • Wipe down or wear gloves before touching any “common touch” surfaces in public such as shopping carts/baskets.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry.  As the NEJM study mentioned, coronavirus can live on metal for up to 72 hours!  It’s easier to keep the wedding band off than cleaning it every single time you wash your hands.  Wear the wedding ring on a chain around your neck as an alternative.
  • Wipe down your phone and case regularly.
  • Avoid unnecessary trips in public.  Think about whether you really need to be going outside right now.  Postponing even one unnecessary trip to the grocery store may save your life!