How To Disinfect for Coronavirus (Comprehensive Guide)

Precaution is one of the best ways to safeguard ourselves from COVID-19 pandemic.

As per Who, the main mode of transmission of the virus is through droplets in the air. But it can also spread when we touch contaminated surfaces.

Thus, apart from social distancing and wearing a mask, disinfecting surfaces that are possibly contaminated with SARS-CoV-19 is one of the key points to be considered.

The task of disinfecting surfaces seems daunting, after all, there are so many of them – hands, face, cars, keys, veggies, fruits, packaging, boxes, bottles, kitchen table, and so on.

But the task is not as complicated as it sounds if we understand what we need to do any why.

Most of us forget what we have to disinfect or are confused about if something has to be disinfected at all?

In such a case, we recommend a few simple rules –

  • If you go out, everything you wear, touch, buy needs to be paid attention to
  • In case of doubt, it is better to be on the safer side by disinfecting rather than leaving it on chance.

In this article, we have gathered the latest information from the CDC, EPA, WHO, and various research papers to present the best methods to disinfect multiple surfaces.

But first, we need to understand a few critical things about disinfectant

Key concepts you need to know before you start

Before you jump into disinfecting, it is essential to understand a few things about it.

First, clean and then disinfect. The cleaning can be done with simple soap water.

Second, you cannot use any disinfectant to disinfect for SARS-CoV-19. You should be using only EPA approved disinfectants, here is a quick list of the same>

Third, more than one mode of disinfection may be required as we are dealing with various kinds of surfaces with different properties (hard, porous, etc.)

Lastly, understand the contact time for every disinfectant. In simple terms, it is the minimum time your disinfectant should be visibly present on the surface.

Identifying High-touch surfaces in the House

Every house will have surfaces that are touched/used the most.

These pose the greatest danger of spreading infecting (not only COVID-19, but others too).

Here is a quick list, but it may vary from house to house –

  • Mobile phones
  • Doorknobs
  • Table and chair surfaces
  • Light / fan Switches
  • Game / TV / AC remotes
  • Counters – kitchen and bathrooms
  • Faucets and faucet knobs
  • Door bell
  • Handles of kitchen cabinets
  • Toilet seat
  • Car / house keys

This is not an exhaustive list but covers the main ones.

Identifying Possible contaminated items bought from outside

There is a serious possibility of contamination reaching our house from the stuff we get from the market or deliver to us by online suppliers.

Here are a few candidates –

  • Food packaging
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Delivery Boxes
  • Any other items – metal, plastic or cloth bought from outside

Assigning Clean side and Dirty side of the table

dirty side clean side

This is an interesting and handy concept mentioned by Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD.

When we clean or disinfect items we get from outside, we forget to make a clear boundary where we are keeping the clean items and where the dirty items.

So, it’s possible that you keep the clean items at the same place where there was a dirty item, thus running the whole cleaning exercise.

This can be solved by simply marking a table in two parts – clean and dirty.

All the things to be cleaned start at the dirty side and when they are cleaned make their way to the clean side.

When everything is finished, the dirty side is cleaned and disinfected!

How to Disinfect Hands for Coronavirus

One of the most important surfaces to be disinfected is our hands.

Fortunately, this is very straight forward, and FDA approved hand sanitizer will readily kill the virus.

WHO recommends washing your hands often with alcohol-based sanitizers or with soap. When washing with soap, wash for min 20 seconds.

Here is a detailed chart by WHO on how to wash hands –

Source: WHO

How to Disinfect Metal Surfaces for Human Coronavirus?

SARS-Cov-19 is known to be present on most metal surfaces for 48-72 hours. One exception is copper, on which it’s only present for 4 hrs.

But given that most of the metal items in the house are not made out of copper, we will proceed with the guideline of 48-72 hours.

There are several options available to disinfect metal surfaces –

  1. Wipes – work great for knobs, handles, etc.
  2. Spray – works for large metal surfaces, e.g. metal top table, etc.
  3. Concentrate – these disinfectants need to be diluted and then can be applied to the surface using clean cloth etc.

You need to use a good quantity of the disinfectant to ensure it stays for the time, as mentioned on the label of the disinfectant.

How to Disinfect Plastic for Coronavirus?

SARS-CoV-19 is known to last on plastic for as many as 4 days. Given plastic is used widely in our daily lives it’s important to disinfect these surfaces regularly.

The process of disinfecting plastic is the same as that of any hard surface; you need to apply as EPA approved for a time period mentioned on the label.

For example, juice bottles, water bottles, milk bottles, etc.

Things get a bit tricky if you get food produce or other grocery items in plastic wrapping.

First of all, prepare a table and assign a clean and dirty side.

Then a simple 6 step method to follow –

  1. Wear gloves or disinfect your hands
  2. Hold the plastic wrapping and put its contents in a clean container on the clean side
  3. Throw away the plastic wrapping or keep them on the dirty side
  4. Once all unpacking is done, collect all packaging from the dirty side and throw them in the dustbin
  5. Clean and disinfect the dirty side of the table
  6. Remove gloves / disinfect hands

How to Disinfect Paper Packaging for Coronavirus

Several food items are also packaged in paper boxes.

While the food inside is fine, but the outside packaging can still be infected as it may have been exposed.

There are three things we can do in such cases –

1. Just Unpack & put items in another container

This is very similar to what we did for plastic packaging.

Prepare a table to keep the things and assign a clean and dirty side.

Steps to follow –

  1. Wear gloves or disinfect your hands
  2. Hold the wrapping and put its contents in a clean container on the clean side. For example, you can put out the inner packing of the flakes into a container.
  3. Throw away the cardboard wrapping or keep them on the dirty side
  4. Once all unpacking is done, collect all packaging from the dirty side and throw them in the dustbin
  5. Clean and disinfect the dirty side of the table
  6. Remove gloves / disinfect hands

2. Disinfect using disinfectant

In case the cover is made of glossy cardboard (as with tetra packs, etc.) you can just wipe the surface clean with a wipe.

3. Keep in isolation

If the material inside is not perishable, one great way to just keep it all for a couple of days isolated in your garage or another safe part of your house.

How to Disinfect Fruits and Vegetables for Coronavirus?

There is a constant fear that the food we eat might be contaminated with the SARS-CoV-19.

Fortunately, there is little evidence that the virus spread through “eating”.

But the issue can be touching the infected vegetables and fruits and then touching your face or maybe keeping these on the kitchen table or in refrigerator causing surfaces to be infected there.

To start with, we cannot use any disinfectant to wash vegetables and fruits. So, DO NOT try that.

Here are a few methods to clean fruits and vegetables –

Make sure the outside packaging is removed before you do this. Follow the section above on disinfecting the plastic surface for this.

1. Keep in isolation for a few days (if possible)

Certain vegetables and fruits can easily survive in isolation for 1-2 days or more.

Keeping them will ensure they are good to use (after washing from water).

2. Use running cold water to clean

CDC recommends thoroughly washing the produce under running cold water.

Given the virus is unlikely to spread through eating, takes care of the problem to a large extent.

Dry the produce and then put it in the refrigerator.

3. Washing with soapy water

Some people recommend washing the fruits, especially with peel in soapy water for 20 seconds, this is just like washing hands.

Just like hands, soapy water disinfects and cleans the fruits too.

But, this method is not recommended by all as fruits do have pores and soap may get inside or cling to the surface. Soap is not at all good for our digestive system.

It is important that this method is not used for fruits which are not peeled (like strawberry, peach etc.)

How to Disinfect the Phone for Coronavirus?

There are a few things as often used by us as our phones.

But Phone can also be a cause of the spread of SARS-CoV-19.

The most common way our phone’s surface can get infected from the virus on it is when we touch it while we are shopping or its placed on a contaminated surface.

For example, while shopping we touch several items, and then if phone rings, we pick it up. Or we text someone or just read a message. Thus whatever contamination is on our hand is then on our phone too.

While we wash or disinfect our hands later, the same is not followed for our phone. This can cause a serious problem.

The process of disinfecting your phone is straight forward.

Just use any of the EPA approved disinfectant wipes (with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol) and clean the whole surface, including the screen with it nicely.

This will work for both Android and Apple devices.

If you are using a case, make sure you disinfect it, too, with the wipe.

Throw the wipe in the dustbin and then disinfect your hand with sanitizer or wash hands for 20 seconds.

It is a great practice to disinfect the phone once every day, irrespective of the fact you have been outside or not.

How to Disinfect Electronic Items for Coronavirus?

Disinfecting electronic items for coronavirus is straightforward.

Most of the electronic items have metal or plastic body.

Thus you can either spray disinfectant and wipe with a cloth or use a wipe / concentrate directly on the surface.

Always do this process when the item is switched off. It is important to take care that the spray / liquid does not enter the circuit as it may cause issues.

How to Disinfect Clothes for Coronavirus?

The clothes you wear may get contaminated with the virus when you step out of your house.

For example, your clothes may touch walls, lift surfaces, etc. some people also use their body to open doors instead of hands when they go out to save using their hands.

This means there is a possibility of contamination on the clothes.

As of now, it is not known how long SARS-CoV-19 can stay on clothes, but irrespective of that it is best to remove these clothes moment you come home and wash them.

A good wash in warm water will be good enough to ensure the virus is no more active. Make sure you are wearing gloves when you handle these clothes and wash your hands once done.

One important thing which is missed while disinfecting the laundry is the laundry bag.

Remember, when you keep the dirty laundry in the bag, the bag itself gets contaminated. If you cannot wash the bag, Make sure it’s placed at a place that it’s not touched.

How to disinfect Amazon / UPS boxes for Coronavirus?

SARS-CoV-19 is known to be active on cardboard for round 4 hours.

Thus, amazon boxes are relatively safe as the transit time from the warehouse is much more than 4 hours.

But, there is still a possibility of contamination while delivering the package.

The best practice is to ask the delivery person to drop it in your garage. You keep it there for a day and then open it.

If that is not an option, you can open the box, empty the items and then dispose off the box.

Another option is to just lightly wipe the box with an EPA approved wipe.

While a close box in transit for several days will make sure the virus on the items will most likely be gone but to be absolutely sure, follow the rules of disinfecting the items inside the box as given above.

How to Disinfect Doorknobs, Glass for Coronavirus?

Use an EPA approved wipe of concentrate for wiping the doorknobs and glass surfaces.

Make sure the disinfectant stays on the surface for the contact time mentioned in the label of the bottle.

How to Disinfect Grocery Bags for Coronavirus?

Many people use their own bags to buy groccery.

If you use such a non-disposable bag, you will also need to disinfect the bag.

If you do not often shop, just placing the bag in isolation for a few days will do the trick.

But if you go shopping regularly and need the bag –

  • If you are using a plastic bag, it’s surface can we cleaned using EPA approved wipes. Make sure to use the wipe both inside and outside the bag
  • If you use a cloth bag, you can wash it with soap and warm water and dry to be used again

How to Disinfect Face Mask for Coronavirus?

CDC now recommends that everyone should wear a mask, whether you may or may or may not have any symptoms.

It recommends wearing a simple cloth mask.

CDC also mentions that it needs to be washed regularly.

As it is a cloth mask, there is no special technique needed, just washing in your washing machine or by hand should be good enough.

Please note this advice is only for cloth mask and not applicable to N95 masks.

Last Words

It is so important to be cautious today. We hope the recommendations above will help you and your family keep safe.

As it is important to use quality, EPA approved disinfectants, here is the link to the list>