The ability of common household cleaning products to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – has been put to the test by Australian researchers, who’ve shown that detergent, bleach and alcohol are highly effective at doing the job.
The research team tested the ability of cheap and readily available household cleaning products to render SARS-CoV-2 non-infectious. They used vinegar, bleach, dishwashing detergent, and ethanol to represent alcohols available in the home.
“Our findings show that detergent, bleach and alcohol are highly effective at making SARS-CoV-2 non-infectious, but vinegar does not work at all,” says senior author Dr Julie McAuley, a researcher from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, in Victoria.
The researchers also identified the minimum concentrations of these cleaning products required to inactivate the virus.
“To make an effective cleaning solution, it’s as simple as adding a similar amount of detergent to water as you would for your dishes [two millilitres in one litre], then wiping over the potential SARS-CoV-2 contaminated surface and allowing it to dry,” says McAuley.
“For bleach, our results show that as little as 5ml can be added to 1 litre of water and could be ideal to disinfect bathroom surfaces,” she adds. “Alcohol-containing handwashes, or solutions used for cleaning surfaces, must contain more than 40% alcohol to be effective.”
But if you’re thinking of combining household products to increase their effectiveness, it might be a good idea to hold off.
“Surprisingly, when we combined bleach and detergent, we did not see increased virucidal potential for inactivating SARS-CoV-2 compared to using each component on their own,” says McAuley.
“We must also warn against combining chemicals in an attempt to increase their virucidal activity, as some household disinfectants contain buffering agents that we found may counteract the effective virucidal concentration of the other chemical it was mixed with.”
All tested dilutions, products and combinations have been published in the new study and are available for the public to use to inform their COVID-19 cleaning plans.
“We wanted to provide all the information required to assist people to safely clean potentially contaminated surfaces, reducing the potential for transmission in their homes and workplaces,” explains McAuley.
The research is published in the journal Viruses.
Imma Perfetto is a science writer at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.
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