Many people have asked about whether we need to move to synthetic cleaners like bleach, Lysol or Clorox wipes to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. When we first learned about the virus, I told people - do not worry if you need to use products that are synthetic because any ill effects you would have from the virus are definitely more dangerous for your health than the use of any cleaning product would be short term. While this advice remains true, I have since learned a significant amount about the virus and more details about the actives used in the synthetic cleaners and their effectiveness against the coronavirus. The answer may surprise you - natural cleaners like soap and ethanol(alcohol, which can be made from natural products) can actually be more effective than their synthetic counterparts.
So what do we know about the coronavirus? Experts have said that the main route of transmission of the virus is through person to person contact through respiratory droplets. These respiratory droplets are usually large in size and typically drop to the ground within 6 feet of the person who emits them.
There have been several studies about how long the virus lives on surfaces. Depending on what type of surface the virus lands on, the virus can live for various amounts of time. The virus itself is only some genetic material surrounded by a lipid hull and arguably is not even a living thing, as is explained in this video on Youtube. The below photo was taken from that video because it clearly explains the "lipid envelope" which surrounds the genetic material or RNA that the virus needs in order to replicate itself in our living cells.
The reason this "lipid envelope" is so important, is it is the material that is protecting the virus and allowing it to maintain itself on surfaces. If the lipid envelope is destroyed, the virus becomes inactive and unable to attach to our cells and replicate itself. So in order to clean best, we need to use products that will break this lipid envelope.
So what products are break the envelope most effectively? Simply put, surfactants, which are materials in dish soap, Thieves Household Cleaner, and laundry detergents, and soaps are excellent at destroying the lipid envelope and they can do it quickly. Remember the main advice from all officials has been to wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Alcohol will kill the coronavirus within 30 seconds on surfaces, making it extremely effective at doing what it does. The World Health Organization recommends 80% ethanol or 75% isopropyl alcohol combined with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin for hand sanitizers, which was also temporarily approved by the FDA. However, in a webinar given by the Society of Cosmetic Chemists(SCC), Dr. Robert Lochhead of the University of Southern Mississippi, a well known and highly respected chemist and industry leader, mentioned that the addition of hydrogen peroxide to the formulation with alcohol, will actually reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizer due to chemical reaction between the hydrogen peroxide and the alcohol. He recommends following the initial guidance from FDA using at least 60% ethanol and 70% isopropyl alcohol, which I outlined in my blog post "Coronavirus: Making Hand Sanitizer at Home". There are many natural products on the market including Thieves Spray and Thieves Hand Sanitizer sold at myaromalife.com that will meet the FDA guidelines.
Do Clorox and Lysol work better?
Benzalkonium chloride is a quaternary ammonium compound and a surfactant. This active is the only other active allowed in the FDA guidance for hand sanitizers. There have been concerns raised about this product being an endocrine disrupter. However, according to the FDA guidance, there was not enough data to confirm that it is an endocrine disrupter and therefore, it is included in the allowed actives. In the SCC webinar, Dr. Lochhead mentioned that the main issue with benzalkonium chloride in the instance of the virus is that residual amounts can be left on surfaces, whereas with alcohol this is not the case. Benzalkonium chloride is the main active used in Clorox wipes and Lysol.
What about Bleach?
The truth about bleach is that it takes 1 minute in contact with the coronavirus to render it ineffective. According to an article in National Geographic, using bleach “is like using a bludgeon to swat a fly,” says Jane Greatorex, a virologist at Cambridge University. The bleach will also be affected by the amount of dirt on a surface rendering it less effective according to Lisa Casanova, an environmental health scientist at Georgia State University. Experts recommend using milder soaps to easily sanitize surfaces indoors or outdoors.
After this significant amount of research on the topic, I have decided that for myself and my family, I am sticking with my natural cleaners and I specifically use the following products:
- Castile Soap both Liquid and Bar - I use this to wash my hands regularly. I make my own foaming hand soap from the liquid version. I use the bars in the shower or for shaving. The liquid version is also good for making an all purpose household spray as I outlined in my blog post "Chemical-Free Living - Make your own Natural Cleaners at Home"
- Thieves Household Cleaner - I use this for regular cleaning of ALL surfaces around my home
- Thieves Spray - I use this when I am out of my home on keys, my steering wheel, or my hands in a pinch
- Thieves Hand Sanitizer - I keep the 7.6 ounce bottle in my car and leave a 1 ounce bottle in my purse at all times.
I hope this information helps you. Please comment below with any questions!