Every year you are inundated with advertisements about how to disinfect and sanitize and use anti-bacterial soap to battle the flu. You are told to be concerned with surfaces like door handles, doorknobs, phone handsets, keyboards and other key touch points found throughout your everyday life.
Keeping colds and flu viruses at bay is hard enough at home. If you manage a work facility, you may be faced with the extra responsibility of determining the best way to protect your employees from getting sick.
If you go to the CDC website, they list every product certified to kill viruses and germs, but which one is safest AND most effective?
How Long do Viruses Live on Surfaces?
Before you spray everything with a disinfectant, there’s one thing you should know. Some experts say that you don’t need to bother.
I recently read an article where the writer asked the assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Centre about germs and bacteria on surfaces. The professor said that the flu virus outside the body is a very wimpy virus.
There is much discussion about how washing hands is the most critical step to stopping the spread of viruses and germs followed closely by covering coughs and sneezes. There is much less information on how long these germs and bacteria last on surfaces once they are outside the body.
Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine Director of Preventive Medicine says that the transmission of flu from surfaces is minimal. In fact, he says there “maybe some transmission” of the virus from surfaces. This news is not the panic and the widespread perception that advertisers long for.
Every year we get the onslaught of coverage on the flu outbreaks, and they are bad sometimes for sure. But the transmission directly from surfaces may not be as bad as one would think based on all the media attention on the topic each and every year.
If the likelihood of transmission from surfaces is low to minimal, let’s look at how long viruses last in surfaces. Studies show that viruses last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours. 24 hours is not very long and is why transmission from surfaces is insignificant outside of a hospital environment, and the focus must remain on human transmission prevention (hand-washing, cough and sneeze management, etc.)
Safe and Effective Bacteria and Virus Killers
For those that still don’t want to take any risk, here is how to kill germs and bacteria on surfaces. The easiest remedy is bleach; ½ cup of bleach in a gallon of water is a good disinfect mix. You then can fill a few spray bottles and place them in the kitchen or coffee nooks in your office or home.
You should spray and wipe with a clean, dry cloth. Leaving the spray solution on the surface for a period of time (dwell time of 3-5 minutes) will help to ensure a complete job of disinfection. It is key to use a clean cloth or paper towels that you can dispose of after use.
In using a bleach solution you need to be sure you are not using it on a surface, which can be affected by bleach. If you use bleach near carpet, for example, be aware what can go wrong will go wrong and spilling bleach on carpet is not a “good thing”.
Here are some disinfectants listed on the CDC site that are effective as well.
- Lysol disinfecting S.A cleaner RTU (ready to use)
- Claire disinfecting spray
- Lysol disinfectant wipes
- Zep refresh RTU spray
- Comet disinfecting bathroom cleaner
- Mr. Clean multi-surface cleaner
For a complete list of dozens more disinfectants, visit the CDC site.
What is the bottom line in killing bacteria and flu viruses?
- The most important ways to combat the spread of colds and flu is hand-washing, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing. This is followed by maintaining clean surfaces.
- Understand that the transmission of colds and flue is most often person to person and rarely from surfaces.