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Do Cleaning Products Work Against The Coronavirus?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Over the past week, people across the country have bought up cleaning supplies and disinfectants.

So, do these products work against the virus? And, how should you use them? Good Question.

The packaging on these products say they kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. Companies have to prove that claim to the EPA before putting it on their labels.

But, given the coronavirus is so new, the EPA has not had enough time to test the effectiveness of each disinfectant. In the meantime, the EPA has created a list of products which can kill the virus. The list is based on previous EPA-approved claims for viruses which are harder to kill.

The Center for Biocide Chemistry has also published its own list of dilutable and wipeable biocidal products which can be used to kill the coronavirus. Their list is based on information from manufacturers that gave the EPA data its products can kill viruses tougher than COVID-19.

"There's a difference between cleaning and disinfecting," says Komal Jain, Executive Director of the Center for Biocide Chemistry. "Cleaning is getting rid of the dirt, while disinfecting means actively trying to kill the virus."

Consumers can find instructions for disinfecting on the product's packaging, and in some cases, on their websites. Clorox, Ecolab, and Lysol have each published their own guides.

Some products require several minutes to work. The Centers for Disease Control also has information on how to best disinfect surfaces for everyday use and when people are sick.

Studies have shown that other types of coronaviruses can live on hard surfaces for a week. 

However, Craig Hedberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, says that's not the primary way the virus is spread.

"I wouldn't focus on the environmental cleaning on what's going to prevent transmission," Dr. Hedberg said. "That's really a secondary mode of transmission."

He says that while it's important to disinfect highly-used surfaces if someone is sick, it's most important to stay home when you're sick, cover your cough and wash your hands.


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