There have been more than 21 million reported cases of and 360,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. as of the first week of the new year.
Vaccine supplies are currently limited and generally available only to select groups of people who are considered to be at high risk of the disease caused by the coronavirus. So it remains unclear whether the average American will be able to get vaccinated in 2021.
But in the meantime, measures like careful cleaning habits and the right disinfectants may help you avoid the coronavirus.
Coronaviruses like the one currently circulating in the U.S. and other nations are enveloped viruses, meaning they have a protective coating. That makes them “one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product,” says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Following is a list of such disinfectants. Some still might be hard to find as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, but you don’t need them all. Having a couple on hand still will help you keep the virus out of your home as the persistent pathogen enters its second year of existence.
Just remember that you must use a disinfectant correctly for it to be effective.
The EPA urges consumers to follow product directions, especially those regarding how long to let a disinfectant sit on a surface before wiping it away. The National Pesticide Information Center offers more detailed guidance for using disinfectants (which are considered pesticides) to control the coronavirus.
1. Soap and water
That’s right: Plain ol’ soap and water is not only the best way to wash your hands but also an effective way to disinfect other surfaces.
The friction that is created when you scrub with soap and water is enough to break the coronavirus’s protective envelope, according to Consumer Reports. That means you must use some elbow grease along with the soap and water, though.
Richard Sachleben, a chemist and member of the American Chemical Society, tells Consumer Reports:
“Scrub like you’ve got sticky stuff on the surface and you really need to get it off.”
Bleach is among the products that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for disinfecting surfaces in households where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 — assuming the surface would not be damaged by bleach.
Bleach is effective against coronaviruses if its expiration date has not passed and it’s diluted with room-temperature water using one of these two ratios:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon of water
- 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water
Caution: Never mix bleach with other cleaners. Hazardous gases can be produced, as we detail in “Never Mix These 4 Combinations of Cleaners.”
The CDC also recommends rubbing alcohol that contains at least 70% alcohol.
Note that we’re talking about rubbing alcohol itself, not alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
For cleansing your hands, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is your next-best bet after soap and water. But to disinfect surfaces, you need rubbing alcohol itself and a higher percentage — at least 70% alcohol.
4. Certain Clorox products
The EPA maintains a list of disinfectant products that have qualified for use against the coronavirus.
Also known as List N, this resource is dominated by professional products like those intended for use in the health care industry, but it does include some products intended for consumers.
Those consumer products include the following from Clorox:
- Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
- Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach
- Clorox Disinfecting Bleach
These products might be out of stock at your local stores, and their availability appears to fluctuate even at online retailers. But if you keep an eye on Clorox's storefront on Amazon, you might luck out.
5. Certain Lysol products
The EPA’s list of qualified coronavirus disinfectants also includes numerous consumer products from Lysol, such as:
- Lysol Disinfectant Spray
- Lysol Disinfectant Spray Max Cover Mist
- Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Lysol Multi-Surface Cleaner Pourable
- Lysol Multi-Purpose Cleaner with Hydrogen Peroxide
- Lysol Multi-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach
- Lysol Power Bathroom Cleaner
- Lysol Power Foam Bathroom Cleaner
- Lysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach
Again, monitor Lysol's storefront on Amazon or call ahead to local stores to ask about their stock.