Coronaviruses – How They Work

Coronaviruses – How they work and how to protect yourself
Viruses are technically not living a organisms, but a protein molecules (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, change their genetic code, (mutate) and convert them into aggressor and multiplier cells.

As a virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it is not “killed” but rather it decays on its own.  The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material on which it lies.

The virus is very fragile and the only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat.  That is why any soap or detergent is the best method to disintegrate it, as the foam breaks down the fat (to make the soap foam adequately, you need to rub your hands together for 20 seconds or more).  By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own.  Click here to view a video showing how to wash your hands properly

Heat melts fat, this means that by using water above 77 Degrees F (25 degrees C) to wash hands, clothes, etc, increases the chance of disintegrating the virus.  Also, hot water creates more foam and that in turn breaks down the fat layer more effectively.

Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 70% dissolves fat, especially the external lipid layer of the virus. Alcoholic beverages will not work. The ABV (alcohol by volume) in even the strongest drinking spirits is lower than 70%.

Bactericides (antibacterial solutions) DO NOT work.  Unlike a virus, bacteria is a living organism and bactericides and antibiotics will not work on a virus that is not technically alive.

While the virus is attached to a  surface, it is inert and disintegrates in time, depending on the type of surface (ranging from 3 hours on fabric to 72 hours on plastic).   However if disturb it (by shaking using a feather duster) you risk making the virus molecules airborne for up to 3 hours and they can potentially enter your nose and mouth.

The virus molecules remain stable in cold environments such as outdoors (winter), air conditioned houses and cars.  They also require moisture and dark places to stay stable.  Dehumidified, dry, hot and bright environments will degrade a virus faster.

UVC light breaks down the virus protein on contact. However, UVC light is extremely dangerous to humans.  UVC light will destroy most viruses instantly but it will also burn human skin in seconds.

The virus does not penetrate healthy skin.  Provided that you do not touch your face and wash your skin thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap, your risk of contracting the virus is minimized

Vinegar is not useful against the virus as it does not break down the protective layer of fat.

NEVER mix ammonia or ammonia products with bleach. This may release toxic gases that may be harmful or fatal.


Cleaning and Disinfection for Households and Work Environments

  • When cleaning an area that has been exposed to coronavirus:
  • If at home, close off areas used by infected people
  • Open outside windows and doors to increase air circulation
  • Wait 24 hours prior to cleaning and disinfecting to allow time for molecules on surfaces to disintegrate.  If this is not feasible, wait as long as possible

There are 2 processes involved to minimize infection in your household; Cleaning and Disinfection.

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but but rather removes them, thus lowering their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.  Disinfectant may be applied either directly to the surface or by using a spray dispenser.  If possible, mist-spray surfaces and allow the disinfectant to air-dry.  Otherwise, wipe disinfectant with clean microfiber cloth.  Use different color cloths for each area so as to avoid cross-contamination.  

Follow the CDC’s Home Care Guidance

Surfaces should be first CLEANED and then DISINFECTED

REMEMBER:

  • Always wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes.
  • If possible, wear protective eye wear and a mask
  • Use clean microfiber cloths. Use a different cloth for each area (kitchen, bathroom, toilet, etc.) DO NOT use the same cloth for different areas.  Using different color cloths for each area will help reduce cross-contamination
  • Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products used
  • Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.

How to Routinely Clean & Disinfect:

Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g.: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, chairs, sinks, toilet, etc. and electronics (see below for special electronics cleaning and disinfection instructions) with household cleaners. Click here for a list of  EPA registered cleaners & disinfectants

AFTER cleaning surfaces, they should be disinfected, following label instructions. As well as following the instructions you should take adequate precautions when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ambient ventilation during use.  Click here for a list of EPA registered cleaners & disinfectants

For electronic equipment follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection of their products. Consider the use of wipeable covers for electronics. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids.

How to Disinfect Hard (non-porous) Surfaces

Hard (non-porous) surfaces such as counter tops, toilets, sinks, tables, etc., should be cleaned first and then disinfected

  • Dirty surfaces should be cleaned first using soap and water or a suitable cleaner prior to disinfection
  • Following cleaning mist-spray the surface with an EPA recommended disinfectant. If possible leave to dry naturally, otherwise, wipe the surface with a clean microfiber cloth
  • As well as recommended products, household bleach (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite) is effective as a disinfectant providing that:
    • The bleach has not expired
    • That the bleach solution is appropriate for the surface being cleaned
    • The solution has a contact time of 1 minute or greater
    • It is mixed in the following proportions: 5 tablespoons per gallon of water of 4 teaspoons per quart of water

How to Disinfect Soft (porous) Surfaces

Soft (porous) surfaces such as carpets, rugs, and cloth, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. After cleaning:

  • Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.
  • Alternatively, use products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus and that are suitable for porous surfaces.

How to Disinfect Electronics

For electronic items such as cell phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, and keyboards, remove any visible contamination if present.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
  • Consider use of wipeable covers for electronic items
  • If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids.

How to Linen, Clothing and Other Laundry Items

Laundry items should be treated as infected.  They are exposed virus molecules every time you leave your home.

  • Always wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes.
  • Be sure to wash hands after removing gloves or handling washing.
  • If possible, do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility of dispersing virus molecules in the air.
  • Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces. If possible, consider placing a bag liner that is either disposable (can be thrown away) or can be laundered.