Here's everything you need to know about viruses, COVID-19 and DIY cleaners you can make with household products.
What Is a Virus
A virus is a tiny pathogen,
somewhere between alive
and almost alive. They can’t
reproduce themselves, but
instead attack the cells of
other living organisms and
use them to reproduce.
Viruses mutate and change
over time, creating new
types of viruses with
different effects on plants
and animals. Some viruses
cause diseases in humans,
and those are the ones we
usually care about the most.
What Do We Know About COVID-19
COVID-19, AKA Coronavirus Disease 2019, AKA 2019-nCov Acute Respiratory Disease and several other names is a new virus that emerged early this year, and has spread around the world. It causes a potentially fatal disease that harms the respiratory system. It can be transmitted from person to person, primarily by small droplets of moisture produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking. The viruses in those droplets can also survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. Most distressingly, infected people can show no symptoms for weeks, making them unknowing carriers transmitting the disease to others.
What Chemicals Kill Viruses
Unless you are a doctor, the best thing you can do about COVID-19 is to stay safe and stay isolated to prevent the spread of the disease. You should also be cleaning your area to kill those viruses that might be on the surfaces around you. Start with good old soap and water to remove dirt and grime, then move on to some sort of disinfectant.
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DIY CleanersFirst and foremost, let’s be careful out there. Household cleaning products work because they are powerful chemicals, and while the manufacturers make everything as safe as it can be, they can still be dangerous.
When it comes to mixing cleaners, don’t think about it like mixing up foods in the kitchen, think mixing materials in a chemistry lab.
Some mixtures are fine, some mixtures can kill you. Last November, for example, a Buffalo Wild Wings employee killed one person and put thirteen people in the hospital by mixing a bleach-based cleaner and an acid-based cleaner.
Use household cleaners one at a time, as intended by the manufacturer. If you’ve got questions about what’s in your cleaners and what hazards you need to consider, look up the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for any product online. Search the name of the product and the abbreviation MSDS, and you’ll get a detailed look at what you’re using.
Bleach, active ingredient sodium hypochlorite, is a powerful disinfectant that’s effective on hard surfaces. You want a solution of about 0.12% sodium hypochlorite. To get that, you’ll need to look at the label on your bleach. Mine says it’s 8.25% sodium hypochlorite, so I mix ½ tablespoon bleach with 2 cups water. Don’t make too much – it loses potency in about a day.
To use this, wear gloves and apply the bleach solution to hard surfaces with a rag or a sponge and let sit at least 1 minute. If possible, just let it dry by itself.
Be careful with bleach. It’s corrosive, and can harm your skin, eyes, and lungs. Don’t touch it with your bare hands, and don’t breathe in the fumes. Don’t mix bleach with anything but water.
Alcohol is also effective against viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Your target concentration is 50-70% alcohol, so your best bet is 70% rubbing alcohol straight from the bottle or mixed with ⅓ cup of water per cup of alcohol.
Can’t get rubbing alcohol?
Vodka isn’t concentrated enough, but Everclear is. There are several versions out there, so you’ll need to add water to get a 50-70% solution. That’s going to be ⅞ cup of water with a cup of 190 proof alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol has poisonous additives, so don’t ingest it. It will also dry out your skin pretty bad, so wear gloves. Keep it away from open flames, too.
Hydrogen peroxide is an effective way to clean around the house, and it’s safer than bleach. You can use your basic household 3-6% solution of hydrogen peroxide straight from the bottle. Now, you’ll notice the bottle is opaque and brown. That’s because hydrogen peroxide breaks down when exposed to light, so maintain its potency by keeping it in the sealed original bottle.
Your hydrogen peroxide will bleach the color from anything it comes in contact with, including your fingers, so wear some gloves to protect your hands.
Stay safe out there, everybody. Wash your hands, clean your home, and disinfect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’ll get through this together (but physically apart).