One of my first memories is the pungent smell of alcohol. Every night, my mom sprayed the drying rack and kitchen shelves with isopropyl alcohol to disinfect them. But I wasn’t surprised: She took care of me for months when I got salmonella as a kid. Microbes were his biggest enemy. Me too I got really crazy about it. I became germy. So it’s not uncommon for me to grow up with her Germphobia. In fact, I keep an impressive arsenal of antimicrobial wet wipes in my basement, have at least seven bottles of hand sanitizer scattered throughout the house and car, and keep an emergency bag in the closet with bleach wipes and other deep disinfection tools for if a stomach bug attacks Frightening our house. I must admit that There is a difference between cleaning and tidying. I’m a fan of the first, but too lazy for the second.
Currently, due to the epidemic, I am not the only one affected by it panic microbes In a survey of 2,000 American adults last year, 42 percent of respondents described themselves as hostile, but our concerns aren’t always well-founded, as I learned from interviews with chemists and cleaning experts. turns up Many common cleaning practices are not effective and some are unnecessary.
I often think of viruses and bacteria as “harmful,” but many of them do good things, like those in the gut that help us digest food and build immunity. ‘Microbes are everywhere’, said Erica Hartmann, an environmental engineer at Northwestern University. “And that’s not always a bad thing.” The search reveals that Children who grow up on farms, surrounded by microbes, are less likely to develop asthma and allergies.
There is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes objects from surfaces: Dust, crumbs, microbes, dog hair. Sterilization kills things. Usually viruses and bacteria. “Cleaning is something we might want to do on a regular basis,” Hartmann said. But We just have to worry about killing (disinfecting) the dangerous germs that cause disease, We can often anticipate where they are.
For example, it is not necessary Disinfect kitchen counters every day, Unless you have cooked raw meat. also It is necessary to carefully disinfect the bathroom, Unless someone in the house has an infection.
When my 11-year-old spills honey on the kitchen table at breakfast, there’s no need to resort to antiseptic wet wipes. Soap and water remove sticky residue. Soap is also great for removing germs from your hands, but you need to lather a lot and wash for 20 seconds.
The Excessive use of some disinfectants, Like quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), it carries long-term risks. QACs, or “quats” as they are also called, are found in many common household cleaning products, including sprays and wipes made with Lysol and Clorox. According to Hartmann, “These cleaning products It can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. Although the experts I spoke with don’t agree on how much to worry about, Paul Metztal, a chemist who studies disinfectants at the University of Texas at Austin, stresses that disinfectants like chlorine, ammonia, and alcoats release gases that can be harmful. This is why it is recommended Use it when you need to disinfect, but not when you just want to clean.
When you have reason to worry about bad microbes, they can be killed with a disinfectant. Some chemicals work better than others. “Soap and water can kill microbes when foaming. “But they are not guaranteed as the strongest of options when it comes to removing microbes from surfaces,” said Bill West, a chemist at Emory University. Disinfectants such as bleach, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing), ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium compound cleaners are most effective.
“If using a disinfectant that releases gases, such as chlorine or ammonia, it is recommended to first ventilate the area by opening doors or windows, or to put on a disposable mask and toss it later,” Misztal suggests.
“I hate to say it, but you are probably sanitizing the wrong way. Many people spray or spread disinfectants on surfaces and With a touch the liquid is cleaned with a paper towel or sponge “, West explained. “This removes the chemical before it has a chance to sterilize,” he added.
“When you buy a product in a store, The disinfection time should be listed on the label. For example, Lysol disinfectant spray should remain on the surface for three minutes. Recommendations for a bleach solution range from one to ten minutes. Solutions containing alcohol do not need to be cleaned because they end up evaporatingsaid Cassandra Cove, an ethnobotanist at Emory University. “And you may have to leave some of the plant-based sanitizer on for a long time, even 15 or 30 minutes,” Hartmann said.
Briefly: Hate criminals can continue to wipe out microbes, but maybe not all. When I have to clean up a spill, I use soap and water or a mild cleaning spray, not disinfectant; But after handling raw meat, or when a family member gets sick, I choose the strongest product for cleaning contaminated surfaces and making sure to let it sit, with windows open, long enough to take effect. While I wait, I may have time to put the house in order.