Why does it matter which cleaning products contain alcohol?
In the midst of a pandemic, cleaning has become all the rage. We’re sanitizing like never before, and I think for most of us, it is becoming increasingly evident how dirty this world is.
What is becoming so important, though, is knowing the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. The biggest difference that comes into play is the ingredients: a disinfectant will generally contain either bleach or alcohol in order to kill any germs and bacteria, rather than simply helping something look clean, or breaking down the dirt and grime that is visible.
Some people don’t like the smell of bleach, or may even be allergic. If this is you, you’re probably looking at some good cleaning products that are effective at disinfecting without bleach.
5 Common Cleaning Products Containing Alcohol
- Lysol Wipes – Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16)
- Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner – Alcohol ethoxylates
- Fantastik Multi-Purpose Cleaner – Isotridecyl Alcohol 3EO
- Arm & Hammer Essentials Disinfecting Wipes – Alcohol ethoxylates
- Method All-Purpose Cleaner – Dipropylene Glycol
If you are using a cleaner specifically for a disinfecting purpose to kill viruses, it’s important to note what is called “contact time”. This is the amount of time the disinfectant needs to stay on a surface for it to effectively kill any viruses or bacteria.
How long a surface must stay wet for it to be effective might surprise you… it’s a lot longer than you think. Take, for example, Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner. To be effective against viruses, surfaces should remain wet for 10 minutes before drying off or being wiped.
Wet wipes should keep the surface wet for 2 minutes in order to effectively disinfect the surface. That means if you’re in the habit of using one wipe for multiple surfaces, you most likely aren’t actually disinfecting them!
Because we are cleaning so much more these days (habits that will hopefully stick around even after the pandemic), it is also so important that we understand and practice good cleaning safety too!
If you don’t have any of the “conventional” cleaners listed above, is there anything else you can use? First of all, it’s important to know what kind is necessary. According to the CDC, they recommend using at least 70% alcohol for disinfecting purposes. That means the vodka in your cabinet probably isn’t good enough to use as a disinfectant.
So, if you’ve found a bottle of 70% Isopropyl alcohol, you can use it to disinfect your surfaces, but there are some cautions you should be aware of too:
NEVER mix isopropyl alcohol with bleach
Unless you’re wanting to make chloroform (please don’t), mixing alcohol and bleach is never a good idea.
Check the “Contact Time”
For 70% Isopropyl alcohol (or rubbing alcohol), surfaces should stay wet for 30 seconds in order to be effective. While that might not seem like a long time, it evaporates quickly, so make sure to check and reapply if necessary.
Don’t clean ALL your surfaces with it
While you want your home clean and disinfected, you don’t want to destroy it in the process. Be careful when using Isopropyl alcohol! Stay away from any finished or varnished surfaces to be safe. When in doubt, test it out on a small spot first!
By keeping these reminders in mind, we will be prepared to clean and disinfect our homes no matter what!