Disinfecting in times of COVID-19

How to Make (and Use) a Disinfectant Against Coronavirus
Here’s a guide to working with sprays, wipes and a bleach-based solution to clean surfaces of the pathogen.
NY Times April 24, 2020

(excerpt) The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 may survive for several days on some surfaces. Estimates of its life span vary, but the virus can clearly hang around long enough to make disinfecting frequently touched surfaces a priority.

Normally, disinfectants, like Lysol and Clorox wipes , are available and would do the trick in cleaning most surfaces of contagions, but many of these items have been widely out of stock across the United States. If you cannot find any of these products, you can make an effective homemade disinfectant from a mixture of water and bleach.

Whatever you use, it’s crucial to know how to use a disinfectant properly — that means allowing enough time for a disinfectant to do its job, which can be as much as 10 minutes.

Presumably that doesnt include drinking or injecting it.


There’s always the “Clorox Chewables” someone posted on Reddit. LOL!

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When using Clorox (at least in the US), make sure it’s not their “Splashless” variety. It’s not certified as a disinfectant, and the label says so–it contains far less sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient. Look for their non-splashless bottles, or use another brand.


I use soap and water to clean some stuff I bring home. Soap dissolves the layer of protection (which is made of either fat or protein, which I can’t remember exactly) that the virus has.

I don’t have any specific disinfectant at home. Outside in the car I have a bottle of 8 year old 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol that had been sitting at the bathroom cabinet gathering dust until it was called into action a month ago. Now I pour a few drops out onto my palm and wipe my hands when I get into the car.

That reminds me, I probably need to get another bottle in about a month. Has anyone seen rubbing alcohol lately in the stores?


JAMECO in San Carlos vended us 99.9% electronics contact cleaning alcohol. Likely they still have it, it’s not listed as “food grade” so people are probably suspicious of it.

I don’t know what food grade means for alcohol though, unless they are talking about the alcohol leaving residue that’s not consumable. I think if my bottle runs out I’ll just go get some from them. I will just wash my hands before I eat, like I always do anyway.

Thanks for the lead.

The only “food grade” plain alcohol is “food-grade” ethanol - aka “grain alcohol” - or other liquor. The retail sale of which is invariably tightly-controlled in the US, if only for taxation purposes. (And while there may be others, the only ones I know of that have ≥ 70% ABV are grain alcohol and overproof rum.) Basically, if it’s not sold in a liquor bottle, chances are very, very slim that it is in fact “food-grade” ethanol. All other forms of alcohol are literally poisonous to varying degrees, in varying amounts, with methanol (used at the consumer level mostly as varnish or other paint-related solvent) being extremely  toxic.

I’m surprised it’s not stated on the bottle (unless it was re-bottled from bulk, and not properly labeled), but I’d also be surprised if “contact cleaning alcohol” is ethanol of any  “grade”. If people are using it on their skin, I dearly hope it’s at l least isopropanol, since methanol (wood alcohol) can be absorbed through the skin and is toxic even via that route (though not quite as seriously toxic as when ingested…)

I normally kept/keep a fair amount of both 70% and 91% or 99% isopropyl alcohol on hand for “general” household-solvent purposes and cleaning some electronics, so I’ve had more than I need available for things like disinfecting my smartphone, and unless you’re an “essential worker” who can’t avoid regular contact with the public/random people, I myself just don’t see the point of worrying about trying to keep one’s hands “disinfected” away from home. (Using gloves is even more pointless imo, especially since most people don’t know the first thing about avoiding contamination of either the gloves as they put them on, or their hands when they remove them.) Really the safest thing it to just assume it’s not safe to touch your lips/nose/eyes until you can wash your hands, or when you’re at home. Or if you really must, use a clean tissue to avoid contact with your fingertips… (And needless to say, anyone who doesn’t thoroughly wash their hands as soon as they walk in the door after being away from home is a complete idiot, and probably risking infection in any number of less obvious ways.)

For most household surface disinfection - to the extent it’s really necessary because some household members do come and go and/or aren’t careful enough about washing their hands when they do come home - bleach is quite effective and after an initial run on it, seems to be much less less scarce than ≥ 70% rubbing alcohol, though even that has been showing up here (NYC) in limited quantities and slightly-higher-than-normal prices at smaller stores. And of course just thoroughly washing any washable surface also works well, just as it does on hands, and fabric…


Apparently 99% isopropyl alcohol is less effective than 70% in disinfecting, because the alcohol evaporates away too quickly. The 30% water is also effective in de-naturing the proteins of e.g. viruses along with the alcohol.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen liquid electronics contact cleaner. Usually it is a spray. JAMECO is a reputable source. CRC is a good brand. It’s definitely poisonous although how much is the propellant and how much the cleaner it has never occurred to me to determine. It isn’t something I would purposely put on my skin or breath.

To the original topic, I haven’t change my regime in times of COVID-19. I have increased the tempo quite a bit. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an expedient when soap and water are not available. For regular kitchen and bathroom use I clean with vinegar-water solution. I use ServSafe guidelines for sanitizing. Clean first and then rinse (detergents reduce the effectiveness of later steps), sanitize with bleach-water solution allowed to sit for 10 minutes in order to act, rinse again (bleach is not food safe), take a nap. It really is a PITA. I used to do the kitchen and bathrooms every couple of weeks when we cleaned the house. We do it a bit more often now because it makes my wife feel better but frankly we don’t leave the house so where are viruses or bacteria to come from? I definitely do the kitchen after a grocery shop. Otherwise I’m not straying further than the mailbox at the end of the drive. My wife goes for walks but she is scrupulous about maximum distancing; if someone wants to talk at six feet she shouts from across the road to send her an email. We use AVG for computer viruses. (<- joke)