Safety & Cleaning (COVID-19)

Soap inactivates the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 by dissolving the lipid (fatty) membrane that envelops the virus.

Because soap inactivates the coronavirus, it is a cleaner and a sanitizer.

Definitions to know:

  • To Clean: the act of removing germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces and objects. Works by using soap/detergent, water and friction for physical removal.

  • To Sanitize: the act of reducing germs on surfaces and object to safe levels of 99.99%.

  • To Disinfect: the act of destroying almost all infectious organisms.

  • Dwell time/kill time/contact time: the time a disinfectant or sanitizer needs to remain wet on a surface or object before it kills bacteria and viruses.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Report National Poison Data System

During January–March 2020, poison centers received 45,550 exposure calls related to cleaners (28,158) and disinfectants (17,392), representing overall increases of 20.4% and 16.4% from January–March 2019 (37,822) and January–March 2018 (39,122), respectively. Although NPDS data do not provide information showing a definite link between exposures and COVID-19 cleaning efforts, there appears to be a clear temporal association with increased use of these products.

Further analysis of the increase in calls from 2019 to 2020 (3,137 for cleaners, 4,591 for disinfectants), showed that among all cleaner categories, bleaches accounted for the largest percentage of the increase (1,949; 62.1%), whereas nonalcohol disinfectants (1,684; 36.7%) and hand sanitizers (1,684; 36.7%) accounted for the largest percentages of the increase among disinfectant categories. Inhalation represented the largest percentage increase from 2019 to 2020 among all exposure routes, with an increase of 35.3% (from 4,713 to 6,379) for all cleaners and an increase of 108.8% (from 569 to 1,188) for all disinfectants.