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Eco-Friendly Cleaning in the Time of COVID-19

by Rheanna Sinnett of Just Add Water Floating Camps

During this period of potential exposure to coronavirus, I have spent a lot of time wondering how to safely disinfect my home and work spaces to prevent the spread of the disease in an environmentally conscious way - not only for myself and my family, but for my future houseboat guests. I am sure there are many of you who are wondering the same. I want to make sure I am balancing proper and effective disinfection while also minimizing the environmental impact of my cleaning processes. There are plenty of cleaners out there, but which ones are effective while also being gentle on the ecosystem? And what are the best ways to eco-consciously disinfect a space?

Fortunately, there are many ways! While I am certainly no expert, I have done a fair amount of research on this topic and wanted to share what I have found with our Rangeley Rises Community.

The first – and easiest – step when cleaning a space is to allow for a good amount of ventilation prior to entering. Transmission of coronavirus is much more common through suspended respiratory droplets in the air than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops, toys, etc. The air in a room can hold respiratory droplets from an infected person and proper ventilation allows those droplets to disperse. So opening windows and doors (or having your family or guests do so before they vacate the room) will help potential contagions disperse.

Another great precaution for the person cleaning is to use gloves and a face covering. This not only reduces your exposure to potential germs, but also prevents the possible shedding of contagions from you into the space.

Now, on to the cleaners. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are many cleaning product options that are light on the environment. I assumed bleach was the only option for proper disinfection, but there are several other alternatives that not only disinfect, but also have little negative environmental impact. The EPA has a list of registered disinfectants and the following active ingredients are recommended when considering eco-friendly options:

  • hydrogen peroxide**

  • citric acid

  • lactic acid

  • ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol or just alcohol), or

  • isopropyl alcohol

  • peroxyacetic acid**

  • sodium bisulfate

**The combination of hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid is a designated AOEC asthmagen, so avoid products that contain both.

A few other points I found informative and helpful –

It is important to clean dirty surfaces before disinfecting. This means first removing surface dirt, organic matter and dust followed by a clean water rinse. You then proceed with the disinfection to ensure any leftover germs are destroyed. Disinfectants are not nearly as effective when applied to dirty surfaces because germs can hide under soils.

Additionally, when disinfecting a surface, remember to leave the cleaning solution on the surface for the recommended length of time. Always follow the label use directions for enveloped viruses, which is the category under which COVID-19 falls. I was surprised to find that many disinfectants can have up to a 10-minute effective contact time, which means that the disinfectant needs to be left wet on the surface for 10 minutes in order to kill the targeted types of germs. So be patient! And if the directions for use against viruses list different contact times or dilutions, you should use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution.

Hopefully this article provided some new and helpful information even for the seasoned housekeepers out there. Happy green-cleaning!


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