Environmentally friendly cleaning in a COVID 19 World
Cleaning is the process of removing dirt, impurities and germs from surfaces. The most important surface we clean and the one we clean the most are our hands.
The most effective way to remove dirt, germs and viruses is using soap and water. Wash vigorously for 20 seconds ensuring you wash between fingers and down to wrists. Soap dissolves the fat membrane around viruses and the virus falls apart becoming inactive. To reduce the purchasing of plastic buy soap in solid cakes rather than as a liquid in a plastic bottle. You could try making your own soap.
Alternatively, you could but Castile Soap (preferably Australian made). Castile soap is versatile and gentle on people and the environment. It’s named for Castile, Spain where it originated with olive oil as the base ingredient. All authentic castile soap is made of plant oils — coconut, hemp, sunflower seed, jojoba and olive. Oils are mixed with an alkali — sodium hydroxide for solid soap and potassium hydroxide for liquid.
Castile soap is ideal as a hand or body wash, a base for homemade shampoos, household cleaner or for use in the garden. You can add you own organic perfumes depending on what you are using the soap for.
When you cannot access soap and water you should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol. Soap and water are more effective because hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and do not work on soiled or greasy hands.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. All surfaces should be cleaned before disinfection. Shop for safer disinfectant products. Choose those that are not sprayed and free from volatile organic compounds to avoid inhalation risks.
Although white vinegar (acetic acid, also in lemon juice) has disinfectant properties and will reduce the number of pathogens to undetectable levels, it is not effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The environmentally safest alternative to chlorine-based bleaches is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule. Hydrogen peroxide is light-sensitive and should be stored it in a dark bottle or kept out of direct sunlight. You can also use oxygen bleach which is made of water and hydrogen peroxide (always check the ingredient list on the manufacturer’s website). Oxygen bleach, or 100% Sodium Percarbonate acts a disinfectant on most germs found around the home. No need to rinse or wipe it off because it decomposes into oxygen and water. Oxygen bleach breaks down into oxygen and water and it is gentler to surfaces and your hands as well as kinder to the environment.
Disinfecting works on clean surfaces. Dirt and grime will interfere with the disinfectant’s germ killing so always clean first. Use gloves and disinfect high touch areas. Disinfectants need 5 minutes contact time to kill bacteria and viruses. The effectiveness depends on the hydrogen peroxide content of the solution and the contact time on the surface.
Either pour onto a clean rag or if you use a spray bottle (full strength) please ensure you only use the squirt setting so you are not put excessive vapours into the air. No matter how environmentally friendly the cleaning product spraying is not friendly to people or animals.
Always follow product instructions on labels for laundry, stain removal and other household uses.