To Clean or Not to Clean; that is the Question

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

The CDC has just come out with their latest finding, saying that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 does not spread very effectively by contact with inanimate objects, but that most cases are spread person-to-person via aerosol. This really isn’t new news, as we’ve known all along that the primary means of transmission is aerosol.

What’s glaringly absent from the CDC’s new findings, is anything to retract or negate information that they had formerly released, showing that the SARS-CoV-2 virus lives for as much as three or four days on hard, non-porous surfaces, specifically steel and plastic. Apparently that information is still true, even in light of these new findings.

My concern here is that people are going to misinterpret the new report from the CDC and use it as a justification to change their behaviors, increasing the risk of contracting the disease. This wouldn’t be the first time that information put out by the CDC has led to actions which furthered the spread of COVID-19, whether through poor information coming out of the CDC or through poor understanding of that information.

One thing that people keep forgetting, which is critical to how we react to what is happening as this pandemic progresses is that this is a constantly changing and developing situation. The CDC has only been studying this disease for a little over four months now. That’s nothing in the field of epidermiology; they’ve been studying AIDS for just shy of 40 years now and the influenza virus for 87 years!

It shouldn’t be surprising that they are making new discoveries all the time and that those discoveries are changing the advice that the CDC is putting out. Yet every time they say something new, there’s a collective cry out that the CDC has been lying to us all the time. This time is no exception.

So, what sorts of behaviors am I concerned about? There are two:

  • Washing our hands
  • Disinfecting things that come into our homes

A “reduced likelihood” of the disease pathogen being transmitted through inanimate objects doesn’t mean that it won’t. In other words, you can still catch it that way; it’s just not as likely as they once thought. So unless you’re absolutely convinced that your luck will protect you, keep washing your hands with soap and water or with waterless hand sanitizer, every time you come into contact with something that you aren’t sure has already been disinfected. That goes for the groceries too.

I started disinfecting my groceries long before any official recommendations to do so, and I’m still doing so. My wife and I are considered “high risk,” so I’m not going to take any chances. If someone else wants to take chances with their life, that’s up to them. But I didn’t become a survivalist 40 plus years ago so that I could take chances with my life.

I’ve been using either Clorox wipes or Clorox disinfectant spray cleaner to disinfect my groceries, incoming shipments and anything else I bring into the home. Surprisingly, the wipes are not bleach based, even though that’s what Clorox is known for. Rather, they use ammonia as the anti-bacterial and anti-viral cleaning compound. The spray cleaner uses bleach.

This naturally led me to ask myself why they were using ammonia, rather than chlorine bleach. You know, “inquiring minds want to know.” I found the answer to that question on the EPA website.

You may not realize it, but the EPA maintains what they call “List N.” This is a listing of all disinfectant products which meet the EPA’s criteria for use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They have similar lists for disinfectants that are approved for use against other microscopic pathogens, like the strains of the flu virus; even for Ebola.

According to this listing, Clorox products which contain ammonia kill SARS-CoV-2 in 15 seconds. Those that count on chlorine bleach to kill the virus require 60 seconds, four times longer. Considering how the wipes are intended to be used, it’s no wonder that the Clorox company has chosen to use ammonia, rather than chlorine. It’s more efficient, therefore more effective for the customer.

Clorox spray cleaner + bleach, on the other hand, uses chlorine bleach as the active ingredient. So it’s not going to be as efficient in the killing of any virus, as the Clorox wipes are.

As I’m sure you are aware, it’s been difficult to find either of these products, either under the Clorox name or by any other brand in the stores. That’s partially due to the high demand and partially because the chemicals come from China. We’re having trouble getting a lot of critical items from China lately.

The obvious solution is to try and make your own replacements. Making the cleaning spray is fairly easy. All you need to do is mix 1/3 cup of chlorine bleach and ½ cup of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of water. Put it in your spray bottle and you’re ready to roll.

But making the wipes, or at least wipes with the same or even similar chemical formulation is another thing entirely. Ammonia is a gas and most of us don’t have a chemical lab which will allow us to dissolve gases into water. Therefore if we want to create our own disinfectant wipes, we need to use something besides ammonia, something like the liquid disinfectant we just discussed.

If you take a roll of blue shop paper towels and cut it in half, it comes out about the same size as a roll of toilet paper. Soak that in your disinfecting solution, leaving it long enough to ensure that it soaks all the way through. Then remove the roll, and cut out the cardboard core. This provides a good way of verifying that the liquid has soaked all the way though. It also makes it possible to pull the towels out from the inside, which is necessary. Place the roll into an airtight container and you’ve got your own disinfectant wipes. Just take a little longer cleaning things, to be sure it has time to do its job.

There you have it. Not everything you need to stock up on is physical, like keeping your powder dry and your survival kit close at hand; some of it is knowledge, which is ultimately more valuable.

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