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The Cheapest and Most Common Disinfectant. COVID-19 Disinfection Tips!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends to clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily in common areas that are touched such as table, hard backed chairs, phones, tablets, remote controls, doorknobs etc. They recommend wearing gloves when cleaning and disinfecting. Gloves need to be discarded after usage and if reused, the gloves should be used only for the sole purpose of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces to prevent spread of the COVID-19. Make sure to clean hands with proper hand washing techniques after glove removal.  The CDC recommends to use EPA-registered household disinfectants. Diluted household bleach solutions can also be used on appropriate surfaces. Read the guidance for proper application, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute. As always, allow for proper ventilation and make sure to check the expiration date of the bleach before usage.  Out of date or old bleach compromises the effectiveness of the solution.

The University of Florida/IFAS Extension publication, “COVID-19 Preventive Measures: Cleaning and Disinfecting Reusable Bags” (FCHN 20-24), contains a bleach solution that can be made at home.  Bleach is the most common and cheapest disinfectant. Use 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water OR 4 tablespoons bleach per quart of water.  Use bleach that has either never been opened or has been open for no longer than 30 days. According to The Clorox Company, bleach solutions are susceptible to degradation such as environments that have increased temperatures, contamination and even light (that’s why it’s sold in opaque bottles). These environments can cause the liquid bleach active to break down into salt and water. When using a bleach solution for COVID-19, ensure the most effective quality and potency are being used by following UF/IFAS guidelines as mentioned above by utilizing an unopened (or 30 days or less opened) bottle and mixing the proper dilution rate.

The Clorox Company states the active ingredient in bleach, sodium hypochlorite will  naturally break down into salt and water. When bleach is stored in extreme hot or cold temperatures and/or when the bottle is more than one year old, the rate of breakdown accelerates. Generally, bleach stored at room temperature (~70°F) has a shelf life of one year, but after that point it should be replaced. However, since many of us don’t remember when bleach was purchased since it remains on our shelf, the smell test can be an indicator. If there is no bleach smell, most likely it is old due to most of the active ingredients have converted to salt and water. In short, you have an ineffective solution. Clorox recommends to dispose of outdated bleach by adding it to your toilet bowl and then flush—any small amount of sodium hypochlorite active that may remain will finish breaking down as it travels through your home’s pipes and out to the sewer.

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