Given that the world is currently trying to reopen in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, we thought it would be useful to provide an explanation as to how disinfectants work to protect us and our families. Many tend to conflate “cleaning” with “disinfecting” when in reality, these two things are not the same. While they may overlap, many bacteria and viruses can survive in the environment and on surfaces for days at a time. Even if surfaces look clean to the naked eye, the only way to kill bacteria and viruses is to use disinfectant products.

Surfaces can become contaminated with viral particles, especially if an infected person has been in close proximity to them. These surfaces provide temporary homes for the virus to transfer, primarily to the hands of those who come into contact with it. Contaminated hands can then transfer some viruses present to our faces and so on. This provides the virus with a route to enter our bodies.

What disinfectants such as Dettol, can do, is to eliminate viruses on surfaces or our hands to help prevent them from getting into our body in the first place. Disinfecting can therefore break the chain of infection. 

Bacteria are destroyed by causing damage to proteins within the outer layers of the bacterial cell which causes the whole bacterial cell to consequently split open be structurally damaged and die. This is how common disinfecting products kill bacteria. Viruses such as influenza viruses are killed in this way too. Viruses need to invade human cells in order to replicate and spread. Disinfectants interfere with the genetic and structural elements of the virus so that it cannot replicate and spread. A virus that cannot infect and replicate is essentially dead.

Common areas to disinfect in the home are kitchens and bathrooms.

The kitchen is a crucial place where hygiene should come first. It is where food is prepared and where people can get sick if they consume contaminated food. Examples are  E. Coli bacteria which originates from raw meat, listeria from cheeses, and salmonella from chicken and raw eggs. Help stop the spread of bacteria and viruses by disinfecting work surfaces after each food preparation with anti-bacterial surface cleansers, and the consistent use of an antibacterial soap after touching any raw meat or eggs. Refrigerators and cupboard handles should also be cleaned on a weekly basis.

Bathrooms can be bacteria and virus hotspots because of toilets. It’s here that faeces can be aerosolized and in turn land on surfaces. Get into the habit of using a disinfectant spray or disinfecting surface wipes to kill bacteria and viruses from surfaces

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