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Cleaning amid coronavirus: Do natural cleaners work?


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Ever since the CDC put out it’s list of approved cleaners for COVID-19, store shelves have been empty of strong chemical and bleach-based cleaners.

What’s left are lesser known brands, usually ones that are alcohol and plant based claiming to be sustainable or environmentally friendly, but do they work? ​

An infectious disease expert at Stanford says those options are just fine.

“Coronavirus is an RNA virus, almost by definition, they are a little on the fragile side,” said Dr. Dean Winslow, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. “So they don’t persist for long periods of time, so I’m sure really any of the environmental cleaning products would be fine to use.”

While there are stronger, chemical-based cleaners that have been proven to fight against coronavirus, Dr. Winslow says you should think about using those products sparingly. 

He says strong chemicals are not particularly good to the environment and can damage surfaces, meaning they are probably overkill when it comes to cleaning your home.

“Remember the most important thing is the normal sort of mechanical removal,” said Dr. Winslow. “So plain soap and water is perfectly fine. As an infectious disease expert we have those products in the house but we’ve left them under the sink probably since January.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there that implies the only way to get efficacy to really be safe and clean your hands and surfaces is to compromise by bringing in products to your home that aren’t as good for your family as they could be,” said Stuart Landesberg, CEO of San Francisco-based Grove Collaborative. 

Grove Collaborative is a certified B Corp, which means it balances purpose and profit. Grove creates natural home cleaning products and supplies and has pledged to become 100% plastic free by 2025. They offer consumers a personal shopper that helps guide newcomers who wish to switch to healthier, more sustainable options. 

“There definitely are concrete standards out there, but it’s hard for the consumer to understand,” said Landesberg. “I think there are a number of plant based surfactants that are good at breaking down protein layers around viruses and making sure they are efficacious.”

Dr. Winslow agrees and says above all, in the fight against coronavirus, cleaning surfaces isn’t the main thing to focus on. 

“In a way it deserves some attention, yes, but if you look at it in terms of the other mitigating measures, environmental cleaning is a fairly minor one. What you need to be focusing on is washing your hands with soap and water frequently,” Dr. Winslow said.

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