If you’ve spent the last year of pandemic life excessively wiping down counters, and disinfecting surfaces, you may be able to relax a bit more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on cleaning and disinfecting everyday household surfaces on Monday, saying that in most situations with no known coronavirus exposure, scrubbing a surface soap and water, rather than disinfectant sprays and wipes, will suffice. While the virus can land on surfaces, the probability of getting infected by it is extremely low.
“In most situations, regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergent, not necessarily disinfecting those surfaces, is enough to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spread,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing Monday.
This news isn’t shocking. In May 2020 the CDC announced that surfaces are not the primary way the virus spreads. Then, in October 2020, the agency stated that the virus spreads primarily through the air via lingering droplets exhaled from infected individuals. So while hygiene theater, an over-act of cleaning, has some psychological benefits, it won’t do much to prevent Covid-19.
“This kind of over cleaning is what the CDC is likely trying to prevent,” said Dr. Adrian Popp, an infectious disease specialist at Huntington Hospital about the new guidance.
This doesn’t however mean that you should eliminate your cleaning routine. The CDC recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces at least once a day. You may want to either clean more frequently or choose to disinfect if there’s a high transmission of Covid-19 in your community, generally low number of people wearing masks, the space is occupied by certain populations, such as people at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19.
As always, the CDC guidance is not mandatory, so businesses can generally do whatever fits their business the best. Most importantly though, Dr. Popp notes that if you are ever confused on what to do for your specific industry or business, it’s best to see out a professional opinion.
“Cleaning practices are beneficial for everybody, but mostly for employees and the people who work there, and for customers who use the facility, so I think that they should probably continue,” says Dr. Popp. “It’s good practice, period.”