How to kill germs: Everything you need to know to protect you and your loved ones from infection
These harmful pathogens can be hard to eradicate once inside the body. But you can protect yourself from infection with disinfectants, sanitizers, and soaps that kill and remove germs.That's why we've built a guide to help you stay safe, smart, and healthy against any pathogens that cross your path.
Disinfectants explainedDisinfectants are chemicals designed to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and other germs. They can do so by breaking down a pathogen's protective cell wall, exposing its fragile interior.
Disinfectants are different from sanitizers, like soap, because sanitizers remove more germs than they kill and often act more quickly than disinfectants. Both disinfectants and sanitizers are essential to protect you against infection.Disinfectants are most commonly used to clean hard surfaces like glass tables and metal doorknobs. They should not be ingested or applied to the skin.
Some of the best disinfectants against viruses are alcohol, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide. To get started, here's our review on the best disinfectant cleaners you can buy right now.cleaning chemicals you should not mix because it can create toxic gases, so check before mixing:
UV light disinfecting lamps and wands are common in hospitals but there are options for your home, as well.
The effect of temperature on germs
If you don't have any cleaning solutions around, you can use temperature to kill germs on certain objects:
- 113°F: Wash your dishes with a sanitizer, like dish soap, under water that is at least 113°F. Wear gloves to protect your skin from the hot temperature.
- 140°F: Wash your clothes at high temp around 140-150°F along with a product that contains bleach in order to disinfect them from harmful viruses. Also, be sure to throw your clothes in the dryer afterward for another blast of hot air. Your dryer won't kill 100% of germs, but it can help.
- 165°F: To kill any pathogens that might be living in your food, cook them at 165°F or boil them in water at least that hot. These temperatures can also kill any germs that might be contaminating your drinking water.
- 200°F: Ever wonder how to clean a sponge? You can use your microwave to kill germs and viruses that may be growing inside of it making it smell funky.
Objects and surfaces
There are two ways you can become infected with a harmful pathogen:
- Direct contact with an infected person.
- Indirect contact transmission through contaminated objects that an infected person has touched.
Hard surfaces like public handrails can harbor infectious viruses and bacteria for hours, sometimes even days. It depends on the type of pathogen and the surface in question.For example, here's how long the COVID-19 virus can live on common surfaces:
Similar to the novel coronavirus, flu germs live for up to 3 days on hard surfaces, 12 hours on fabric, and just 5 minutes on human skin.That's why it's important to always wash your hands as soon as you come home from being outside and why you shouldn't wear shoes in the house. Instead, leave your shoes near the front door to avoid tracking any infectious diseases through the house.
Human skin is a hostile environment for pathogens like the flu virus because it has antimicrobial properties that attack harmful germs on contact. Likewise, silver and copper kill germs and viruses thanks to antimicrobial properties — though colloidal silver is not safe as a
Soap and water vs. hand sanitizerThe best way to protect yourself from harmful germs is to wash your hands. How long you should wash your hands for is 20 seconds with soap and water after you come home from being outside, after you use the bathroom, or after you handle other germ-infested surfaces like money — yes, money carries germs.
If soap and water isn't available, hand sanitizer works as an effective second option.
If you're out of soap completely, you can follow our guide for how to make soap at home. However, know that if you're using customary, handmade soap make sure to use it within one year. It may expire after that and not be as effective at removing germs. Manufactured soaps expire later, in about 2-3 years. And while hand sanitizer expires about 3 years after its manufacture date, it's possible to make your own hand sanitizer at home, if necessary.It is safe to leave hand sanitizer in your car (it won't explode), but to make sure it stays effective, you should only store it there temporarily, as excessive heat for extended periods of time might speed up its expiration.
There are many different types of soap to choose from including antibacterial, liquid, liquid foam, and bar soap.
Antibacterial soap removes germs but is no more effective than regular soap. And bar soap is no better than liquid soap except that liquid soap may have added moisturizers that may prevent your hands from drying out more easily. However, liquid foam soap may not be as effective as liquid or bar soap, according to some experts.In addition to washing your hands with soap and water — or using hand sanitizer in a pinch – it's important to wash your hands the right way. Here's a video to show you how:
TakeawaysMost germs are harmless to humans, but some are deadly. Your best way to protect yourself from infection is to wash your hands regularly and keep the surfaces in your home clear of pathogens.
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