Despite hearing this on NPR, I can't stop disinfecting!

It’s a habit now…muscle memory.

I remember very early on in the pandemic hear that the first responders etc. need them so let’s not buy them out and leave the front line vulnerable. Fair enough. Later on of course wearing a mask came back as a good thing in the opinion of many.

Likewise, I doubt that disinfecting things is bad per se. Actually I don’t know if it will change this pandemic, but it might change the next one. And I think it’s wise to encourage people to get involved…but maybe other behaviors will corral it faster this time.

I think something’s missing. I don’t doubt that they’re working overtime on it.

Having read a couple articles like this, I find them to be very contradictory. They don’t really say that you can’t get covid from surfaces. At most, they say that it’s less likely to unlikely to get it from surfaces.

That’s low, not zero. For a given individual, they have to decide if they want to live with a “low” risk or take some fairly easy precautions to cut that risk down further.

On a societal basis, I might agree that resources could be spent elsewhere if too much money is spent on cleaning because that’s not an easy or inexpensive precaution.

But on an individual level, the advice is still contradictory. They say that wiping down groceries is not supported by science but then they recommend hand washing after touching surfaces.

Articles like this mesh together the societal and individual response so it’s not very clear about the recommendation.

Yet, at the end of the article, they suggest that people wash their hands.

Why are they recommending that people wash their hands if you can’t get it from touching surfaces?

If you can get it from surfaces, then on an individual level, cleaning everything that comes in at one time is easier than washing your hands every time you touch one of those things.

If you can’t get it from surfaces at all, then there’s no need to wash your hands at all in regards to covid. Recommending it would go against the science as well.

If it’s a matter of how much risk, that’s for the individual to decide. The science can only inform that decision if the risk is better quantified which it isn’t in this article.

This is what I have been attempting to explain to some friends who think I’m overly cautious. If you have to wash your hands after touching things in public, why is it that when you bring things inside that have been in public, it’s not a big deal.

I do pickups for my groceries. At least one person, if not more, has handled them. Things that go in the refrigerator are put in new containers. Everything else sits for a few days in the spare room. I clean the counters and my hands and I’m done with it. I think those are reasonable precautions when the risk is not zero for contamination.

You are so right that the messaging is confusing, which is why my friends have been pointing me to this NPR article that doesn’t say what they think it does about personal risk assessment.

From the linked article:

I think its important to monitor one’s own thinking, to make sure that extraordinary disinfecting routines aren’t turning into magical thinking/rituals that interfere with life functioning.

I dunno where that line is, but I think it’s there and a surprisingly easy thing to fall into. If disinfecting things feels like a stressful burden, but not disinfecting things makes a person panicky, it deserves some self-reflection and frank conversations with those that love them.

Depends on what you’re using? The stuff I’ve been getting has alcohol…

The way it makes sense to me is this: the virus doesn’t last very long on surfaces. And we mostly don’t use objects as soon as we bring them home. So the virus will be inactive by the time most things are used.

Hands are different, though. We use them all the time. We’re likely to touch our faces pretty soon after arriving home. They may also be warm, sweaty, or in other ways more hospitable to the virus. Hence we wash our hands or use sanitizer.

Heck, if you’re like me, you take the mask off in the car, so you sanitize your hands right away, lest you wind up touching your face. Then I wash my hands at home after taking everything in.

I only will sanitize something I’m going to use right away. And I don’t open mail right away, washing or sanitizing my hands after bringing it in.

What I no longer do is wipe down everything, both items I brought in and frequently used surfaces. That’s what I did at the start of all this, running through so much more wipes, bleach, peroxide, and alcohol.

Scientists generally speak cautiously. It’s impossible to completely rule out any possibility whatsoever of any infection ever happening ever from touching a contaminated surface. The best any properly cautious scientist can say is that the risk is low.

But, from the best available evidence, the risk is low. Like so low as to be non-existent for all practical purposes. As in, and somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, there hasn’t been a single confirmed case of transmission of COVID-19 this way. Ever. On the whole planet. That doesn’t mean that we can say with 100% certainty that it has absolutely never occurred, but we don’t have any evidence for it.

In contrast with random surfaces, your hands are in constant contact with, well, literally everything you touch, and with your eyes, nose, mouth, and adjacent areas of your face. And much of that contact with yourself is unconscious - you literally probably can’t stop yourself from touching your face. Proper hand hygiene is just a good idea in general, and that just requires soap and water. (That “just” isn’t trivial in some countries, or even tragically for some people in the U.S., but for most folks on this board, it’s probably fairly trivial).

And as pointed out upthread, breathing in fumes from cleaning products is actually a known risk, and is almost certainly more of a risk to your respiratory health than the risk of contracting the Coronavirus that way.

There’s also a real cost to the environment in general from the manufacture, transport, use, and disposal of such cleaning materials, many of which are toxic (that being the whole point of using them).

I think these articles should come at the issue from a different angle. There’s no real harm (unless it becomes a disorder) with wiping down stuff that comes into your home. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m still doing a quick wipedown with Clorox wipes, mostly because we had a guy get caught at our local grocery store licking packages and putting them back on the shelf. That grossed me out enough that it makes me feel a little better just to do a little bit of wiping.

I think what these articles should mention is places that tout disinfection of surfaces as a big part of their safety measures against the virus. We’ve probably all heard restaurants talk about how safe it is to come eat indoors at their location, and talk about how all tables are wiped down, disposable menus are used, etc. A workmate was telling me that his kids are back at their gymnastics studio twice a week, but said it’s a good set-up because they wipe down the equipment frequently. The kids are wearing masks, but it’s still indoors and there are a bunch of them. The disinfecting makes my coworker feel safe, but the more likely vectors for infection are just barely being addressed.

Okay then. Too much alcohol never hurt anybody. :grin:

According to this article, there are at least two known incidents of people getting covid from surfaces - an elevator button and a trash can lid.

The only reason that people know about these incidents is because the rate of transmission in New Zealand is low so they used contact tracing to find the cause.

In other parts of the world, the infection rate is so high that it would be hard to pinpoint the amount of times that people got infected from surfaces since they would have to be able to prove they had no other human contact.

This article was from back in October 2020 (seems like a lifetime ago). Since then, the guidance goes back and forth about fomites and surfaces.

Thank you for the correction!

Ok, so not as low a risk as I had initially thought.

Still, it seems to be a very low risk, enough that if you constantly clean surfaces with toxic disinfectants, the disinfectants are still probably a higher risk to you than a potential COVID infection would be.

Well, to be fair, COVID or no, things like door handles are filthy in general and should be cleaned regularly anyways.

“Known incidents” may be overstating the case. Checking the links in your article, I find this article which uses words like “probable” and “may have been” rather than “we know.”

Classroom lab experiments have been problematic, because we haven’t been letting multiple students handle any of the same equipment. But my classes did a lab where we just couldn’t get around the students handling metersticks, so I had to spray and wipe down all of them between classes.

Man, those things were disgusting. They’d probably never been cleaned since they were bought, untold decades ago.

The OP’s article says that cleaning with soap and water kills the virus. Toxic chemicals are not necessary.

Sure, but as gdave noted, that’s science speak. Scientists won’t say that they “know” anything. When I posted “known”, I meant reported. It’s known that these incidents are recorded.

As far as whether people can get the virus from objects, I don’t see any evidence that they can’t. There are studies that show how long the virus can last in lab condition on objects. As far as I’ve seen, there aren’t studies on whether the virus is infectious on those objects. I’ve read that the science can’t say how long the virus will last on objects outside the lab because it depends on too many factors, like how much virus in on the object, the temperature, humidity, etc. That still leaves room for some uncertainty.

I’m not completely convinced by this argument in the OP article.:

In hospitals, they’re constantly disinfecting. They wipe down their counters with disinfectant regularly. Regular people don’t do that every day in their houses. So if they see the virus decay very quickly in a hospital setting, that might not translate to a home environment.

According to the CDC, surface transmission is low risk.

There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Coronaviruses are thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products or packaging. However, it may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In short, wash your hands.

Basically if a covid infected person just sneezed or coughed on a surface minutes ago, and you touch it, then touch your face- they yes. But small likelihood. So still- wash your hands, and certainly places like public restrooms need to be disinfected but your house likely doesnt.

You dont have to wash items in parcels or groceries. The virus doesnt survive that long.

And stuff like Lysol or even just alcohol, sprayed indiscriminately can hurt you more that the teeny tiny off chance.

Could I get a study or scientific paper on that? How long is not that long?