CDC updates guidance on disinfectants versus soap to stop spread of COVID-19

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021
New CDC guidance favors soap over disinfectants to stop COVID-19
The highly-desired disinfectant wipes and sprays may not be necessary in "most situations," according to the CDC. A new recommendation could make cleaning easier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on cleaning and disinfecting everyday household surfaces, saying that in "most situations" with no known coronavirus exposure, a thorough scrub with soap and water will suffice -- rather than disinfectant sprays and wipes -- to ward off COVID-19, ABC News reported.

"Routine cleaning performed effectively with soap or detergent, at least once per day, can substantially reduce virus levels on surfaces," the CDC said at a White House briefing Monday.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said "disinfection is only recommended in indoor-setting schools and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, within the last 24 hours."

The updated guidance tracks what health officials and medical experts have already advised -- that the risk of passing on or becoming infected with the respiratory virus through "fomite" surfaces is low, compared to direct contact, droplet or airborne transmission. But the announcement Monday offers new specifics, saying there is "little scientific support" for routine disinfectant use to prevent surface contact infection.

It comes as the nation looks toward reopening and establishing new space and cleanliness guidelines.

Empty grocery store shelves in home cleanup aisles have been a common sight during the pandemic, with sales spiking as shoppers rush to purchase disinfectant sprays and wipes faster than stores are able to restock them.

SEE RELATED STORY: $10 toilet paper? Coronavirus gouging complaints surge in US

The president of Clorox, Linda Rendle, told ABC's "Good Morning America" back in May of 2020 that the company had seen an "unprecedented spike in demand for wipes, up 500% versus a year ago," and that the wipes' limited supply were "being snagged just about as soon as they hit shelves."

SEE RELATED: Clorox disinfectant wipes shortage likely to last until mid-2021

Lysol was also running out. The makers said in a statement early in the pandemic that the demand was "clearly having an impact on our retailers' inventory levels."

As supplies ran low, the disinfecting products were prioritized for hospitals and caregivers, perpetuating a high demand and prompting consumers to purchase other purchases or DIY disinfectant methods, causing concerns over hoarding and price gouging.

ABC News reported that during the pandemic's first months, eBay banned the sale of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and surgical masks by U.S. sellers after reports of skyrocketing prices for products and shipping.

SEE RELATED: Hand sanitizer has caused a rise in eye injuries in children, study in France finds

"We have seen some people stockpile and we would encourage all of those people who have a little too much at home to help share with everyone else so we all have the disinfecting products that we need," Rendle told GMA, noting Clorox's "zero tolerance" for price gouging.

In an August earnings call, Rendle said that it might take a while to restock the product in stores, looking toward late 2021.

White House health officials on Monday reiterated their calls for Americans to heed mitigating health measures as a prime mode to stop the coronavirus' spread.

"Wearing masks consistently and correctly, washing your hands," and following health experts' guidance to maintain healthy facilities can help reduce the risk of surface transmission," Walensky said. "The main way people are infected with COVID-19 has been close, person-to-person contact."