Sanitizers and disinfectants have been popular items since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers step up their cleaning vigilance at home. There are hundreds of disinfectant products that the U.S. EPA and Health Canada say are proven to kill COVID-19 on surfaces. However, though the products the EPA recommends may kill the coronavirus, not all of them are safe to use on your appliances. In fact, using certain disinfectants or other products on your appliances may cause damage to the interior or exterior of your appliances, including scratching finishes, corroding surfaces, degrading refrigerator liners, and weakening structures.
Cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing: What’s the difference?
You might hear the three used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Here are the definitions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Cleaning refers to the physical removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces with soap or detergent. “This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection,” the CDC says.
Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs, but does not necessarily clean surfaces, according to the CDC.
Sanitizing reduces the number of germs on a surface to a safe level, according to certain public health guidelines.
Now that you know the difference, you might be wondering what cleaning products are safe to use on your appliance. Check your use and care manual or ask the manufacturer to find out. However, the old standby—soap and water—is generally safe for most appliance surfaces and can reduce the presence of germs on hard surfaces. Here, the Mayo Clinic explains how soap affects viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19.
If you are using a disinfectant, the CDC recommends cleaning the surface first. However, you should only use the disinfectants, cleaners and cleaning tools (sponges, cloths) that your appliance’s manufacturer recommends. If the manufacturer doesn’t make any recommendations, stick to soap and water. The CDC recommends wearing gloves while cleaning and discarding them and washing your hands immediately after.