The coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak has the entire world wondering how safe we are and what precautions you can take, at home or in public, to limit the rapid spread of this disease.
We’ve all heard about social distancing and constantly washing your hands, but it’s also important to keep your surfaces clean. Since Coco Architectural specializes in metalwork, we thought it’d be useful to delve into the best ways to keep your metal surfaces or objects clean during this time.
Other than high-traffic areas that you may wipe down more frequently, you’re probably used to cleaning your household metals a few times a week or month as part of your typical routine — in the past, we’ve recommended cleaning your metal grilles at least once a month and biannual deep cleanings with warm water and dish soap. The current events have unfortunately altered our typical routines, and it’s best you use precautions to ensure the safety of you, your family, and your community.
How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?
SARS-CoV-2, the specific name of the coronavirus that is affecting the world, can have a long shelf life when it comes to surviving on surfaces. A public health specialist at Johns Hopkins said the virus can linger on surfaces anywhere from two hours to nine days. Why such a disparity? Without getting too scientific, this type of coronavirus has a fragile outer makeup, meaning it’s less stable and is easily affected when hand-washing, cleaning and disinfecting occurs.
Since the outbreak began, the National Institutes of Health, along with other medical and health organizations, studied how long the coronavirus could live on certain surfaces. Research showed aerosols could exist for up to three hours, while SARS-CoV-2 could pose a threat on copper for up to four hours, cardboard for up to 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for up to two to three days.
They conducted these tests in a lab setting, which doesn’t account for how the coronavirus would interact in nature. For example, a Johns Hopkins article explained how trace amounts may only remain after the aforementioned allotment of time. For example, the coronavirus could linger on stainless steel for 72 hours, but the remaining amount is unlikely to cause an infection since it’s weak and fragile. In fact, the coronavirus half-life on stainless steel was 5.6 hours, meaning it was 50% less stable after nearly six hours.
If you’re wondering why there’s such a large gap between copper and stainless steel, their antimicrobial properties come into play. This article goes into detail of how copper has been one of the best antimicrobials around for thousands of years.
Copper and brass act as a self-sterilizing agent and can kill germs, bacteria and viruses within minutes and become undetectable in hours. In comparison, stainless steel doesn’t provide the same benefits, so you’ll want to clean those surfaces with more frequency.
Disinfecting and cleaning your surfaces
Keeping your surfaces clean with regularity is a good way to prevent germs, bacteria and viruses from causing health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning surfaces with a detergent or soap and water before using a disinfectant.
Soap and water may sound basic, but that process, at the very least, can help disrupt the coronavirus’ genetic makeup since it’s fragile. In other words, this process alone can help get rid of the virus. From there, the CDC then recommends cleaning your surfaces with diluted bleach, a 70% alcohol solution, or an EPA-registered disinfectant. This Environmental Protection Agency resource lists disinfectants you can use against the coronavirus.
But, for the sake of our conversation, it’s important to know that some cleaners, such as bleach or vinegar-based solutions, can damage metal finishes or corrode them over time. So while short-term use may not have much of an impact on these hard surfaces, you should avoid long-term use of bleach to clean high-traffic metal surfaces such as chrome faucets or stainless steel countertops, appliances or cabinets.
Alkaline- or acidic-based cleaners can corrode metals. If you’re out shopping, look for neutral pH detergents. They contain enzymes and are non-corrosive when interacting with many metals, ranging from stainless steel to more reactive metals such as aluminum. Glutaraldehyde, commonly used to sterilize hospital instruments and equipment, is a popular neutral pH detergent.
Consumer Reports provided tips on household products that can destroy the coronavirus. As an alternative, alcohol solutions (use at least 70% alcohol) are an effective way to disinfect metal surfaces from the coronavirus. Let it sit for at least 30 seconds before wiping it dry.
You can also use hydrogen peroxide — the same product you used as a child to clean scrapes and cuts — on some metal surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide produces water and oxygen when it breaks down, so it’s useful with a sprayer to reach nooks and crannies of your metal surfaces. This study from the CDC found 7.5% hydrogen peroxide solutions can corrode brass, copper and zinc and cause discoloration in objects with black anodized metal finishes.
To be safe, wash any cleaning rags with detergent on a warm setting. Using gloves when handling disinfectants is always recommended.
Cleaning specific types of metals
Metals have various properties that can interact with different chemical agents, so it’s important to provide further details when cleaning specific types of surfaces. This handy blog explains how you can use pantry items to clean metals. Store these helpful hints away to clean and maintain your metals, even when the coronavirus isn’t a threat.
Grab a rag and scrub any aluminum surfaces or objects with warm water and dish soap. This is a good way to disrupt any viruses and remove grease. You can also use a lemon dipped in salt to rub surfaces with. A rag with a vinegar-based spray can do the trick, too.
You should avoid leaving anything too acidic on aluminum for a long period of time. Don’t use baking soda, as it can spoil aluminum.
Soap and water work well here. Be sure to quickly dry off any surfaces. As mentioned above, you can also use lemon dipped in salt to act as a natural abrasive.
Try mixing a tablespoon each of flour, salt and vinegar to clean brass or bronze. Use this paste on a damp cloth, wipe it away, and buff it dry. You may not think of ketchup as a cleaner, but its acidic nature can help clean brass, bronze and copper.
Aside from soap and water, vinegar can help remove germs and any residue that may linger on your faucets or handles. Avoid any prolonged soaking or exposure to vinegar, though, since chrome is a soft metal. You can also use toothpaste on a damp cloth. Buff it dry after wiping the toothpaste off.
The same paste to clean brass also applies to copper. Apply the mixture and let it sit up to an hour. Rinse it off with water and buff dry with a soft cloth.
Some of your items may not be true copper and, instead, are copper plated. How will you know? Place a small amount of white vinegar and baking soda on the copper. There isn’t a protective layer if your object or surface turns bright. In this case, wash with soap and water.
Mix dish soap and warm water in a bowl and let your gold items soak for 15 minutes. Use a toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach areas. Rinse and dry the gold well.
Wash your surface with soap and water. For silver items, you can place them in a tin foil-lined pot with water and baking soda. Bring the water to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, and add your silver items to remove the sulfur.
Stainless steel is hard to clean as these surfaces can leave streaks or fingerprints. Stainless steel cleaners are popular options. If you’re looking for a home remedy, use dish soap and water. Alcohol solutions can both disinfect and help act as a degreaser.
You can mix baking soda and water to help remove difficult stains. Try this method out first as the baking soda can act as an abrasive. Avoid using vinegar on stainless steel as the acidic properties can corrode the metal.
Once we all can return to our normal lives, contact us if you’re inspired to start a custom metal grille project. You can browse our product catalog or request a quote for more information. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and follow your local and state health department guidelines and mandates.