Making Sense of the New CDC Guidelines


By Tyler Williams, Director of Scientific Services, PathoSans

The CDC has updated its guidance around cleaning and disinfecting surfaces for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. So, how do we make sense of the latest recommendations?

What The CDC Says About Soap & Water Cleaning:

The CDC’s latest guidance tells us that “cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces and may also weaken or damage some of the virus particles.” They go on to say that “routine cleaning performed effectively with soap or detergent, at least once per day, can substantially reduce virus levels on surfaces.”

What They Didn’t Say:

The CDC isn’t directing facilities to stop all disinfection. They are emphasizing the importance of cleaning to reduce the presence of pathogens. With a sound strategy in place, cleaning and disinfection can be carried out effectively and efficiently.

What You Need to Know:

  1. Continue to clean and disinfect Cleaning makes it possible for disinfectants to more effectively killing germs and inactivate viruses.
  2. Some soaps contain strong fragrances and harsh ingredients that can pose health and safety issues for some people. The risk increases as we clean more surfaces more frequently.
  3. Utilizing the right chemistry can minimize risk when regularly cleaning and disinfection. Consider safe all-purpose cleaners that contain ingredients as effective as soap but do not cause unintended health, safety or environmental issues.

What The CDC Says About Surface Transmission:

People can be affected with the virus that causes COVID-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said at a White House briefing in April 2021. “However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of infection of transmission is actually low.”

Cleaning with household cleaners containing soap or detergent will physically remove germs from surfaces,” Walensky added. “This process does not necessarily kill germs, but reduces the risk of infection by removing them. Disinfecting uses a chemical product, which is a process that kills the germs on the surfaces.

What They Didn’t Say:

Keep in mind the goal is to clean for health. We shouldn’t relax because the risk of surface transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is low.  Because the CDC was providing guidelines specific to COVID-19, it did not specifically address other pathogens like influenza and norovirus.

What You Need to Know:

  1. There are many harmful and infectious pathogens that kill tens of thousands of people every year. Cleaning and disinfecting protect people from these illnesses.
  2. People do not always know when they or someone in their household is infected with COVID-19. Surface disinfection has been shown to be effective for preventing secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between an infected person and other people within households.
  3. What goes up, must come down. Airborne droplets eventually end up on a surface if they are not caught in a mask or filter. There are other studies that suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours.

What The CDC Says About Application Methods:

Walensky also told reporters that other disinfection strategies, like fogging, fumigation and electrostatic spraying, are not recommended as primary methods because of safety risks.

The CDC notes that “if [these types of equipment] are used, they should be used with extreme caution.” See our sidebar for more details.

What They Didn’t Say:

It’s important to remember that the key focus of the CDC guidance was on household use and other consumer applications. In commercial settings, the technology can be utilized in an effective manner by trained professionals who follow the right safety measures and use the proper chemistry.

What You Need to Know:

  1. It’s not the applicator that is cause for concern – it is what is being applied. If your disinfectant contains harmful ingredients, using electrostatic sprayers or foggers can makes matters worse because there is less control over where the product ends up. For example, the CDC cautions around the use of this equipment in dining and food preparation areas, saying that “the aerosolized disinfectant could land in areas where the chemical may contaminate food preparation surfaces (e.g., countertops, dishware) or food, or areas where children might touch things (e.g., toys, desktops).”
  2. If these new applications must be used, training is key to ensuring safety. Be careful about the level of exposure to the active ingredients that workers, residents and visitors are being subjected to.

Cleaning and Disinfecting with Safety at the Forefront

We’re living in a new world. While many businesses have reopened, their approach to cleaning has forever changed. When we consider the impact that cleaning and disinfecting have on people and the planet, we can identify the best approach to meet everyone’s needs.

The new CDC guidelines remind us of the importance of consistently cleaning and disinfecting as well as the dangers of overdoing it or failing to follow recommended protocols.

To learn more about how some are addressing these issues using electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions, visit

Tyler Williams is Director of Scientific Services at PathoSans, a leading provider of on-site generation (OSG) devices that produce ready-to-use, highly effective cleaners and sanitizers known as electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions. To learn more about effective cleaning and disinfecting solutions compatible with electrostatic technology, visit

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