Experts say cleaning surfaces excessively could be overkill for COVID-19, despite a $30 million increase in cleaning product sales

  • Experts say that over-cleaning surfaces could have diminishing returns for preventing COVID-19 infections.
  • Early on in the pandemic, scientists thought the coronavirus might spread well on surfaces.
  • Despite a wealth of evidence now that the virus spreads mainly through the air, and during face-to-face contact, cleaning supply sales are still spiking.
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As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the US, experts say that wiping down groceries and surfaces may not be especially important to preventing new infections.

"It's important to clean surfaces, but not to obsess about it too much in a way that can be unhealthy," Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the COVID-19 response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press.

Early on in the pandemic, experts thought that sanitizing surfaces might be key to preventing some coronavirus infections. People were advised to wipe down their groceries, leave packages outside for days, and take other similar precautions. But experts now say those measures aren't worth your time. 

"As long as you don't touch your face when you're unpacking those groceries, and wash your hands afterwards and are careful, I think that may be sufficient," Brooks told the AP.

The CDC says, similarly, that the coronavirus primarily spreads between people who are in close contact, and through the air they share.

"COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces," the CDC says.

Excessive cleaning may give some people a false sense of security against the virus, according to Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School microbiology professor Emanuel Goldman.

"They worry less about what they breathe. And breathing is your primary source of infection," he wrote in a medical journal in July. 

Cleaning product sales at Procter & Gamble have increased more than 30% this year, driven by consumer demand for more house-scrubbing supplies. By October, P&G shares were up more than 14% annually, while Clorox likely won't have enough disinfecting wipes to meet demand for that product until 2021, the company recently said.

In an Axios poll released over the summer, consumers said that they trusted companies like Clorox and P&G more than the federal government to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

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