Coronavirus Questions Answered: Will Steam Kill It?

Steam could help clean COVID-19, if it's hot enough. [New Africa / Shutterstock]
Steam could help clean COVID-19, if it's hot enough. [New Africa / Shutterstock]

What are your questions about the coronavirus?

ideastream is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can send us your questions with our online form, through our social media pages and group or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Many of you want to know if steam kills the virus, including Susan from Willowick and Gloria, who asked on Facebook.

There’s a lot we don’t know about the new strain of coronavirus. But University Hospitals’ Dr. Keith Armitage said he believes steam can kill the virus, if it’s a high temperature.

“Coronavirus does not do well in extreme environmental conditions," he said.

That means a steam cleaner may work, if the temperature is hot enough, but steam from a humidifier would not.

Linda from Broadview Heights wants to know how hot the steam needs to be

Just because extreme heat from steam could potentially kill viruses, doesn't mean you should try it at home, says Dr. Nikita Desai from the Cleveland Clinic. 

"It's very difficult to achieve the standards of humidity, temperature, length of time, and sterility that you need to completely sterilize something at home," Desai said. 

She's concerned that people might hurt themselves trying to achieve steam sterilization at home. 

The CDC has no guidelines on using steam to clean or disinfect. The organization recommends cleaning with soap and water to reduce the number of germs in your home, and disinfecting with diluted bleach, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, or a household disinfectant.

Laura from St. Louis wants to know if saunas can help sick people fight infection.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Nikita Desai said there’s no scientific evidence that saunas can help sick people fight infections, and she doesn’t recommend using them if you have an illness that can cause a fever, like the coronavirus.

“If you have a fever and then go sit in a really hot place, that’s not going to be good for you," she said. "You’re going to have insensible losses and get very dehydrated and you could pass out, and that’s even worse.”

She says using a steam inhaler — which another listener asked about — also won’t do much to fight the infection, but breathing in steam might help alleviate some symptoms of respiratory illnesses.  


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