How to Safely Disinfect for Coronavirus
Published on: 3/9/2020
By: Nina Hwang
Updated May 6th
Are you concerned about properly disinfecting for coronavirus while also wondering if there are less hazardous options available? Here's a primer on how to safely clean and disinfect your space, including a curated list of disinfectants for COVID-19 with safer active ingredients.
CLEAN, THEN DISINFECT
According to the CDC, one critical step for preventing illness includes both cleaning and disinfecting the spaces where you spend your time.
Green Seal recommends the following procedure to effectively clean and disinfect surfaces:
- Clean the surface with a detergent or general-purpose cleaner. Cleaning is an important first step to the process because it physically removes soil, organic matter, and many germs from the surface.
- Rinse the surface with clean water.
- Disinfection should always take place last, to ensure that any germs leftover after cleaning are destroyed. Disinfectants* are not as effective when applied directly to dirty surfaces, because germs and viruses can hide under soils.
- It is important to follow the label use directions for enveloped viruses, which is the category that COVID-19 falls under. Disinfectants can have up to a 10-minute contact time, which means that the disinfectant needs to be left wet on the surface for 10 minutes in order to kill the targeted types of germs. If the directions for use for viruses/virucidal activity list different contact times or dilutions, use the longest contact time or most concentrated solution.
Green Seal has many certified general-purpose cleaners to choose from and the full list of products can be found here.
*Some products are a combination of a cleaner and a disinfectant. Please check the label and follow the instructions accordingly.
US EPA has released a list of recommended disinfectants that are approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Disinfectants are designed to kill germs, and therefore none can be completely harmless. Because of this, the US EPA does not allow manufacturers to label disinfectant solutions with third-party certifications, such as Green Seal. However, there are safer options out there.
When considering EPA’s list, Green Seal recommends choosing products with the following active ingredients:
- hydrogen peroxide**
- citric acid
- lactic acid
- ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol or just alcohol), or
- isopropyl alcohol
- peroxyacetic acid**
- sodium bisulfate
US EPA’s Design for the Environment program has reviewed and approved these active disinfectant ingredients as being unlikely to have carcinogenic or endocrine disruptor properties and as unlikely to cause developmental, reproductive, mutagenic, or neurotoxicity issues. In addition to these 7 chemicals, hypochlorous acid, which is typically generated by a device on-site rather than sold off the shelf, is a disinfectant with a similar toxicity profile to the ingredients approved by EPA’s Design for the Environment program.
On EPA's comprehensive list of recommended disinfectants for COVID-19, the agency includes several products with these active ingredients, including:
- Force of Nature Activator Capsule*** (EPA Registration No. 93040-1) (10-minute contact time)
- EnvirOx Critical Care (Registered under the name Axen(R) 30) (EPA Registration No. 72977-3) (3-minute contact time)
- Clorox Commercial Solutions Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Cleaner and Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant (EPA Registration No. 67619-24) (1-minute contact time)
- Diversey’s Oxivir Wipes (EPA Registration No. 70627-60) (1-minute contact time)
- GOJO Industries PURELL Multi-Surface Disinfecting Cleaner, PURELL Multi Surface Disinfectant and PURELL Professional Surface Disinfectant (registered under the name URTHPro) (EPA Registration No. 84368-1) (1-minute contact time)
- Ecolab’s Peroxide Multi Surface Cleaner and Disinfectant (EPA Registration No. 1677-238) (2-minute contact time)
- Ecolab’s Peroxide Disinfectant and Glass Cleaner RTU (EPA Registration No. 1677-251) (.75 minute contact time)
- Clorox Pet Solutions Advanced Formula Disinfecting Stain & Odor Remover (EPA Registration No. 5813-110) (5-minute contact time)
- Clorox Commercial Solutions® Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes and Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes (EPA Registration No. 67619-25) (2-minute contact time)
- Diversey’s Oxivir TB Ready-to-Use Liquid (EPA Registration No. 70627-56) (1-minute contact time) (1-minute contact time)
- Diversey’s Oxivir Five 16 (registered under the name Oxy-Team Disinfectant) (EPA Registration No. 70627-58) (5-minute contact time)
- Diversey’s Alpha HP Multi-Surface Disinfectant Cleaner (registered under the name Phato 1:64 Disinfectant Cleaner) (EPA Registration No. 70627-62) (5-minute contact time)
- Lysol Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner (EPA Registration No. 675-55) (5-minute contact time)
- GOJO Industries PURELL Professional Surface Disinfecting Wipes (EPA Registration No. 84150-1) (5-minute contact time)
In addition to choosing the active ingredient that you are the most comfortable with, it is important to look at the safety of the overall disinfectant product, including inactive ingredients. The product safety data sheet (SDS) provides information on whether the overall product is classified as hazardous according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The SDS also includes information on protective measures and safety precautions for using the product. As always, read the label carefully and follow the directions for safe, effective use.
SEARCHING EPA'S LIST
If you already have a product in mind, you can refer to EPA’s website to confirm whether it is approved for use against COVID-19 and to find the product’s specific use instructions. Instead of searching by product name or manufacturer, search by the EPA registration number. Enter only the first 2 sections of the Registration Number -- for example, for EPA Reg. No. 12345-12-2567, search only for 12345-12.
The third section (2567) is only used to distinguish between different product distributors, who sell the products under different names and brands but don’t change the formula at all.
Last but not least, cleaning and disinfecting is only one aspect of avoiding the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. The CDC also recommends the following actions on their website:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
The CDC and the EPA remain the best source of information for preventing coronavirus. Once the coronavirus threat has passed, this Infection Control Guide from our Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program is an additional resource to help you plan for infection outbreaks in general.
**The combination of hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid is a designated AOEC asthmagen, so avoid products that contain both.
***Green Seal Certified
by Nina Hwang, MPH