Protect your home from Coronavirus with these EPA-approved household disinfectants

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives on a macro scale, but it started by infiltrating in a micro way—try literally microscopic. By now, you probably know that by maintaining clean hands using soap and water, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

When cleaning high-touch surfaces like countertops and doorknobs in your home, you should also use a disinfection product to kill even more germs. Which cleaning supplies are strong enough to tackle the virus? If a product “sanitizes,” that means it’s reducing 99.9% of germs within 30 seconds, while a product that disinfects actually kills the germs it comes into contact with if the product is used correctly. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps an official list of EPA-registered disinfectants that is essentially the coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting Bible. 

white spray bottle being sprayed on blue background

Table of contents

How to Determine If Your Cleaning Supplies Are Effective Against CoronavirusIngredients that Kill the Coronavirus, And Products that Contain Them Bleach (AKA sodium hypochlorite)Rubbing Alcohol (AKA Isopropanol) Hydrogen PeroxideQuaternary ammoniumOther Cleaning Tips

How to Determine If Your Cleaning Supplies Are Effective Against Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, won’t appear on any pre-printed labels. The EPA refers to SARS-CoV-2 as an emerging viral pathogen because it’s so new. Companies can apply for emerging viral pathogen claims with the EPA to determine if their products are effective against a new virus. 

The EPA’s list indicates which specific viruses—such as the novel coronavirus, Rhinovirus (evil head cold), and Hepatitis A—are effectively eliminated by specific disinfection products. Every cleaning product that made the EPA’s list has an EPA registration number, which you can input on their website to learn which bacteria and viruses the product will kill. 

It’s also essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how long the surface must remain visibly wet—this contact time is required for the disinfection to work. Make sure the surface gathers enough liquid to be wet for the required amount of time.

Ingredients that Kill the Coronavirus, And Products that Contain Them

Most disinfecting products have a base made of either: sodium hypochlorite (AKA bleach), ethanol and isopropyl (AKA alcohol), hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium. These are serious chemicals, and should be deployed according to the instructions and warnings on the bottles. Make sure you’re wearing gloves and that your space is properly ventilated when using them. 

Bleach (AKA sodium hypochlorite)

One simple disinfectant is a diluted household bleach solution. To mix and clean with your own bleach solution, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Put on gloves. 

  2. In a large plastic bucket, mix 2 tablespoons of a bleach product like Clorox Regular Bleach 2 to a quart of water. (Check the manufacturer’s instructions on their website for the exact ratio if you’re using a different brand—some recommend 4 teaspoons to a quart). 

  3. Pre-wash the surface with soap and water to remove dirt that might affect the disinfection process.

  4. Wipe the area with the bleach solution, ensuring the surface is wet for 5 minutes.

  5. Rinse the bleach solution off the surface and let it air dry. 

This solution is only effective for 24 hours, so dump after a day.

If you don’t want to DIY it, try Clorox Multi Surface Cleaner + Bleach. You should still pre-wipe the surface, then spray it until it is thoroughly wet, maintaining a contact time of 10 minutes. Then either let it air dry or dry it with a cloth. 

Pay attention to warnings on the bottles. Bleach can hurt your skin, eyes, and lungs as well as stain fabrics and distort or erode surfaces. Additionally, never mix bleach with anything other than water, especially ammonia, as doing so can be deadly. 

large bottle of bleach with a measuring cup

Rubbing Alcohol (AKA Isopropanol)

An isopropyl alcohol solution of 70% alcohol or more, like Klercide 70/30 IPA, will annihilate the virus with a contact time of at least 5 minutes. That 70% rule goes for hand sanitizer and wipes, too. Wipes are great for electronics, doorknobs, and faucets. Make sure you pre-clean the surface before wiping it down with the alcohol. 

Again, check the bottle for warnings about materials alcohol might ruin, including finished surfaces and some plastics. It’s flammable, so keep it away from open flames. And don’t get too excited about the idea of “alcohol” as a disinfectant—drinks like vodka don’t contain enough alcohol to kill the coronavirus. While we’re on the subject of whether anything in your pantry will work, vinegar also isn’t strong enough to kill the coronavirus. 

handing wiping down an iPhone with a wipe. Headphone and a tiny spray bottle are resting around the phone

Hydrogen Peroxide

Commercially-available 3% hydrogen peroxide is another common household chemical that will be effective. To kill the common cold, 3% hydrogen peroxide has a contact time of 6-8 minutes. To fully disinfect an item with high exposure to a virus (e.g.: something that’s touched your nose), it has a contact time of 30 minutes. Use a product like Clorox Commercial Solutions Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Cleaner with a contact time of 45 seconds if you want to spray-and-go. 

While hydrogen peroxide isn’t as harsh as bleach, you should still pre-clean and beware of spritzing surfaces like aluminum, copper, porous plastic, rubber, and wood as well as fabrics.

multiple bottles of hydrogen peroxide - brown bottles with white tops

Quaternary ammonium

Quaternary ammonium is a popular alternative to bleach because it doesn’t stain. Try a product like Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner with a contact time of 2 minutes, or the similar Lysol Disinfecting Wipes with a contact time of 10 minutes. Quaternary ammonium may have its advantages, but it’s still harsh and can cause health issues if used improperly. Additionally, it can bind to soft fabrics, rendering it less effective, so continue following those manufacturer’s instructions.

white bottle of wipes with hands using the wipe

Other Cleaning Tips

For more tips on cleaning and disinfecting in a coronavirus world, check out our guide to cleaning your home after illness and our ultimate deep-cleaning checklist. Keeping track of invisible germs might seem overwhelming, but armed with the correct tools, you can keep your house a safe haven. And, keep in mind that this info is ever-changing, so be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for updates.

Disinfecting your home is much easier after a deep clean, or when you have a monthly cleaning routine. Looking for a home where monthly cleaning service is part of the deal? Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in so that communal living is seamless. Find a Bungalow near you.

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