Even if you’re not a confirmed germaphobe, living through a global health crisis can turn you into someone who wipes, scrubs, and sprays with household disinfectants, with much the same focus Tom Brady gives to football. Parents in particular keep stocking up on cleaning supplies and household disinfectants to have on hand during the coronavirus pandemic. The issue, however, is twofold: Some of the best cleaning products are continuously sold out, and we’re still not entirely sure what cleaning products and wipes to buy in the first place. So we turned to Brian Sansoni, the spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, to find out more.
Per the CDC, the virus is spread primarily “through close contact from person-to-person.” It may be possible to get it from touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your face or eyes, but it’s not the primary way it’s transmitted. Still, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is never a bad idea.
The CDC defines cleaning as “the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces” (ie., not killing germs), whereas disinfecting “refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces,” which further reduces the risk of spreading infection.
The EPA has approved two sprays, Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist, saying both meet the EPA’s criteria for use against the SARS-CoV-2. The sprays kill the virus in two minutes, when used on hard, non-porous surfaces.
Here’s a pro-tip, since disinfecting cleaners are still tough to find: Hit up FreshDirect or Amazon Prime Now. Both have limited quantities in stock, and when available, you can have a few containers or bottles delivered.
Even though stores have restocked, scoring disinfecting wipes remains tougher than getting into Harvard. Despite that reality, says Sansoni, “You don’t need to panic-buy and you don’t need to panic-clean. What you should do is pay attention a bit more to the surfaces that you’re cleaning and disinfecting — focus on hot spots that we may not pay attention to normally, like light switches, remote controls, game consoles, kitchen and bathroom faucets, the handles to our appliances. Clean those regularly throughout the week.”
When it comes to the disinfectants, it’s important to let the products do their job. Yes, a bleach spray may smell less than ideal when you’re dousing your kitchen counter with it, but read the instructions and don’t wipe it away too soon. “Read the label. Let the surface air-dry,” says Sansoni. “After it dries, you can wipe it off with regular water. But don’t just spray the disinfecting spray and wipe it up right away.”
The types of cleaning products you use (whether you’re into mists or foams, for example), says Sansoni, are an issue of preference. “It comes down to what works for you and what’s easiest to use. As we’re cleaning more and kids are around more, pay attention to the safety aspect,” he says. “Make sure they’re stored out of sight and out of reach.”
When used improperly, these products can do serious harm to people. In the words of the Environmental Protection Agency, “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.” Under no circumstances should any cleaning or disinfectant products be consumed, injected or in any other way applied to a human body.
The EPA has a running list of products that it deems effective for use against SARS-CoV-2. As you might guess, the list is incredibly unwieldy to navigate, and not something you’ll have time to peruse when you’re rushing through a grocery store while social distancing.
So if you’re glancing at a product, make sure it has one of the following ingredients, which are deemed effective against viruses: Sodium hypochlorite, ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, pine oil, citric acid, or potent disinfectant chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATs). “Those are the workhorse ingredients that get the job done,” says Sansoni. So if you see a product, make sure one of those is listed as an active ingredient, and you know you’re getting something that will actually perform.
Finding EPA-approved cleaning products online is a hard slog. Please keep checking back; we will update this list as more products become available for delivery. These products work against “harder-to-kill” viruses but have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2. Some products are listed online, but are only available with in-store pickup. And make sure you read the directions, because different products need more (or less) time to do their jobs.
The Best EPA-Recommended Disinfectants for Coronavirus
The Best Household Cleaning Supplies Not on the EPA’s List
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