The truth about disinfectants: Q&A with an expert

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most effective disinfectant, disinfectant for coronavirus

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t keeping track of news coming out of China. The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has caused the Chinese government to shut down some of their largest cities, most popular tourist attractions, and as of today’s date, at least 16 airlines have canceled flights to and from China.

These steps are unprecedented and require any smart person to keep one eye on the headlines and the other eye on your preps!

In large part, preparing for something like this virus or any other virulent bug requires supplies that are relatively inexpensive, but not all disinfectants are the same and not everyone knows which disinfectant is most effective. If you’re going to stock up on these supplies, you might as well purchase those that are proven to kill viruses.

Little-known truths about disinfectants

So, a couple of weeks ago in one of my Facebook groups, one woman spoke up and began writing about disinfectants and what was effective against viruses, including the coronavirus currently in the news. Later, she explained that she wanted to correct the record because a lot of misinformation was spreading in social media and through copied-and-pasted emails.

Her background is with a large chemical manufacturer, a supplier of cleaning chemicals and disinfectants to local hospitals and schools. Part of her job is staying informed on the very latest developments in this area, including this coronavirus outbreak. 

Wondering about the most effective disinfectants to use in a pandemic/flu scenario? Here are some insider tips.

Q&A with an expert

“There is a lot of misinformation currently going around about disinfectants and Human Coronavirus that I wanted to clear up.

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses that were first discovered in the 1950s. The envelope is like a fragile bubble that surrounds the DNA and they are easy to pop. They are relatively easy to kill on surfaces.

When looking for a disinfectant, there are 2 different kill claims to look for: Human Coronavirus or Human Coronavirus (SARS Like). Both will kill the Wuhan virus, though I would add more dwell time if the claim is for Human Coronavirus.

Dwell time is the time it takes to kill a virus. A surface must stay completely wet during that time. Lysol and Clorox wipes are great, but they will not stay wet for the full 10 minutes they required by disinfectants with a 10-minute dwell time. You must re-wet the surface.

If neither kill claim is listed, use a disinfectant that kills a non-enveloped virus like Norovirus. Non-enveloped viruses are much more difficult to kill.

Alcohol is not a good disinfectant as it requires a 10 minute dwell time, and a lot of surfaces are not compatible with alcohol for that long.

There are several good cleaning disinfectants I recommend. My favorite one is Oxivir TB wipes and/or spray. It has a 1-minute kill claim and uses hydrogen peroxide. Purell also makes a surface disinfectant spray, but be careful with it on wood. It’s not compatible with some varnishes. It is food-safe, though, which I love. All of these options are great because they don’t require personal protection equipment. Clorox and Lysol require you to wear gloves.

QUESTION: What about bleach?

ANSWER: Bleach is an incredibly effective disinfectant but is not a cleaner. It’s also very harsh on surfaces and people. It’s very toxic. Instead, I would use a cleaner and disinfectant in one.

QUESTION: What about Norwex for killing viruses?

ANSWER: Norwex does not kill bacteria or viruses and does not disinfect.

QUESTION: Can you make your own disinfectant spray with hydrogen peroxide?

ANSWER: It depends on the percentage of hydrogen peroxide. Most bottles are 3% or 6%. You really need 7.5% or higher in order to make an at-home disinfectant with it. Even then, it still has a 30-minute kill claim for things like polio and Hepatitis A. One warning about using 7.5% hydrogen peroxide is that it can damage some surfaces, so you might want to use something different on furniture.

QUESTION: I bought a disinfectant with colloidal silver in it! If it will kill MRSA & Staph, it’ll kill corona!

ANSWER: Colloidal silver has great antibacterial properties, which is why it kills MRSA and Staph. However, it does not kill viruses and won’t kill Coronavirus.

QUESTION: My dad worked in a hospital and they used alcohol out of the bottle. I use alcohol to clean the bathrooms and light switches. I’ve used Odoban before; it kept us healthy during the swine flu.

COMMENT: Just make sure you are hitting that 10 minute kill claim for alcohol.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on the Lysol laundry disinfectant?

ANSWER: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer sanitizes against bacteria. It does not kill viruses.

QUESTION: Are generic or other brands of hand sanitizer as effective as Purell?

ANSWER: I would recommend just using Purell. They did a study that found all sanitizers actually go down in efficacy the more you use them. Purell actually goes up in efficacy

QUESTION: I’m having a hard time finding N95 face masks. They’re sold out online.

ANSWER: For those of you looking for face masks, you can still get them by the case through Medline.com. They are a medical distributor and supply the hospitals. You are allowed to create a personal account with them for purchases.

What else do you need besides effective disinfectants?

Our expert has given you a handy short-list of the most effective disinfectants, but of course, you’ll want to have a few other items on hand for the annual flu season or something worse.

She mentions Purell as a preferred brand name, and in fact, that hand sanitizer is proven to be very effective.

I checked my stored supplies with a flu virus in mind, and here’s what I have personally stocked up on:

  1. Bars of soap
  2. Purell hand sanitizer
  3. Clorox and Lysol wipes and spray for general cleaning

And I’m looking at those Oxivir wipes. They’re kind of pricey, but for that short dwell time against viruses, it’s probably a worthwhile investment, especially for cleaning up things like vomit as detailed in this article.

This article goes into more detail for preparing for a home quarantine situation.

Bottom line: Know which disinfectants are most effective against viruses, including the coronavirus, and use them according to package instructions.

Wash your hands, cut down how often you touch your face, and stay healthy this flu season!

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

41 thoughts on “The truth about disinfectants: Q&A with an expert”

  1. As a longtime chemical rep myself, I feel that it is important to mention that ALL disinfectants and sanitizers lose their effectiveness fairly quickly when stored .
    Unlike cleaning chemicals that will hold on to their cleaning ability for several years disinfectants, sanitizers , bleaches do not last. Do not trust their ability to kill germs if they have been stored a year.

    1. No, vinegar is a good, basic cleaner, but if/when you want to be sure you’re protecting your home against coronavirus and other viruses, you’ll need something like the products mentioned in this article.

  2. Thanks for this important info! I’m assuming chemical experts might be less familiar with botanical disinfectants, but I just ordered this one online that has very good reviews and is recommended by professionals who clean and disinfect homes that have been flooded. The active ingredient is Thyme oil and it claims to have a 3 minute kill time on viruses, funguses and bacteria. It’s less expensive than the Oxivir products too. Bioesque Botanical Disinfectant Solution, 1 Gallon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KLFC2Y9/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_ArdpEbDJGEMNG

    1. My friend the disinfectant expert, took a look at this product and says it would be a good one to use against coronavirus and other viruses. She suggested giving it a slightly longer dwell time of 1 minute.

  3. Stephanie Morris

    I went to the link to Medline and created an acct but they sent a msg saying they are all out of face masks and to check back to see if they have more in the future….

  4. This is from Cleveland.com referring to the n95 masks.”Coronaviruses in humans are between 0.1 and 0.2 microns large, meaning by themselves they can get through, but the viruses often travel on bits of mucus or other large particles that the mask can block.” I found this alarming because people think that these masks will protect them.

  5. Pingback: The Truth About Disinfectants: Q&A With An Expert

  6. Remove shoes before coming into the house. Shoes not only bring in dirt, but also bacteria, mold and viruses. So, adopt the Oriental custom of asking everyone to remove shoes and leave them outside.

  7. Do you have any advice on which laundry and dish soaps are best to use to kill viruses? I’ve done a little googling but am having a hard time finding definitive answers.

    1. Nikki, all soaps with water do a great job of breaking down the outer layer of any virus and that, along with the friction provided by a washing machine, dishwasher, and washing by hand make that even more effective.

  8. I’m sorry but I don’t understand what is meant by the dwell time. If it has a dwell time of 10 minutes, does that mean it has to be on the surface and visibly still there (like wet) for 10 minutes? Or does it mean that after applied, you have to wait ten minutes for the virus to be killed? Because take alcohol for example after applied to hand quickly evaporates (if that’s what happens)? Is that why it isn’t effective?? Because it doesn’t stay on the surface for 10 minutes??

    1. That’s exactly right. It’s the amount of time the surface has to stay completely wet with the disinfectant to ensure the virus is dead. If the disinfectant begins to evaporate, you have to spray it again for 10 minutes, or whatever the dwell time is. That’s why the specific brands of the Purell cleaner and Oxivir are recommended in this article.

  9. I have been using Odoban disinfectant because Lysol and Clorox are very harsh and require masks, gloves, and goggles. at first I didn’t think so, but with frequency it left me coughing and wanting to rub eyes. That wasn’t the only negative, they all stank, very much. Odoban doesn’t. So the EPA approved list is out and Odoban isn’t on the list.

    I searched but can’t find that it kills norovirus but it says it can kill HIV-1, Influenza A/Hong Kong, and Herpes Simplex Type 2 in 60 seconds. I don’t know if those are envelope or non-envelope. I bought 2 five gallon buckets before any of this covid-19 and I really like the smell, going to suck having to find something else if that is necessary.

    I’m tempted to call the company and ask if it’s effective for cleaning off novel corona virus. I’m not a chemist or sanitation expert so they could tell me what I want to hear and I still wouldn’t know the difference..

    here is a link to product:

    https://odoban.com/product/multipurpose-concentrate/

    so, can I get your and your sanitation expert’s opinion? I appreciate it very much

  10. The “Purell Multi Surface Disinfectant Spray” is now really hard to find, but there are also products called “Purell Foodservice Surface Sanitizer” and “Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant” and “Purell Healthcare Surface Disinfectant”. These appear to be similar, but I haven’t been able to figure out what the differences are. Would your expert friend recommend any of these as acceptable substitutes for the Multi Surface spray?

  11. What about a steam cleaner? My steam comes out at 325°F. I wonder how that would impact viruses, does dwell time apply to something so incredibly hot?

    Also, with dwell time, that applies to my hands as well, they have to stay wet for 10 minutes? If so that’s a long time for hands…

    1. Here’s an article that addresses steam and coronavirus, https://www.ideastream.org/news/coronavirus-questions-answered-will-steam-kill-it

      Regarding the dwell time, when you wash your hands with soap and water you’re using 2 very effective methods. First, soap and water together effectively break down the outer casing of the virus,https://www.marketwatch.com/story/deadly-viruses-are-no-match-for-plain-old-soap-heres-the-science-behind-it-2020-03-08

      Then, as you wash your hands, the friction continues to remove dirt, bacteria, viruses, etc. Hand sanitizer is useful, but soap and water is always better.

  12. Great article. I definitely didn’t know about the 10 minute time minimum, wow! My wife and I are starting to be much more vigilant because the virus seems to be popping up everywhere. While it seems to be somewhat slowing down in Asia, it looks to be just coming in here and in Europe .
    Just in case anyone’s interested, I bumped into this notice from the EPA about the disinfectants they’ve approved against the coronavirus. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf

  13. I am also curious if odoban kills coronavirus. Been using it for years, vet tech mother-in-law introduced us. Using the citrus scent and so much less caustic and more effective as a laundry additive for malodorous items. Use it to sanitize surfaces as well as an odoe remover.

    1. If you use it you will need to wear gloves and goggles. Also, it does not have a kill claim for Human Coronavirus, nor does it have the Emerging Viral Pathogens Kill Claim. So, no, it will not be effective against Coronavirus. This information is from the Odoban market label.

  14. Andrea Charles

    Thanks for the informative post, Lisa!! Especially in a time when the coronavirus spread is on an accelerated mode. I have been using any random sanitizer till now , but going forward I’ll be mindful of the 10 minute kill claim. Thanks for all the recommendations provided here. I would also advise all the parents to instruct their kids to not to rub their face unnecessarily. Thank you , once again!!

    1. If you use it you will need to wear gloves and goggles. Also, it does not have a kill claim for Human Coronavirus, nor does it have the Emerging Viral Pathogens Kill Claim. So, no, it will not be effective against Coronavirus. This information is from the Odoban market label.

    1. If you use it you will need to wear gloves and goggles. Also, it does not have a kill claim for Human Coronavirus, nor does it have the Emerging Viral Pathogens Kill Claim. So, no, it will not be effective against Coronavirus.

    2. If you use it you will need to wear gloves and goggles. Also, it does not have a kill claim for Human Coronavirus, nor does it have the Emerging Viral Pathogens Kill Claim. So, no, it will not be effective against Coronavirus. This information is from the Odoban market label.

  15. Yes, I’m also a fan of odoban and would like to know if it works against the human Coronavirus. I haven’t found any evidence that it would work. I diluted the odoban and added isopropyl alcohol to a spray bottle. I actually smells pretty good with the alcohol mixture. (>3 parts water/1 part odoban/part.5 alcohol) I use it in my car and door knobs after entering home. I have Clorox wipes but don’t want to use all of them in a few weeks. So I definitely need to know an alternative solution to keeping my house clean.

    1. If you use it you will need to wear gloves and goggles. Also, it does not have a kill claim for Human Coronavirus, nor does it have the Emerging Viral Pathogens Kill Claim. So, no, it will not be effective against Coronavirus. This information is from the Odoban market label.

  16. What about Benefect’s Decon 30? It uses Thymol as an active ingredient, like Bioesque’s Botanical Disinfectant Solution product, but I don’t think the concentration is the same. How effective would Decon 30 be?

    1. Soap and water are very effective at breaking down the virus, but for all-purpose cleaning, it’s not as practical as using disinfectants designed specifically to kill bacteria and viruses. As well, when using soap and water, friction is necessary to thoroughly clean and disinfect a surface, so you’ll want to rub surfaces with a clean towel or paper towels.

      As this article mentions, if you want to kill the coronavirus, specifically, read the label to see if it specifies kill claims Human Coronavirus or Human Coronavirus (SARS Like)

  17. Dr. Klinghardt recommends hypochlorous acid for disinfecting. He also says it’s safe to spray on your body and to diffuse into the air

  18. howdy, survival mom, just wanted to thank you for all the awesome information you share. I was already disappointed odoban wasn’t on the epa’s list, so I was glad I found your site with a ton of suitable recommendations.

    I got a pretty good stock of the lysol and clorox since they were readily available but will certainly try bioesque. also want to try oxivir when I can find it available.

    since I don’t really like the products, I set up decontamination zones outside for packages and at entry for clothing. I will continue to use odoban as a general cleaner inside though because it devours odors and doesn’t choke me up. oh well.

    thanks, you’re awesome!

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