16 Safer Disinfectants to Use Against Coronavirus

Woman cleaning a table with disinfectant spray and a cloth

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

Because of COVID-19, we are suddenly a people who can not clean our homes enough; here's how to do it effectively but safely.

For years I have been dedicated to DIY cleaners and/or the greenest, gentlest household products I can find – for both for personal and environmental health. Suddenly, enter the new coronavirus, and I'm thinking, "quick, drench the house in industrial chlorine bleach."

But I know there's a better way. I realize I need more than my favorite DIY baking soda cleaner, but what things can I use to destroy the coronavirus that don't come with their own set of concerns?

With that in mind, I wrote about common household products that can destroy the coronavirus, all of which I recommend. But for anyone wanting a commercial product, there are plenty.

Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Chemistry Council have lists of products that do one of two things. Each product either complies with the EPA’s emerging viral pathogen guidance, with demonstrated efficacy against viruses harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), or have demonstrated efficacy against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.

There are hundreds of products between the two lists, and wading through the details and chemical names is not for the faint of heart. But consumer health organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) used their Guide to Healthy Cleaning as a tool to assess products for ingredients that may affect human or environmental health. They arrived at a list of 16 products that they deemed "safe and effective," each of which earned grades of A or B, indicating "lowest concern" or "low concern." Here they are:

Safe products for disinfecting

  • Clorox Commercial Solutions Disinfecting Bio Stain & Odor Remover
  • Clorox Pet Solutions Advanced Disinfecting Stain & Odor Remover
  • Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Action Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Oxygen Splash
  • Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Bathroom Cleaner, Cool Spring Breeze
  • Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Citrus Sparkle Zest
  • Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes, Oxygen Splash
  • Lysol Power Bathroom Cleaner, Island Breeze
  • Purell Multi Surface Disinfectant, Fragrance Free
  • Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Eucalyptus, Spearmint & Thyme
  • Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Fresh Citrus & Thyme
  • Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Lavender Vanilla & Thyme
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Scent
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Scent
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes, Lemongrass Citrus Scent
  • Windex Multi Surface Disinfectant Cleaner
  • Windex Multi Surface Disinfectant Cleaner, Glade Rainshower

Safer active ingredients

If you cannot find any of the products listed above, EWG recommends checking the labels of EPA-registered products for the following active ingredients, which are safer and lower in toxicity compared to others:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)
  • Citric acid
  • L-lactic acid
  • Caprylic acid (octanoic acid)
  • Thymol

Active ingredients to avoid

When considering a product, read the labels and be on the lookout for these ingredients that may be best to avoid.

Sodium hypochlorite: EWG notes that this is "linked to harm to the skin and respiratory system and the environment. When improperly mixed with other cleaners or acids, sodium hypochlorite can be fatally poisonous." It is also found in chlorine bleach.

Quaternary ammonium compounds: Also known as quats, which, according to EWG, are linked to asthma and suspected of causing reproductive toxicity and birth defects in humans. They also take an environmental toll.

Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar mixed together: the combination forms caustic peracetic acid.

Tips for healthy cleaning

1. Read the instructions carefully, and follow them. 2. Wear gloves or other safety gear if recommended. 3. Open windows, open doors, ventilate while cleaning. 4. Do not mix products together. 5. Disinfectants do not work well on dirty or greasy surfaces, so wash with soap and water first.