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The 6 Best Disinfecting Cleaners and Wipes in 2021

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Disinfecting cleaner FAQs

Brian Sansoni, SVP of Communication at the American Cleaning Institute, gave us some helpful information on assessing the quality of a disinfectant.

What ingredients should I look for in a disinfectant?

Sansoni said that some of the more active ingredients found within disinfectant cleaners include sodium hypochlorite, ethanol, pine oil, hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, and quats, otherwise known as quaternary ammonium compounds.

For efficacy, be sure to visit the manufacturer’s website, look for the product in SmartLabel (a digital shopping tool where you can find detailed info that won’t fit on your standard cleaning product’s packaging), and check out the American Cleaning Institute’s guide on how to read a product label.

In addition to the ingredients listed above, your disinfectant of choice may include a combination of surfactants, builders, solvents, enzymes, fragrances, preservatives, pH adjusters, and thickeners or foam enhancers.


Do disinfecting cleaners kill the coronavirus? 

There are a number of disinfectant products that can be effective against the coronavirus on hard, nonporous surfaces, in accordance with the EPA Viral Emerging Pathogen Policy. Visit EPA-registered disinfectant products to use against Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) for more information.


Will alcohol kill germs? 

Alcohol solutions need to contain at least 70% alcohol to be effective on hard surfaces against the coronavirus. Read the labels on alcohol-based products, and be sure to reach for isopropyl alcohol and not ethanol, which is used in cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. 

You’ll want to pre-clean the surface with soap and water. Then, apply the alcohol solution to the surface — without diluting it — and let it air dry for at least 30 seconds before wiping. 

It’s important to never mix isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol — which is typically 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water — with bleach since it will create chloroform, which is toxic.


What surfaces can I use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol on?

Rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol can liquify and damage finished surfaces since isopropyl alcohol is a solvent. Sansoni advises against using either on painted, shellacked, lacquered, or varnished surfaces, including treated wood.

However, rubbing alcohol can be a great stain treatment for certain fabrics and can remove ink, grass, grease, or sap. While it’s good for carpet, Sansoni doesn’t recommend rubbing alcohol on materials like acetate, rayon, wool, and silk.


Do all-purpose cleaners kill germs?

A traditional all-purpose cleaner is designed to lift dirt off surfaces, but it won’t completely disinfect the area you’re cleaning. Stick with a disinfectant designed to kill bacteria and germs. Keep in mind, however, that disinfectants won’t make surfaces shine like an all-purpose cleaner. Popular all-purpose cleaners that aren’t disinfectants include Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Cleaner and Everspring’s Lemon & Mint All-Purpose Cleaner.


Will hydrogen peroxide kill germs?

Some registered disinfectants contain hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. The typical 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration found at drugstores can be used to disinfect surfaces. Pre-clean the surface before applying the liquid, and then let it air dry for at least a minute before wiping.

If you’re using a cleaner that contains hydrogen peroxide, check the product label for instructions on how long the cleaner needs to sit on the surface before wiping. Never mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, bleach, or other cleaners.


Will vinegar kill germs?

While vinegar has bacteria-killing properties, it is not listed as an EPA-approved disinfectant.


Do “eco-friendly” or “natural” cleaners work as well as ones with more “powerful” chemicals?

“Eco-friendly” and “natural” are, more often than not, marketing terms rather than scientific ones. It all comes down to how the product is formulated, what ingredients it contains, and preference. When a product is labeled as “natural,” it typically means that it’s void of harmful chemicals.


What makes a cleaning product “pet-safe”? 

According to Sansoni, products that are labeled as “pet-safe” are usually formulated with ingredients that are less harmful when unintentionally ingested. 

It’s important to note that cleaning products are safe for people and pets when used as intended. However, because pets have a habit of putting their mouths on things they’re not supposed to, the added step of rinsing any leftover product off surfaces can be helpful.


What is an odor eliminator?

An odor eliminator can either cover up an odor, absorb it, or kill odor-causing germs. Fragrances that cover an odor may be used in tandem with an odor absorber or a product that kills odor-causing bacteria. Some odor-eliminating sprays use compounds called cyclodextrins to trap odor molecules.

We’ve rounded up the best odor eliminators for your home.


Are wipes better than sprays?

This is a matter of preference. Some spray products may be available in a wipe version or vice versa, with some customers finding that one product is able to reach the space they want to clean better than the other. Sansoni mentioned there isn’t a benefit for letting a disinfectant stay on surfaces longer than recommended, and you should always follow the instructions on the label.



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