Disinfectants to use to kill Covid-19 virus

March 26, 2020 • 10:30 am

I’ve been kvetching about the unavailability of commercial products that you can use to kill coronavirus on packages, countertops, steering wheels, and so on. For of what use are recommendations to sterilize everything if you can’t buy the disinfectant?

In response, my doctor, Alex Lickerman, sent me a list of 287 commercial products, recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, that you can use as sanitizers to kill coronavirus. Some of these must surely be available. I for one would like to use isopropyl alcohol and/or Lysol, but neither seems to be available (I can’t order the former via lab channels as the University is shut down for that.) But if you click on the screenshot below you’ll find an extensive list that surely cannot all  be sold out.

If you know of some products that are available in pharmacies and grocery stores, and are not sold out or hoarded, by all means list them and tell us where to get them.

Here’s a list of 139 products provided by reader Lori Anne:

95 thoughts on “Disinfectants to use to kill Covid-19 virus

    1. I’d heard that from various sources, they generally seem to suggest this to be more of a theoretical than a major risk. Touching people and being coughed on seem, by consensus, to be much more dangerous than secondary contacts.

      But then again if you can put them aside and wait a day or so, why not.

    2. “In the case of the Amazon package, the driver would have to be infected and still working despite limited symptoms.”

      “In the worst-case scenario, a visibly sick driver picks up your package from the truck, …”

      I agree that the risk is fairly low, especially if you wait 1 or 2 days.

      However Allen seems to be under the impression that this virus is mainly spread by symptomatic people which is not the case.

      Because asymptomatic carriers are not aware they are infected, they are responsible for around ~80% of community spread.

      Thus I think there is a good chance that more than one asymptomatic person were shedding the virus during the manufacturing and supply of your supermarket delivery with say 50 items if you live in a highly infected state.

    3. I agree the risk of getting COVID-19 from groceries or packages is lower than from a person directly, but another study out of Wuhan looked at indirect transmission from an index patient in a mall. The researchers were reasonably confident that transmission occurred to people on other floors from a patient zero in the mall itself. They theorized aerosolized transmission (now thought to be less likely) vs transmission from viable virus on elevator buttons or in a woman’s restroom. On the other hand, as the NEJM study shows, the half-life of virus on surfaces is short (and the mere presence of virus on a surface doesn’t mean it’s infective), which all together is what led me to my recommendations to Jerry about wiping down packages. If you have the supplies, it’s easy to do and provides one more layer of protection. I don’t think we need to feel that our food is going to kill us, but neither do I think we should ignore what might be a real risk, especially when mitigating that risk is so easy.

    4. I read that article already. The title makes it sound like risk is less but, as I read it, it suggests doing all the things that have been talked about on WEIT (wiping down packages, etc.). Just don’t panic while doing them seems to be this article’s message. I’m ok with that.

    1. I was considering making a hand washing kit to keep in the car. A jug of water, liquid pump soap, and a clean towel. After loading groceries in the trunk, wash your hands right there in the parking lot.

  1. Alcohol based lens cleaning fluid and lens wipes may not yet be on the radar for these troubled times. I have not found their concentration of isopropyl alcohol, but recipes for lens cleaning fluid are to dilute 99% to 75%, and I think 70-75% is considered good for Covid-19. My lens wipes and bottle of spray lens cleaning fluid smell very strongly of alcohol. I do keep lens wipes in the car now (Zeiss brand, from Walmart).

    1. Depending on the fluid, it MAY be suitable. The Zeiss SDS for the wipes, depending on the product, is 30-60% ethanol, <10% propan-2-ol (http://www.physics.purdue.edu/primelab/safety/MSDS/SDS/Zeiss%20lens%20cleaning%20wipes.pdf) to < 30% isopropyl (http://www.company7.com/library/zeiss/Zeiss_Lens_Cleaner_Towelette-US_MSDS-Engl-9-Feb-2012.p.pdf).

      The liquid in the bottle may be <6% isopropyl, remainder water (http://lkstevens-wa.safeschoolssds.com/document/repo/a3a90286-4531-42b1-baba-506b41eb5db5 for example)

      The interesting part here is that most solutions for cleaning optics are mostly DI water. Strong solvents and alcohols may damage the agents used to coat or bond elements. Cleaners for spectacles are the higher alcohol content, but typically still not very high, as high concentrations are not needed and may bring the product to the hazardous chemical controls level (flammable, health hazard). This is per the rep I use, who suggested 90+% isopropyl for flushing first surface mirrors in instruments that had been exposed to cigarette smoke over 40 or 50 years (optics and interior of the instrument COATED with tar and nicotine. Several flushes over most of a year to get usable), as he had no suitable product. Yup. Gross. Really, really gross. There is still, several years later, still a smell.

      A quick check on Amazon shows the Zeiss wipes out of stock, or limited, depending on the package. And there are a number of options, including alcohol free, which are probably not suitable for sanitizing. The wipes I use come directly from Zeiss, and I had to get the SDS, on paper, from the rep, and they are approximately 60% isopropyl, <1% other proprietary, remainder DI water. There is no stock number on the packaging to track back, or fancy consumer labeling, and the Zeiss web site doesn't have a useful way to find the SDS.

  2. For what it’s worth, we all (well, most of us anyway) have the one thing guaranteed to kill coronavirus contamination; time. If you can, simply put suspect items away for a few days. If you can’t, well that’s what you’re kvetching about isn’t it? Wish I could help there.

  3. The one thing I despise about such products is the horrific, lingering aromas the manufacturers put in them. As such, I default to the 70-ish% isopropanol as long as ample ventilation is feasible. I’ve overdone it before – eyes, contact lenses, airways needed to recover.

      1. The only point I am making here is that the perfumes, to me, are miserably odorous or offensive. Smelly. P-U.

  4. Additionally, the skin will become dried out with rigorous washing and such, necessitating a hand moisturizer. My pick is from the Eucerin product line – no perfume.

      1. Well before the current kerfluffle, I had the dry hands issue. When I am in the shop, I wash them constantly, and do tend to get alcohol and solvents on them. If I don’t take really good care to moisturize, my hands get sore and bleed to the point that I have trouble sleeping.
        I have tried every product I can find. My favorite is “Cavilon” by 3m. It is odorless, and compatible with surgical gloves.

        1. Interesting

          I found a spray and a film

          How’s it work? The spray makes a film that peels off? Is this possibly what can be seen in a doctor’s office or hospital?

    1. Lou, according to the experts gloves are not the answer unless you throw them away after use. Easier to wash your hands than gloves.

      1. “Easier to wash hands than gloves”

        Depends on the gloves.

        Nitrile can take ethanol, maybe isopropanol. Latex – not sure. So at a rough unofficial approximation, gloved hands could be made nearly sterile in a short term application. But I wouldn’t trust it in surgery, or touching an open wound. At any rate, latex and nitrile will clean up well, way better than bare hands.

        *^^^**I claim Mirandized rights (?) – this is not medical advice, seek professional medical professionals!!!

        Leather / “work” gloves – no way.

        1. The one big advantage with gloves that I can see it would keep your hands away from your face. People have told me in post cataract surgery they wore gloves/mitts to bed one night.

        2. Wearing gloves is in itself a reminder not to touch your face.

          With Gorilla Grip gloves, it is easy to pick up most anything. They are very thin, flexible, easy to get on and off, and are machine washable.

          I have numerous pairs, can keep swapping them out. And they come in small, which is rare in the home-repair world. Available from Home Depot more than Menard’s, and on Amazon.

          1. Interesting- Are they like the Harbor Fright “Hardy” brand black gloves? I accidentally washed them once… I mean, they get gas pump film on them, so they’re so cheap I’d prefer to buy a fresh pair.

            But yeah – someone else suggested something like mittens that can be washed and don’t look strange. But they’d fail in wet weather- just like these Hardy black gloves – soaks right in.

            Which brings me to my big glove insight : glove combinations. Black hardy plus nitrile is good for wet rough stuff. Or, latex rubber cotton Hardy’s inside leather work gloves for cold wet yard work. Etc!

      2. Norm, I don’t think that is correct. Reusable thick rubber gloves can be re-used as long as one likes. Just need to use proper technique when removing and donning them. Touch only the inner surfaces at all times. They also don’t need to be disinfected. And washing is never 100% effective. Gloves are.

      3. It’s easy to wash plain cloth gloves. I had two pairs before this all started. I wear one each day when I go out; I do the laundry every other day. Simple.

    2. I really don’t understand why people put so much faith in washing and disinfecting their hands. There is so much inaccesible space under fingernails, and cracks in skin. I think gloves are far better. Do an experimment. Paint something black and then manipulate it for a while with your hands while the paint is still wet. Then wash. There will usually still be traces of black paint on your hands. Now do the same manipulations with gloves on. Take them off–your hands will still be perfectly clean.

  5. Note that vinegar does not appear on the list. I’ve seen comments from people who use vinegar as a disinfectant, but it doesn’t look like it’s effective for this coronavirus.

    1. As the ancient Greeks already found out, v inegar, and red wine,(and honey?) are pretty good disinfectants, killing most bacteria (Dr Mayno did some in vitro experiments with wine and vinegar, and he found them at least as effective as 70% alcohol, at least in a petri dish) I have no idea wether they have any significant effect on virus though.
      But if you have a dirty cut, they are a good alternative to special disinfectants if the latter are not available.
      [In South Africa they also banned the sale of alcohol (what for? unfathomable) during our 3 week lockdown, so I do have enough red wine at my disposal for quite a few cuts 🙂 ]

      1. According to modern day experts (please Google), vinegar isn’t recommended. Nor are wine or even vodka because the percentage of alcohol isn’t great enough. One must use at least 70% alcohol. But maybe Everclear would work.

        I hope the nanny state ban on the sale of alcohol doesn’t extend to isopropyl alcohol.

        1. Dr Mayno ascribed the antibacterial effect well above the one expected from the relatively low alcohol content to the tannines in red wine and wine vinegar.

  6. I have Formula 409 and Spray Nine, both of which say on the bottle that they kill flu virus A. Am I accomplishing nothing spraying them on surfaces?

    1. Depending on the product, it may be effective. The base product is a decent solution of surficants (Lauryl-dimethlamine oxide and Benzalkonium chloride).

    1. How about one of those fan mist hats – pshhhhh ahhh nice and sterilized!.., or perhaps have it spray outwards…

  7. I notice that many of the products on that first list contain bleach or ammonia.

    I don’t know a whole helluva lot about cleaning, ever since I figured out I could hire someone to come to the crib once a week or so to do it. But I remember the first girlfriend I ever cohabitated with warned me never to mix those two, bleach and ammonia. She acted like it was like working with nitroglycerin when she caught about to pour some from both bottles into the toilet.

  8. Commercial sanitizers seem to still be available. Generally, these come in a gallon sized jug which you then dilute for use.

    Most are for use on hard surfaces. I dilute into a spray bottle, spray on counters/doorknobs/etc, scrub with a washcloth (dampened with the sanitizer), and let air dry.

    Here is one on Amazon:

    1. I don’t know of anything for use on porous surfaces (fabrics, cardboard). Fabreze used to make an antimicrobial version, but it seems they no longer do.

    2. One of the things I like about the ‘food service’ sanitizers is that they are completely odorless while still killing all the nasties.

      I found these sanitizers years ago when I asked my gym’s manager what they used on the equipment and she gave me the info for this type of sanitizer.

  9. Walmart had large pallets of Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach, which is item #37 on that list. Two spray containers, 32 ounces each, bundled together for around $5.

    By now they may have sold out.

    Incidentally, they have online shopping. You create a list of everything you want, and choose an available time to pick it up. They bring it out to your car. And of course, there are delivery services which bring it all to your door.

  10. Jerry, Thanks for the list.
    Checking the listed times and watching people use various products in stores, they aren’t using them properly. You have to leave liquids on surfaces for minutes before they become safe. I’m using very concentrated ozone at home since it’s a very strong oxidizing agent and doesn’t leave a stink and residue on things like cleaning products. I’m just using physical protection and washing for stores. Waiting minutes for a liquid to act isn’t very practical in my case. Also with ozone, you don’t to worry about covering all surfaces with liquid. From NIH site:
    J Environ Health. 2008 Jun;70(10):56-62.

  11. Generic hydrogen peroxide is a bleach that is good for cleaning surfaces. I’ve used it for cleaning surfaces and removing stains for years, and prefer it to Clorox cleaner for most surfaces.

    It can also be used on cuts, but alcohol is better for that because hydrogen peroxide is more damaging to your skin than alcohol is and will slow your healing.

  12. Our family has opened the ranch up early, even though it is still winter up there. We got the elderly folks to go ahead and move up there. None of us younger folks will visit unless we can be absolutely sure that we are not carrying the bug. They have years worth of provisions and firewood.
    That is one less thing for us to have to worry about.

    At our house, my wife tested negative, and is back seeing patients today. Since false negatives are possible, she is required to wear all her gear while at the office, at least for the next four days or so.

    When I was doing this stuff in the military, bleach was the standard remedy. We got it in powdered form, and mixed it with water. Then everything got bleached.
    I still suggest a spray bottle with bleach water. mist your packages, leave them in the sun, and come back in a few minutes. I also go around and wipe down all the door handles, faucets, and light switches a couple times each day with a disinfectant wipe.
    I would also suggest not wearing shoes in your house. People forget shoes as a vector. When my wife’s hospital was doing training a couple of days ago, they totally forgot the issue of shoes and shoe covers.

  13. No more hand sanitising products available here.
    I use soap and water for my hands, and a diluted bleach (20ml/l of water) to clean surfaces. According to that list I could just as well use an all purpose cleaner, but the diluted bleach is cheaper and easier. Does not smell nice though, smells like swimming pools used to smell (Deuh).

    I agree with Simon Hayward that the greatest risk is coughing, sneezing and even worse, asymptomatic people talking. It is an airborne virus, which contributes to making it so particularly contagious. A simple mask will not protect you, but prevent you from contaminating others, hence still recommended. Only special masks, such as an N95 will give some protection, but, since scarce, should be reserved for care-givers.
    In hospitals, clinics, hospices and the like, a properly designed air pressure/circulation system is way more important than masks.

  14. A first level of defense against groceries, mail, etc coming home with you is to let it sit for 3 days. If you need to use produce before the 3 days are up, sanitize them with hydrogen peroxide. For vegetables, spray with vinegar and then with a hydrogen peroxide. The solution you can buy is 3%, which is supposed to be effective for virus. Of course, then you have to rinse well with water. Another approach, is to simply soak the vegies for 3 minutes and then rinse.

    The availability of hydrogen peroxide is a bit iffy even without the current crisis. Last year I purchased a 5 lb bag of sodium percarbonate (SPC) online. When dissolved it produces hydrogen peroxide. The product is used in some eco-friendly bleaches and other cleaning products, and as a laboratory source of anhydrous hydrogen peroxide.


    Using only my highly attenuated knowledge of chemistry, I calculated 3 oz of powdered SPC in one quart of water produces a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution – just like the drug store sells. Disclaimer: I am not a chemist. Use at your own risk.

    1. Hydrogen Peroxide is odorless. It’s a little easier to find than alcohol and, apparently, works as well.

    2. Since my knowledge is even more highly attenuated than yours, can you tell me what 3 oz. of the stuff looks like in everyday kitchen measurements. No idea what on oz. looks like. (I just ordered the last bottle on Amazon).

      1. If it comes in a bottle it’s probably already a liquid. No need to dissolve a powder as I did. Check the label for concentration. If it says 3% use it directly. Once opened it begins to lose effectiveness, so cap tightly, keep in a cool dark place.

        To answer your question, for reference, you can measure oz of any powder using a standard measuring cup. It should have an scale in ounces. There are 8 oz in a cup.

        1. Indeed, there are 8 ounces in a pint. Having consumed many a pint in my day, I am well aware of this fact. However, and confusingly, there are also 16 ounces in a pound, wtf. It is my understanding that this chemical is a powder which comes in a bottle as a sensible container and would, therefore, fall in the realm of weight measurement. We just moved prior to the current shitstorm and my postal scale is somewhere in a still to be unpacked box, hence my request for some idea of what 3 oz. of this powder looks like.

          1. Ah, so it is a powder. Mine came in a bag. Silly me. OK, so I’d just use a measuring cup and measure out 3oz. Mix in hot water. I likely will not all dissolve. Not sure how long it will last when dissolved, but probably not more than a day or two. So, if you just need a little, perhaps mix a smaller amount using the same proportions.

    1. Yep. Happened to have Asked my biochem prof from last semester this morning. She said wipe outside of delivered packages with bleach water which can be made with 5 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.

    2. See my post at 21. Ignatz Semmelweiss used chlorine hand-wash to virtually eliminate perpueral fever in his Vienna hospital. Well before Pasteur.

  15. One trick I use to “clean” hands if there’s no modern technology within reach : rub hands real good in dirt.

    Sure, wouldn’t want to eat with them but sometimes it’s better than not. Say you touched something gross. The minerals and clay in soil will scrape and grind up material, also the dirt can absorb and carry away the contamination.

    1. A good way to get tetanos, but you’re supposed to be vaccinated anyway. When was your last booster?

      1. This isn’t health advice I wrote there, as I thought I was careful not to specify any disease, nor if it will cure or prevent one. It’s just something practical to do when *nothing* is immediately available and the stuff *needs* to be removed, while proceeding to the nearest modern technology like a sink. Otherwise, the hand would have to be isolated somehow as it travels and not get anything on anything. Consult a medical professional for reliable medical advice.

  16. In the past I’ve mentioned my go-to disinfectant for general use and will do so again here — a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol, at least 70%. I have a couple of large (16oz.)spray bottles on hand at home and carry a small spray bottle with me in a ready pocket or outside pocket of a tote bag that I can whip out instanter to spray something I’m about to touch that might be contaminated or spray my hands if I’ve already toughed something questionable. I can spray it on cardboard, paper bags, fabric, etc. — just as long as there isn’t something written on it with water soluble ink, which bleeds. I spray it in public elevators for aerosolized virus.

    True, it dries out the hands but so does soap and water, so I also carry hand lotion. At home I have a jar Aquaphor Original Healing Cream (unscented). It’s way too thick to slather all over one’s body or up one’s arms but it’s great for hands and feet and localized use.

    For those who use a diluted mixture of Clorox, remember that it shouldn’t be used on anything that you would mind changing color, so be careful.

    1. Just keep it away from heat sources.

      Have you ever tried Sudocrem? It’s amazing for healing up irritated and damage skin. It’s generally in the baby products aisle.

      1. I had not heard of Sudocrem. Thought I’d find a local outlet, to no success. Though it’s listed online as available at a number of US chain stores, the only place where I can actually find it is online from Walmart, a place, for a number of reasons, I’d rather not patronize, and to date haven’t. Can’t even find it on Amazon US.

  17. I was confused about the use of “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” I’d been using the terms almost synonymously; however as defined on the WHO website, “COVID-19” refers to the disease, while the name of the virus itself is “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” popularly called “(the)coronavirus.” The viral toxonomists didn’t use the acronym SARS because of its previous association with the SARS outbreak lest it cause even more panic than already exists. I’m still a bit unsure of the usage in common parlance but I try to be as correct as I can https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it. For those interested in how viruses are named the page also references the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses https://talk.ictvonline.org/.

  18. Ok I can’t help it :

    I think it’s a good idea every night, and regularly even, to really scoop out the collected solids in the nasal cavity while washing up at the sink in the bathroom. Careful not to scratch though – it’s sensitive. Get it nice and clear. After all, the less time the bugs sit in there, the better for the human health.

    Also if dust gets kicked up, exhale / blow out. Less chance of stuff settling in.

  19. He have peroxide, alcohol (Everclear and denatured), ammonia, chlorine bleach, NaCl (of course). I’ve got some truly toxic stuff too, like potassium chromate, Naptha, and acetone.

    (I’ve got a pretty good chemistry set in my shop!)

    1. If you mean methanol (CH3OH), it does a great job of drying your skin out and cracking esp callused places, as I found yrs ago when washing things in the lab with it. The same doesn’t seem to be true of ethanol.

  20. LISTERINE DOES WORK! It is 65% alcohol. The strongest vodka is 40% alcohol and you need at least 65%.

    1. I like Listerine and use it often but no way does it have that much alcohol. I just googled it and came up with 26.9% which surprised me actually. I’m assuming you mean their mouthwash. I think they have other Listerine-branded products but I don’t know about their alcohol content.

      1. I just picked that up from the Idaho Director, National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, who put out an email. He wasn’t more specific. I guess he’s all wet on that one.

  21. Sodium Chloride? SALT!?! “RTU” formulation can be construed, per online searches, as “ready to use” in this context So would a strong salt water solution be a disinfectant in this case?

  22. I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned, and this is a bit off topic, but I think it’s advisable to get a pneumonia inoculation if you haven’t already. Pneumonia is a very serious complication that can jeopardize COVIN-19 patients. The latest form of the inoculation is better than earlier ones so even if you had one some years ago, you may need another.

    1. Yes – Talk to your doctor

      pneumovax, prevnar-13 – there are other names – it’s a nontrivial dosing – but simple.

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