- There isn’t one product that will disinfect your entire home; you need multiple cleaners.
- We researched EPA-approved cleaners and spoke to an expert for recommendations and tips.
To help combat the spread of measles, the flu, colds, and other viruses and bacteria, you should always keep a quality disinfectant on hand.
“A disinfectant is a product that can kill the germs that cause sickness or illness,” said Brian Sansoni, SVP of Communication at the American Cleaning Institute. “Disinfectants contain antimicrobial ingredients that kill germs if surfaces are free from heavy soil, and disinfectant or antibacterial cleaners [also] contain ingredients for removing soil.”
There’s an endless selection of sprays, wipes, and other cleaning solutions on the market, so you want to look for the US Environmental Protection Agency registration number that ensures the product has met requirements for killing germs on hard, nonporous surfaces. All of the products in this guide are EPA approved.
Aside from checking EPA labels, the CDC recommends disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily, particularly countertops, desks, doorknobs, faucets, handles, keyboards, light switches, phones, sinks, tables, and toilets. Make sure to clean dirty surfaces with soap and water prior to disinfection.
See our disinfecting cleaner recommendations below, and for more detail on disinfecting products and household cleaning, check out our in-depth FAQ.
Here are the best disinfecting cleaners in 2021
- Best disinfecting cleaner for hard surfaces: Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Spray
- Best disinfecting cleaner for laundry: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Additive
- Best disinfecting cleaner for non-washable goods: Lysol Disinfectant Spray
- Best disinfecting wipes: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
- Best disinfecting cleaner for toilet bowls: Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach
- Best disinfecting cleaner for pet messes: Clorox Pet Solutions Stain & Odor Remover
With Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Spray, you can kill foodborne-illness-causing bacteria with one swipe and no rinsing.
Pros: No rinsing needed, safe to use around food, kills 99.9% of bacteria, no harsh chemicals, fresh citrus scent, helps to reduce the risk of cross-contamination
Cons: Not readily available in many mass-market stores
Disinfectant sprays are especially helpful in the kitchen, where food-dwelling bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli can spread. While all EPA-registered disinfectants will kill those bacteria if used properly, they require an extra step of rinsing after spraying when used around food preparation areas. Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Spray, however, eliminates the need to rinse and is safe to touch nearly instantly. That being said, we should mention that rinsing any surface after applying disinfectant is currently recommended in the most recent CDC guidelines for protecting yourself against COVID-19.
Though it won’t completely deep-clean your kitchen, this product can be used on sealed granite, glass, laminate, stainless steel, or plastic surfaces. It only takes 30 seconds to kill over 40 organisms, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, norovirus, MRSA, and strep.
Best disinfecting cleaner for laundry
If you’re looking for a product that’s bleach-free and will sanitize your laundry without damaging your clothes, Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Additive is your best bet.
Pros: Kills 99.9% of bacteria on fabric, can be used in any water temperature, can be used with any detergent, safe with any washable fabric, bleach-free
Cons: Those with sensitive skin may react to dyes or scents
According to the American Cleaning Institute’s new laundry guidelines, sanitizing laundry is important if someone in your home is ill or has a compromised immune system.
While chlorine bleach is effective at killing bacteria, it damages colorful clothes and synthetic fabrics. Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Additive contains a phenolic disinfectant that’s safe to use at any water temperature, in both standard and high-efficiency machines, with any detergent, and on any washable fabric. Its crisp linen fragrance is an added bonus.
For the best results, the product and water must be in contact with the fabric for 16 minutes.
Best disinfecting cleaner for non-washable goods
Available in a dozen scents, Lysol Disinfectant Spray kills 99.9% of bacteria on fabrics and hard surfaces.
Pros: Kills 99.9% of bacteria, available in many fragrances
Cons: Surfaces used for food preparation and children’s toys must be rinsed with water before use
Lysol Disinfecting Spray isn’t just an air freshener: It’s a powerful disinfectant that kills bacteria but is safe to use on hard, non-porous surfaces; soft surfaces; and fabrics. For best results, pre-clean your surface, hold the can six to eight inches away, and spray for three to four seconds. Lysol will typically take three minutes to disinfect, but to eradicate traces of the Norovirus, it’s best to leave it on for 10.
Best disinfecting wipes
Clorox’s Disinfecting Wipes not only kill almost 100% of germs, they also absorb greasy messes and help erase embedded stains.
Pros: Kills 99.9% of bacteria in 10 seconds; deodorizes; breaks down grease, soap scum, and grime
Cons: Not available in an unscented formula, must rinse down surfaces when used in food preparation areas, wipes dry out if you use them too long
Disinfecting wipes offer a simple, mess-free way to clean surfaces without the use of liquid disinfectants and cleaning tools.
While all Clorox wipes contain ingredients that kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria on hard nonporous surfaces like acrylic, glass, and vinyl, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes also absorb greasy messes and gently scrub away dried-on stains, soap scum, and grime.
We should mention that the wipes do tend to dry out after a few minutes. If you’re cleaning a bathroom, you’ll typically use one wipe for the sink area, another one for the toilet, and a third (or third and fourth) for the shower. After wiping an area down, allow it to air dry to thoroughly disinfect against viruses and bacteria. It takes about 10 seconds to eliminate cold and flu viruses, E. coli, Salmonella, strep, MRSA, and the organism that can cause whooping cough.
Best disinfecting cleaner for toilet bowls
Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach allows you to clean and disinfect your bowl in a single step.
Pros: Removes toilet bowl stains, kills 99.9% of bacteria, angled nozzle for reaching under the bowl rim, fresh scent
Cons: Not safe to use near children or pets
Cleaning your toilet bowl is essential for proper hygiene and, while many cleaners effectively remove watermarks and stains, they may not properly disinfect. Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach disinfects, deodorizes with its fresh scent, and kills 99.9% of toilet bowl germs.
The disinfectant’s powerful clinging gel will eradicate tough stains and the angled nozzle is perfect for giving your bowl a deep clean. It’s non-abrasive and septic-safe, though children and pets shouldn’t be near your toilet bowl while cleaning.
Best disinfecting cleaner for pet messes
Clorox Pet Solutions Stain & Odor Remover is tough on deep-rooted stains but gentle and safe to use around dogs, cats, and other household pets.
Pros: Effectively removes stains, safe to use around pets, bleach and fragrance-free, helps to prevent re-soiling
Cons: Must purchase a spray bottle, not recommended for brass or natural marble surfaces
Clorox Pet Solutions Stain & Odor Remover is effective at removing tough pet messes like drool, feces, urine, and vomit, and it’s safe to use around your furry friends (as long as you take a few precautions). “It’s fine to use a regular disinfectant or bleach on bowls or pet toys with hard surfaces — you’ll just want to rinse the surfaces with water after they’ve dried,” Sansoni said. For more information on pet-safe products, check out our FAQ.
Simply pour the solution into a reusable spray bottle to clean pet bedding, carpets, clothing, flooring, furniture, travel crates, and upholstery. Then allow it to sit for five to 10 minutes before rinsing or wiping the area down with a clean, damp cloth. It’s bleach- and fragrance-free and wonderful at eliminating odors that tend to stubbornly linger. Regularly using this disinfectant may help your pet remember not to go back to re-soil the same spot.
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 of 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 of 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.
Check out our other cleaning guides