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Since the onset of the global pandemic, household cleaners and disinfectants have been hard to find. In particular, Lysol disinfectant has been out of stock since nearly March. However, there are other disinfectants available that can also help kill germs and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max were both approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective against the coronavirus. While, the EPA previously released a list of over 400 approved cleaning products (referred to as List N) that met its list of criteria for use against COVID-19, Lysol’s disinfectants are the first two that the agency tested directly against the virus in a lab. According to the EPA, however, it expects to approve claims via laboratory testing for additional products as well.
Like many other disinfecting cleaners, the active ingredient in Lysol is a quaternary ammonium compound, also referred to as a QAC or quat. Lysol introduced one of the first QACs in the late 1880s, called benzalkonium chloride (BAC).
Bill Wuest, a Georgia Research Alliance distinguished investigator and associate professor of chemistry at Emory University, said that today, BAC is one of the most common active ingredients in disinfectants.
However, “technically, Lysol has received EPA approval for Benzalkonium saccharinate (BAS) against COVID-19, likely because that specific ingredient is less common in other cleaning agents providing some ‘exclusivity,’” he said. “This subtle difference is likely based on the production method to make the compound.”
“Based on the research in my lab and what we have learned about these agents, I would presume that both are likely to be equally effective. However, to date only BAS has been approved by the EPA,” he added.
Nonetheless, if you can’t find Lysol at the store, Wuest said that most other antibacterial and antiseptic wipes are just as effective, but you’ll need to read the labels for active ingredients. Many disinfectants contain the same mix of active ingredients and you should check their labels for “ammonium” or “alkonium.” Additionally, other words to look for under the active ingredients list are “L-lactic acid, citric acid, or isopropanol (>60%),” as they also appear on the EPA’s List N.
We did the work for you and found other disinfectants (beyond Lysol) that work to kill germs and could limit the spread of COVID-19.
Keep in mind, there’s a difference between disinfectants and cleaners; disinfectants kill germs while multi-surface cleaners only remove them. For the ultimate clean, you should first use a cleaner and then a disinfectant. Additionally, most disinfectants should be sprayed or wiped on a surface and left to dry. After 10 minutes, if the disinfectant has yet to dry on its own, you can wipe it up. This gives the disinfectant enough time to do its work.
Shop disinfectants for killing germs
Shop: Clorox Commercial Solutions Clorox Clean-Up All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach at Amazon, $21
Shop: Nu-Foamicide EPA Registered 1 Gal. All-Purpose Cleaner Concentrate at Home Depot, $36.99
Shop: Windex Multi-Surface Disinfectant Cleaner at Amazon, $3.77
Shop: Windex Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner Spray Bottles (2-Pack) at Amazon, $24.99
Shop: Sentinel II Disinfectant, Citrus Scent Liquid-1 Gallon at Amazon, $39
Shop: Comet Disinfecting Cleaner with Bleach (8-Pack) at Staples, $66.99
Shop: Scrubbing Bubbles Disinfectant Cleaner at Staples, $4.99
Shop: Pine-Sol 144 oz Bottle All-Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant at MSC Industrial Supply, $22.09
Shop bleach for disinfecting
According to the CDC, you can also use bleach to clean your home, as long as you properly dilute it. It recommends mixing five tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or four teaspoons bleach per quart of water. However, check the label to make sure your bleach has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5–6 percent (splash-less and chlorine-free bleach do not meet this requirement, therefore they are not effective disinfectants).
Shop: Clorox Performance Bleach 121 Ounces (Pack of 3) at Amazon, $32.22
Shop: Cloralen 121 Fluid Ounces Regular Bleach at Home Depot, $2.97
Shop: Clorox Commercial Solutions Clorox Germicidal Bleach, Concentrated, 121 Ounces at Staples, $10.68
Shop: Clorox Regular Concentrated Bleach, 121 Fluid Ounces at MSC Industrial Supply, $10.84
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also want to read about where to find household multi-surface cleaners and paper towels in-stock online.
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