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These Are the 2 Disinfectant Sprays Approved to Kill COVID-19

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Key Takeaways

  • The EPA has approved two Lysol disinfectant sprays for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • These are the only products that have specifically been tested for this use.
  • The EPA expects to approve more disinfectants in the next few weeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated two Lysol disinfectant sprays as safe and effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The sprays—Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist—are the first disinfectant sprays that have been tested directly against SARS-CoV-2.

The sprays aren’t new to the market and they’ve been on the EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2. But, while all products on the EPA’s list meet the organization’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the two Lysol products are the only ones that have been specifically tested for this use.

“EPA is committed to identifying new tools and providing accurate and up-to-date information to help the American public protect themselves and their families from the novel coronavirus,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a press release issued by the EPA and Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser on July 6. “EPA's review of products tested against this virus marks an important milestone in President Trump’s all of government approach to fighting the spread of COVID-19."

Lysol has already updated information on its website to clearly mark which products are effective against SARS-CoV-2.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it “may be possible” to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object contaminated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes. The CDC clearly states that this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads—respiratory droplets spread when people are in close contact are likely the primary drivers of transmission—but scientists are still learning more.

In any case, the CDC recommends “routine cleaning” of frequently-touched surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, and toilets with EPA-registered disinfectants to help lower the risk of COVID-19.

How Do the Sprays Work?

The sprays contain the active ingredients quaternary ammonium and ethyl alcohol, which break down and destroy SARS-CoV-2, Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Verywell.

The EPA specifically recommends following the directions on the label. According to Lysol, hard surfaces must remain wet with spray for 10 seconds and allowed to air dry to be sanitized. Fabric must be wet for 30 seconds before air drying.

The EPA says that the disinfectant sprays need a contact time of two minutes in order to kill SARS-CoV-2.

Are These the Only Products that Can Kill COVID-19?

Not necessarily. COVID-19 is still a new disease and, in order for a company to legally claim that its product can kill SARS-CoV-2, it must prove that claim by supplying certain data to the EPA. The process of approval is voluntary and happens in two stages, the EPA says.

“You can only label for things that you actually demonstrated in the lab the product can kill,” David Cennimo, MD, assistant professor of medicine-pediatrics infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Verywell. “In this case, Lysol must have data showing that the product killed SARS CoV-2 in a lab setting.”

These Lysol products are the first ones that the EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data for. However, the agency says that it expects to approve more claims “in the coming weeks.”

“It doesn’t mean the other sprays can’t do the job,” Alan says.

Cennimo agrees. There are seven forms of human coronaviruses, including COVID-19, and many disinfectant sprays have been tested against the other coronaviruses that have been around longer. “I would feel comfortable assuming those disinfectants world work, too,” he says.

David Cennimo, MD

If you see that the disinfectant can kill norovirus, it should work fine against coronavirus.

— David Cennimo, MD

Infectious disease expert John A. Sellick, Jr., DO, a professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo/SUNY, tells Verywell that this is "very clever marketing" on the part of Lysol. "There are hundreds of products on the EPA list...and all are expected to perform against COVID-19," he says.

Where Can I Find These Products?

The Lysol sprays are available at most major retailers, but they’re currently hard to find in stock.

For backup products, Cennimo recommends looking at the EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2. Anything on that list should work against COVID-19, he says.

He adds that any product whose label says it can kill norovirus should also do the trick.

“Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses which are easier to kill, in general, than small non-enveloped viruses like norovirus," Cennimo says. "If you see that the disinfectant can kill norovirus, it should work fine against coronavirus.” 

What This Means For You

The EPA’s approval of these Lysol disinfectant sprays to kill SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t mean they’re the only products that can take out the virus. Consult the EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 for guidance on whether or not products you already have will work.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How COVID-19 spreads. Updated June 16, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and disinfection for households. Updated July 10, 2020.

  3. Environmental Protection Agency. List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).