Use Cleaning and Disinfectant Agents Safely to Fight COVID-19

April 13, 2020, 11:38 am | Anirudh Naig, Shannon M. Coleman, Angela Shaw

Hand in a protective glove with a washing sponge and spray sprinkle by Andrey Cherkasov/stock.adobe.comAMES, Iowa – As they try to protect themselves and others from contracting COVID-19, Iowans may feel overwhelmed by information about using various chemicals for cleaning and sanitizing. Food safety and nutrition and wellness specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer tips to help Iowans sort through the information overload and safely use disinfectants to clean and sanitize their homes.

Whether using commercial or homemade products, Iowans need to follow the guidelines outlined by reputable agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other governmental organizations, say Anirudh Naig, Shannon Coleman and Angela Shaw.

Naig is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management. Coleman is an assistant professor and food safety specialist in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Shaw is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. They offer the following recommendations.

Use approved commercial products

One way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to use recommended cleaning products and disinfectants. The Environmental Protection Agency has provided a list of products that are EPA-approved for use against COVID-19. If using alcohol, the concentration of alcohol must be at least 70% for it to be effective. Some of these chemicals require consumers to use gloves as they can cause chemical burns.

Prepare homemade products safely

If your local grocer runs out of the routine commercial sanitizers for home use, preparing a bleach solution is also an effective disinfectant. Consumers can mix five tablespoons (one-third cup) bleach per gallon of water or four teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to apply the disinfectant and ensure it stays on the surface (contact time) for one minute to be effective as a disinfectant. Michigan State University Center for Research on Ingredients Safety developed a resource to guide on how to prepare an effective disinfectant solution using bleach.  

Read the manufacturer’s directions on how long the disinfectant solution stays effective when diluted. Do not use expired chemicals. When preparing any type of disinfectant, always follow safe chemical handling practices.

Clean and sanitize surfaces, and wash your hands

Remember, cleaning and sanitizing is a multiple-step process:

  1. Preparation. Remove loose dirt and food particles.
  2. Cleaning. Wash with clean water and a food-grade detergent.
  3. Use an approved sanitizer outlined above for the designated time.
  4. Air-dry the surface.

Before and after you clean and sanitize a surface, wash your hands. Follow these four steps to proper handwashing:

  1. Rinse hands under clean water.
  2. Apply soap and scrub hands for 20 seconds.
  3. Rinse hands under clean water.
  4. Dry hands with a paper towel or hand dryer.


Photo credit: Andrey Cherkasov/

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