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Safety Measures When Using Disinfectants

Disinfectants contain EPA-registered pesticides that can impact health.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-9, it is important to clean and disinfect surfaces such as countertops, faucet handles and doorknobs.

However, you must be cautious. Disinfectants contain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered pesticides that can cause harm, especially if not used as directed. 

TURI recommends the following guidelines:

  • Use disinfectants that contain safer active ingredients. TURI reviewed the list of EPA-registered disinfectants that are effective on COVID-19 and identified products that contain active safer ingredients.
  • Avoid using disinfectants that contain toxic chemicals such as quaternary ammonium compounds, which can cause contact dermatitis, asthma and other health impacts. 
  • NEVER mix cleaning/disinfecting chemicals. Mixing chemicals can cause very dangerous reactions. For example, if bleach and ammonia are mixed together, they produce toxic gases that can be lethal. Combining bleach with other chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide or vinegar, is also dangerous. For more information, see TURI’s webpage on the dangers of mixing cleaning chemicals.
  • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using toxic disinfectants. Open windows and turn on exhaust fans to dissipate the toxic fumes. Precautions must be followed to minimize exposure to these harmful chemicals. Keep these products away from children, and open windows or turn on exhaust fans when using. 
  • Dilute bleach with water before using. Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, is an effective disinfectant, but it must be diluted before using. Bleach is highly toxic. It can cause respiratory, skin and eye irritation, and can cause or exacerbate asthma.
  • Don't over use disinfectants. Although we are in a crisis situation with COVID-19, remember that disinfecting kills all microorganisms, good and bad. Overuse can contribute to unintended consequences, such as causing health effects and promoting the growth of antibiotic resistance organisms.
  • Clean before you disinfect. If there is dirt on a surface, clean it off with soap and water before you apply any disinfectant. Removing dirt makes the disinfection more effective.