Harmful bacteria can multiply in the home at an alarming rate, which may place family members at a higher risk of illness or infection. That’s why it’s important to understand how disinfectants play a vital role in the ongoing effort to keep our homes clean and germ-free. Unlike other household cleaners designed to remove grime, grease, and stains, disinfectants destroy disease-carrying pathogens (the germs that can make you sick) on-site.
Disinfectant products are available as sprays for treating large areas; liquids that can be diluted or applied directly to surfaces (via sponges, mops, and brushes); and convenient wipes for on-the-go applications. Keep reading to find out how to select the best disinfectant products, as well as why we’ve chosen the following products to disinfect a variety of areas throughout the whole home.
- BEST OVERALL: Clorox EcoClean Disinfecting Cleaner
- RUNNER-UP: Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Method Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner
- BEST MULTISURFACE: Windex Multisurface Disinfectant Cleaner
- BEST CONCENTRATED: Purell Multisurface Disinfectant
- BEST FOR ALL SURFACES: Microban 24-Hour Sanitizing Spray
- BEST BATHROOM SPRAY: Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Foamer Cleaning System
Before You Buy a Disinfectant Spray
For those choosing a disinfectant spray, the most important consideration is its effectiveness in killing germs and bacteria. Some of the most popular options on the market today are capable of not only killing the Coronavirus, cold and flu bacteria, rhinovirus, and more, but also cleaning while disinfecting for added convenience.
While these products are very user-friendly, some manufacturers include harsh chemicals that can leave behind residue. While our list of top picks is geared toward natural, safe cleaning products that are safe for the environment as well as for humans and pets, consumers will always want to consider the ingredients within their disinfectant sprays and follow the manufacturer’s instructions while using.
How We Chose the Best Disinfectant Sprays
We researched the most sought-after disinfectant sprays in their respective categories and discovered that the best options are determined by their ingredients, purpose and effectiveness, application type, ease of use, and other special features included by top brands.
After extensive product research, we included options in our list of top all-purpose and multisurface disinfectants that were made with as few chemicals as possible. Plus, each of the included top picks does a superior job at not only eliminating bacteria and germs but also cleaning away dirt, grime, hard water spots, stains, and dust. Additionally, these products come as aerosols, mists, or wipes to suit individual needs, although we’ve focused on sprays for this article.
While looking through our compiled list of top picks, note that some products kill over 99.9 percent of bacteria, leave a lingering fresh scent behind after use, and can be used on virtually any hard household surface.
Our Top Picks
Eco-conscious shoppers will appreciate the sustainability of the Clorox EcoClean disinfecting spray. A great defense against germs, this EPA Safer Choice–certified spray harnesses the power of a plant-based active ingredient to eliminate 99.9 percent of germs in kitchen spaces including countertops, sinks, and cabinetry. Not only does it prioritize safety, but the spray bottle itself also promotes environmental sustainability by being made with 25 percent recycled plastic.
Achieve a cleaner and greener space with ease: Simply spray the solution until the surface is visibly wet, then let it sit for 2 minutes to disinfect. Clorox EcoClean helps create a healthier environment for households or businesses; it provides a thorough cleaning and disinfecting and leaves behind a fresh scent.
- Purpose: Hard, nonporous surfaces
- Application type: Spray bottle
- Active ingredient: Lactic acid
- Made using 25 percent recycled plastic; great for eco-conscious shoppers
- Eliminates 99.9 percent of harmful germs using a simple plant-based active ingredient
- One of very few EPA Design for the Environment–certified disinfectant products
- Does not use any harsh chemicals; safer for use around kids and pets
- Must be applied liberally on surfaces and left for up to 2 minutes to disinfect
Get the Clorox EcoClean disinfectant spray at Amazon, Walmart, or Staples.
This natural product is designed to disinfect and deodorize hard and nonporous surfaces, such as those in the kitchen and bathroom as well as children’s toys and furniture. It kills 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses via its active ingredient, thymol, which is a derivative of the oil extracted from thyme. As a disinfectant with powerful antibacterial properties, it not surprisingly has a fairly strong smell. Other essential oils, such as ylang ylang, orange, grapefruit, and geranium, help to balance out the scent.
Though the product is effective, the sprayer mechanism can spray large quantities quickly, so take this into consideration during use. Note that the product must be left on the surface for 10 minutes to disinfect.
- Purpose: All hard, nonporous surfaces
- Application type: Aerosol spray
- Active ingredients: Thymol and d-Limonene
- Uses natural active ingredients including essential oils such as thyme, orange, and geranium (other scents are available)
- No need to wipe after use; simply apply and enjoy the scent
- Removes odors as well as germs from a space
- Kills 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses
- Must remain on surfaces for 10 minutes for full effectiveness; can sometimes feel sticky
- Strong odor is not likely to be to everyone’s preference, although it doesn’t last long
Get the Seventh Generation disinfectant spray at Amazon (8-pack).
Method is recognized as one of the most eco-friendly brands on the market when it comes to cleaning products. This antibacterial all-purpose cleaner spray is one of Method’s most popular products. It’s tough on grease, grime, and dirt while killing 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria with the help of its citric acid-based formula, making it ideal for kitchen spaces including cabinetry, tables, countertops, and sinks. Specifically, this antibacterial spray is meant to kill Staphylococcus aureus, rhinovirus, influenza A viruses, E. coli, Salmonella enterica, and Enterobacter aerogenes.
Recommended for kitchen surfaces, counters, chairs, door knobs, and more, this spray provides great all-purpose disinfecting power while leaving behind a fresh, herbaceous scent.
- Purpose: All-purpose
- Application type: Spray bottle
- Active ingredient: Citric acid
- Eco-friendly organic formula is ideal for the chemical-conscious household
- Cleans while it disinfects; simply spray and wipe on most hard surfaces
- Kills Staphylococcus aureus, rhinovirus, influenza A viruses, E. coli, Salmonella enterica, and Enterobacter aerogenes
- Leaves behind a fresh bamboo scent after use (other scents are available)
- Some users have reported some residue and unpleasant smells left behind after use
Get the Method disinfectant spray at Amazon (4-pack), The Home Depot, or Target.
Available in a trigger-spray bottle, Windex multisurface disinfectant cleaner is ideal for disinfecting hard bathroom and kitchen surfaces as well as kitchen tabletops. Spray liberally on hard, nonporous surfaces; let it stand for 10 minutes; and then wipe dry with clean paper towels.
This disinfectant is also designed to clean away spills and hard water spots to leave a streak-free shine, making it suitable for cleaning and disinfecting windows. It leaves a polished look, keeping bathroom sinks and acrylic tubs looking spotless and shiny. It’s also great for cleaning mirrors.
- Purpose: Multisurface
- Application type: Spray bottle
- Active ingredient: Lactic acid
- Suitable for use in kitchens and bathrooms, and on tables and other hard surfaces
- Easy to use; simply spray and then wipe the bacteria, dirt, hard water spots, and dust away
- Leaves surfaces streak-free and shiny and has a light lemon scent
- May leave streaks behind if not wiped off thoroughly
Get the Windex disinfectant spray at Amazon, The Home Depot, Walmart, or Target.
Purell is one of the most well-known disinfecting brands, and this two-pack of the brand’s multisurface disinfectant lives up to the hype. This powerful disinfectant is capable of killing human coronavirus in 30 seconds, and it kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria. Plus, it has no harsh chemical fumes while achieving this cleaning power.
To use, simply spray the product on any sealed granite, glass, laminate, plastic, and other hard surfaces, including locations that have food contact. For user-friendliness and peace of mind, this option also has an EPA certification and one of the lowest levels of toxicity on the market, and it comes with a trigger sprayer.
- Purpose: Multisurface
- Application type: Spray bottle
- Active ingredient:Ethyl alcohol
- Worldwide trusted brand
- Kills bacteria and germs; can kill human coronavirus in 30 seconds
- Also capable of killing cold and flu viruses, salmonella, strep, and norovirus
- Works on most hard surfaces with the help of the trigger sprayer
- Some users have reported a lingering alcohol smell after use
Get the Purell disinfectant spray at Amazon.
Versatility is something that Microban 24-hour sanitizing spray has a monopoly on as an effective disinfectant. This product is suitable for use on hard surfaces like countertops, tables, and toys as well as soft couches, backpacks, shoes, and coats. As for its effectiveness, this sanitizing aerosol spray kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria for 24 hours, and initially kills the COVID-19 virus (although it hasn’t been proven to provide 24-hour residual virus protection).
Available in a 15-ounce spray can, this product is ideal for busy households with children and pets, especially since it has an EPA certification for safety. Plus, it does not need to be wiped or rinsed after it’s applied, and it leaves behind a light citrus scent. Need more? This reliable formula also deodorizes spaces and prevents mold and mildew growth.
- Purpose: Soft and hard surfaces
- Application type: Aerosol spray
- Active ingredients: Ammonium chlorides and quaternium-24
- Suitable for hard and soft surfaces; can be used on counters, tables, couches, cabinetry, blankets, and clothing
- Kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, and it initially kills the COVID-19 virus
- Does not need to be wiped or rinsed after application and leaves behind a citrus scent
- Scent may be too strong for some users’ preferences
- While it provides protection against germs and bacteria for 24 hours, it hasn’t been proven to provide 24-hour residual virus protection
Get the Microban disinfectant spray at Amazon (2-pack) or Target.
Many bathroom cleaners use bleach, which is not only harmful to the environment but also leaves behind a strong and somewhat unpleasant odor. Shoppers looking for an alternative will want to consider this disinfecting bathroom foamer from Clorox, which uses a bleach-free formula that still manages to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. Clorox gets extra points here for also providing a reusable and recyclable plastic spray bottle. Once the spray bottle is empty, use the refill cartridges—two of which are included with purchase—to continue using the same spray bottle for up to 10 years (kudos to any user who can go that long without breaking or losing the bottle).
This misting spray is suitable for cleaning shower walls, bathtubs, tiles, grout, shower curtains, sinks, and toilets. As an all-around bathroom cleaner, it does a great job cleaning and disinfecting without the bleach smell.
- Purpose: Bathroom cleaner
- Application type: Spray bottle
- Active ingredients: Ammonium chlorides and alkyl C14, C12, and C16
- Bleach-free formula that still eliminates viruses and bacteria
- Suitable for cleaning almost any bathroom surface
- Spray bottle is reusable for up 10 years; environmentally friendly
- Since the bottle size is on the small side, it will need to be refilled more frequently
Get the Clorox disinfecting bathroom foamer at Amazon or Walmart.
Or, DIY Your Own Disinfectant Spray
Buying a disinfecting soap or spray is a viable option for getting rid of bacteria and germs in bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, nurseries, or other living spaces. However, for those who prefer the DIY route, the following recipe is one we trust that can be made with materials commonly found around the house:
- Collect white vinegar, alcohol or vodka, essential oil (optional), and a glass or plastic spray bottle.
- Combine 1¼ cups water with ¼ cup vinegar and ¼ cup alcohol in your spray bottle. For an added scent booster, add 15 drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake well to combine.
- Apply to hard surfaces and wipe away with a microfiber cloth after 10 minutes. Warning: vinegar mixtures cannot be used on granite or marble surfaces.
When selecting the ideal disinfectant sprays for this list of top picks, we ensured that each of the products included had few or no harsh chemicals to keep humans, pets, and the environment safe and protected. However, there are some well-known options that didn’t make our list of top picks due to their higher chemical compositions, including Lysol disinfectant spray, which includes chemicals such as ammonium hydroxide. According to Wayne State University, this is a “known environmental hazard.”
What to Consider When Choosing a Disinfectant Spray
Whether sanitizing after an illness or keeping certain bacteria at bay, it’s important to take note of active ingredients, EPA Registration Numbers, and desired applications in order to select the right disinfectant cleaners for your home.
In order to qualify as a disinfectant, a product must contain ingredients that have been tested in labs and shown to kill various types of viruses, such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites. While the active ingredient listed on a product’s label may be long and difficult to pronounce, it is derived from one (or a combination of) the following CDC-approved disinfectant ingredients. The first three active ingredients on the list—alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorine—are household products that can be used individually as disinfectants and are also found in commercial disinfectants.
Please note: Disinfectants can be toxic if misused, so follow product directions carefully.
- Alcohol: In concentrations over 70 percent, alcohol is effective at killing viruses but not bacteria. It can be found in various disinfecting products, including liquids, sprays, and wipes. For alcohol to successfully disinfect, the product should be applied and the surface allowed to remain wet for 30 seconds. In other words, don’t apply and then immediately wipe it dry—wait for at least 30 seconds (longer if indicated on the product’s directions). Use alcohol for disinfecting surfaces when known viruses are going around, but opt for one of the other products if you’re disinfecting against the spread of bacteria, such as sanitizing during an outbreak of salmonella, which is a food-borne bacteria, or Staphylococcus, which is a bacteria that can lead to skin and organ infections.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This time-tested ingredient is often found in disinfectant products that are intended for use on hard, nonporous surfaces, and it can be found in sprays and liquids. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used right out of the bottle by applying it to hard, nonporous surfaces and allowing it to remain on for 1 minute before wiping dry.
- Chlorine and chlorine products: In the form of sodium chloride, good old household bleach has been a standby for decades in cleaning and disinfecting. When sanitizing your home to destroy bacteria and viruses, including the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends diluting household bleach at the rate of 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water for use as a disinfectant on hard surfaces. This solution can be used in a sprayer or can be sponged on a hard, nonporous surface. It should be allowed to remain on the surface for 5 minutes before wiping off. Chlorine in other forms, such as benzalkonium chloride, is also found in disinfectant products combined with other ingredients. However, do not mix household bleach with any other type of cleaner because there’s a possibility it could result in toxic fumes.
- Formaldehyde: A water-based form of formaldehyde called “formalin” is commonly used to sterilize and disinfect industrial settings, including hospitals, as it kills both viruses and bacteria. While formaldehyde effectively destroys pathogens, its fumes are considered toxic, and it should only be used as directed on the label.
- Glutaraldehydes: Similar to formaldehyde, glutaraldehydes kill viruses and bacteria on hard, nonporous surfaces. Products containing these ingredients can be purchased as concentrated liquids and are intended for use in sprayers.
- Phenols: Another industrial product, phenolic disinfectants will kill bacteria and viruses on hard, nonporous surfaces. This active ingredient can be found in liquid form for diluting with water and applying directly to floors (mopping), countertops, and other hard surfaces.
EPA Registration Number
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a Registered Disinfectant List for antimicrobial products that kill specific types of pathogens, such as avian flu or Ebola virus. All products that claim to kill germs must bear EPA Registration Numbers on their labels. The most recent list is for disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, which according to the EPA is the “novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.”
Different products may bear the same number, and this just means that they have the same active ingredients. For example, hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient in Ecolab’s peroxide disinfectant and glass cleaner, and it has been given the EPA registration number 1677-251. If you find a product with the same registration number, although the name may be different, it will contain the same active ingredients as the Ecolab product. To find out all products registered under a specific number, you can search the EPA Registration database by number, product name, company name, or chemical name.
- Aerosol can: Aerosol cans deliver a fine mist of spray that covers a large area to disinfect hard surfaces, such as showers and countertops, or—depending on the ingredients—clothing, draperies, and upholstery.
- Spray bottle: Many disinfectants come in spray bottles, allowing the product to be dispensed through a trigger action. There is also the option to purchase empty spray bottles and fill them with diluted cleaners or homemade disinfectants (such as the bleach solution mentioned above). Cleaners in spray bottles are generally intended for use on hard, nonporous surfaces.
- Wipes: Intended for quick cleaning, wipes come premoistened in a container and can be removed one at a time for wiping down faucets, door handles, and other frequently touched objects.
- Liquid: Products that come in liquid form may be used directly out of the bottle or jug, or they may come in a concentrated form that requires dilution with water before use. While most liquids can be used to fill spray bottles, some are intended to be sponged on a surface. To understand when and how to apply the liquid, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.
Before buying a disinfectant spray, you may have some lingering questions. Here are some of the most common questions shoppers have about purchasing and using the best disinfectant sprays on the market.
Q. Do disinfectant spray or wipes work better?
Disinfecting sprays and wipes are both equally effective options for removing bacteria, so users can take comfort in buying the one that best suits their needs. However, to make the disinfecting power of the spray or wipe more effective, apply an ample amount of the disinfectant to the surface and let it dwell for at least 10 minutes to allow the product to take full effect.
Another thing to keep in mind with disinfectants is their average working time. Sprays will typically take 30 seconds to 3 minutes to disinfect, while some wipes take over 10 minutes to fully sanitize a surface. Always read and follow the label on the disinfectant you choose to ensure the product is being used properly.
Q. Is household disinfectant safe for dogs?
Many household disinfectants on the market are completely safe for homes with dogs and cats. For example, the Purell Multisurface disinfectant is ideal for thoroughly cleaning kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room surfaces and has one of the lowest levels of toxicity in its formula, which makes it safe for children, pets, and the environment.
Q. Can you use disinfectant spray on fabric?
There are many disinfecting sprays on the market that are made for use on fabrics and upholstery. One of the most reliable options to consider is the Microban 24-hour sanitizing spray. This versatile product is recommended for hard and soft surfaces and has an EPA certification for safety.
Q. Does disinfectant spray expire?
Many may rely on disinfectant sprays and wipes for sporadic cleaning, but be advised that these products do have a shelf life. Most disinfectants should last for about 12 months if kept in ideal conditions. While no harm can be done from using an expired product, the effects may not be the same as when the product was fresh.
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