3 Disinfectants You Can Use In Case You Can’t Find Clorox Wipes

updated Mar 31, 2020
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Credit: Taryn Williford

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you toss your shoes in a pile near the door, or wipe crumbs from the coffee table twice a day or twice a week. As long as you can find your sneakers and don’t get ants — you’re doing great. But when your cleaning goals go from “I want a tidy home” to “I need to protect myself from illness,” things change.

When there’s a viral infection on the rise, like right now with the coronavirus, many people shift their priorities — and their behavior. On its list of everyday preventive actions, the Center for Disease Control recommends washing your hands often (and with intention), avoiding touching your face, and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. It’s because of that last tip that you may find that disinfecting wipes and sprays are out of stock in local department and grocery stores, and even out of stock from giant online warehouses.

If you can’t get your hands on disinfecting wipes or sprays, here are some alternative disinfectants and sanitizers you can use to kill germs on your household surfaces.

Credit: Taryn Williford

1. Any Product That Says “Disinfectant” on the Label, and Includes an EPA Registration Number

Brand loyalty is great, but the best product is the one you can find. Any kind of wipe, spray, or liquid disinfectant that meets these criteria is going to be effective at disinfecting non-porous surfaces. All EPA-registered disinfectants must have an EPA registration number, which consists of a company number and a product number (like 123-45). Generic “off brand” versions of a product will have the same EPA registration number as the primary product. The American Chemistry Council Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC) also maintains a list of EPA-approved disinfecting products pre-approved for use against “emerging enveloped viral pathogens.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Diluted Household Bleach

Bleach is an inexpensive and effective disinfectant, although it might not be appropriate for all surfaces at home (bleach, well… bleaches, and it can also corrode some metals), so spot test as needed. The CDC recommends preparing a bleach solution for disinfecting by mixing 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. (And yes, it’s fine to mix bleach with hot water.) Always follow the safety instructions provided by the bleach manufacturer, and make sure your bleach hasn’t expired. Generally, when stored at room temperature, you can expect bleach to last for one year, according to Mary Gagliardi, Clorox’s “Dr. Laundry” cleaning expert.

A note about disinfecting with bleach: You don’t want to pre-mix a bleach solution for disinfecting, and don’t store or apply your bleach solution with a spray bottle. Gagliardi says that the active ingredient in the bleach can react with the metal parts in an ordinary trigger spray assembly and “basically creates a rust solution.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Rubbing Alcohol (aka Isoproyl Alcohol)

The kind of alcohol you’d buy from a drugstore or pharmacy, that’s what we’re talking about here. “Rubbing alcohol” is the name for a solution of water mixed with either denatured ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol — you might find it sold under any of those names, and they’re all effective at deactivating lipid viruses. When you buy alcohol solutions at the store, they’re already diluted with water in a specific concentration, indicated clearly on the label, usually 70 percent or 90-91 percent alcohol. The CDC advises that alcohol concentrations above 70 percent should be effective at disinfecting for viruses.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 3 Disinfectants You Can Use If You Can’t Find Clorox Wipes