Are disinfectants effective against coronavirus?

Some can help protect against common viruses, but COVID-19 is different.

Recent news stories raise the question of whether antibacterial sprays and wipes, particularly those from brands such as Lysol© and Clorox©, can protect against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease).

Dr. Abisola Olulade, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, helps shed light on this question, and the importance of surface disinfectants generally in preventing the spread of viruses.

“It is important to note that coronavirus is a large family of viruses,” says Dr. Olulade. “Although they share a common characteristic — a crown-like appearance in their structure — they are still very different. Some cause diseases as mild as a common cold, and others cause severe infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), which can lead to respiratory failure and death.”

New viruses have not been laboratory tested

She points out that COVID-19 is a new virus, making it impossible for companies to make the claim that they are effective against it.

“The current coronavirus is a novel virus, meaning that it has never before been detected in humans,” says Dr. Olulade. “As such, it is impossible for companies to make the claim that these wipes can kill the virus, unless they have specifically tested their wipes and products against it. The claim is most likely based on the effectiveness of the wipes in killing previously known coronaviruses.”

Coronavirus is a family of viral strains that includes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) and SARS-CoV. While laboratory testing may confirm that surface disinfectants can eliminate COVID-19, that testing has not yet been done.

Disinfectant wipes are effective against more common viruses

Having said that, Dr. Olulade confirms that cleaning wipes and sprays do play a vital role in protecting against common viruses, such as cold and flu.

“It is important for patients to know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommend household cleaning wipes and sprays to clean hard surfaces and commonly used objects such as toys,” she says.

Dr. Olulade points out that the flu virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. Therefore, it is important to clean and disinfect them whenever possible, and remember to:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirtsleeve — never use your hands.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact — kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and utensils — with others if you or they have cold or flu symptoms.

For the news media: If you would like to speak with Dr. Olulade about coronavirus for an upcoming news story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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