Safer disinfectants for COVID-19

April 12, 2021

Quick links:

Disinfectants and COVID-19

What do we mean by "safer?"

How to identify safer products


Disinfectants and COVID-19

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has now determined that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from touching surfaces is low.   According to the CDC: "In most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk. Disinfection is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours. "

A good cleaning with soaps or detergents is often enough. If disinfectants are needed, focus on places that people touch, such as faucets, door handles, or shared keyboards.


What do we mean by "safer" disinfectants?

 It is important not to overuse disinfectants. Most disinfectants contain hazardous chemicals, particularly chemicals that cause asthma. The San Francisco Department of the Environment considers the following active ingredients as safer:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Lactic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Octanoic (caprylic) acid
  • Alcohol (ethanol, isopropanol) - for spot cleaning only (example computer keyboards); do not use for applications that require more than one wipe, or cleaning of surfaces larger than 1 square foot. 
  • Thymol - use when other products are not available


How to find safer products

The best resource for safer disinfectant products is US EPA's Design for the Environment/Safer Choice (DfE) program. DfE certifies that all ingredients in disinfectants (not just "active" ingredients) are least hazardous chemicals.

Using the Design for Environment tool:

For products to use at home, select "Home" or "Home and Business" from the dropdown. 

For products to use in a commercial setting, select "Business" or "Home and Business"

To select only products certified for COVID-19, click the box for "Disinfectants for use against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2"

More general information on safer disinfectants can  be found on our SFApproved disinfectants page.  Also make sure you follow the latest San Francisco Department of Public Health Directives for other ways to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


Here are some commonly found consumer disinfectant products that meet our safer ingredients criteria:

Lysol Multi-Purpose Cleaner With Hydrogen Peroxide

SC Johnson Windex Disinfectant Cleaner

Method Antibac All-Purpose Cleaner

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner