Disinfectants are important tools to stop the spread of
germs. However, like all chemicals, they come with
risks. Many disinfectants
can increase the risk of breathing problems when used often or without
enough ventilation and air flow. If you use or are around
disinfectants at work, you have many options to reduce your risk.
There are many ways to control viruses and germs, not just with
disinfectants. A combination of methods that includes cleaning and
targeted use of disinfectants can help stop the spread of disease and
may be lower risk for your health.
You might find the following information useful if you're a teacher or work in child care, health care, public transportation, food service and grocery, cleaning services, housekeeping, or a similar job.
If you're not sure where to start when reporting a problem, call NPIC at 800-858-7378 for non-emergency information. NPIC is not an enforcement agency.
If you work with children and need to use a disinfectant, these steps can reduce health risks:
Do not let children under 18 use disinfectants, even wipes. The bottle will say things like "kills viruses", "disinfects", or something similar. This poster has information on the difference between disinfecting wipes and other wipes.
Schools should not let children use disinfectant wipes or other sprays.
Consider washing desks where children eat with soap and water instead of disinfectants.
Always keep children away while mixing or using disinfectants. Be especially vigilant when mixing because there will be an open bottle of concentrated product.
Store disinfectants up and out of reach. If your under-sink storage doesn't have a lock, consider using a higher shelf.
Wipe surfaces with clean water after using disinfectants.
Open windows and doors or use fans to bring in fresh, outdoor air before, during, and after.
Consider disinfecting when children are in a different room or not present, when possible.
Bleach is not for routine cleaning. This poster has safety tips when using bleach at child care sites.
Incidents and Reporting:
If someone is sick or injured from disinfectants call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 or seek medical attention.
If you're not sure where to start to report a problem, call NPIC at 800-858-7378, Monday through Friday, 8am-12pm Pacific Time. NPIC gives non-emergency information and is not an enforcement agency.
These everyday steps prevent germs from spreading:
Use soap and water for routine cleaning. Household cleaners or soap and water remove many germs on surfaces.
Wash hands often with soap and water.
Use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol when soap and water aren't available.
Ventilate or bring in outside air as much as possible. Opening windows, using HEPA filters, and running air systems all help.
These steps help stop the spread of germs if someone is sick:
Stay home when sick, except to get medical care.
Stay separate from others in the home as much as possible.
Regularly clean surfaces with soap and water, including anything that looks dirty.
If using a disinfectant, clean with soap and water first.
Tips to select disinfectants:
Use disinfectants registered by EPA. These have been tested for their effectiveness.
If you are concerned about a certain illness, like flu, norovirus, or COVID, check the label of the product to see if it will kill those germs. Products that only say "Sanitizes" or "Cleans" do not control viruses.
Consider using products that are lower in toxicity. Lower toxicity products say CAUTION on the label, instead of WARNING or DANGER.
The following disinfectants are on EPA's Safer Chemical Ingredients List*. If your product has one of these active ingredients, it will be listed on the front of the disinfectant container.
*Follow all instructions carefully! Higher concentrations or distracted handling can increase your risk when using any product, even if it's lower in toxicity.