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A Simple Guide to Understanding the Differences in Disinfectants

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Source: Learn Compact Appliance

During these unprecedented times, we all know at this stage that disinfectants help keep our surfaces clean and help protect us from viruses.

But – with there being hundreds of options to choose from do you know what disinfectant you should use? Do not worry – we are here to help break it down.


Source: Images Pexels

Let’s start with the basics - what disinfectant should I be using?

According to the EPA you should stick to the products listed on the EPA List N. For those who don’t know (or need refreshing) the EPA List N is a comprehensive list where when used according to the label directions can kill the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). These products are for use on surfaces, not humans.1

Are there any differences or preferred active ingredients in these disinfectants?

The answer is no. There is no preferred active ingredient in disinfectants. However, all EPA-registered disinfectants must provide efficacy data against the organisms claimed on the label – but each one has a different mechanism.2 

How do I pick the right disinfectant?

There are a lot of details and considerations that go into picking the right disinfectant to use on a device or surface. When selecting a disinfectant, try to select one appropriate for the surface it is intended to clean.

Seems obvious right – but this is the first hurdle in making sure we disinfectant our surfaces correctly.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of chemistry. Some disinfectants will chemically attack items being disinfected – especially if used on the wrong surface.

To learn more about our recommended disinfection protocol, check out our full whitepaper ‘How can you safely Disinfect your Devices against the SARS-CoV-2-Coronavirus’ here.

Source: OHS Online

What can happen to surfaces when using the wrong disinfectant?

In some cases, using the wrong disinfectant on the incorrect surface can cause more damage than good so make sure you’ve studied up before you use!

  • Stainless steel can be pitted by strong acids and (in some conditions) halogen active disinfectants.
  • Bleach is a great oxidizer, but it is a corrosive with a high pH and not suitable for all surfaces. It also usually needs to be left on a surface for a long time to work, which has the potential to discolor the material.
  • Plastics can be affected by disinfectants containing organic solvents while various metals may be attacked by strong acids or alkalis, halogen active substances or disinfectants containing electrolytes.
  • Alcohol is a great anti-septic, but it is flammable and can flash off surfaces quickly.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can also be a good cleaner, however peroxide chemistry is acidic and not all surface are acid resistant, so it may not be compatible with many materials.2

Are there any possible dangers to us when using disinfectants?

Yes there can be, that’s why taking the right precautions is vital when handling disinfectants. 

  • Most disinfectants have toxic properties, and some are also highly corrosive, causing damage if they come into contact with skin or eyes.
  • Some products are less suitable for contact with skin such as products with a high level of alkalinity or highly oxidizing products, such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach), hydrogen peroxide, chloroxylenol, or quaternary ammonium or bleach. 
  • Some disinfectants e.g., glutaraldehyde and hypochlorites may also have irritant properties and so cause respiratory problems if used in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Some disinfectants may react with other chemicals causing the release of hazardous gases e.g. bleach and acids or bleach and cleaning agents containing ammonia.3

How should one protect themselves?

Precautions should be given for handling both concentrated disinfectants and made up in-use dilutions. When handling concentrated disinfectants care should be taken to avoid splashing, and goggles or a full-face visor and gloves should be worn.3 


Do disinfectants work on any Catalyst cases?

Absolutely! Our Total Protection Waterproof cases allow you to follow the EPA recommended procedure by safely pre-cleaning your device with soap and water and then disinfecting it with an EPA-approved disinfectant.

Before disinfection always check to see if the surface is visibly dirty. If it is wash it first with soap and water. Then, follow with an EPA-approved disinfectant, paying attention to proper contact time – the surface should remain wet the whole time to ensure the disinfectant is effective4.

It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide a recommended disinfection protocol, and as you can tell, we’ve done our homework to come up with a recommendation.


What disinfectants work on our Total Protection cases?

Catalyst Total Protection Waterproof Cases have been tested to sustain repeated disinfection with 70% isopropyl alcohol and 70% ethanol. These have proven to work against similar coronaviruses like SARS and MERS by a study by the Journal of Hospital Infection.5

According to the CDC, the best way to keep hard electronic devices clean is to use a wipeable cover or case designed to make it easier to clean and disinfect. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for cleaning the electronic item.6

To see the cleaning and disinfection process of our Total Protection cases in action click here.

How do I safely clean and disinfect my surfaces?

Now that you know the differences in disinfectants and the precautions to take check out our blog ‘6 Steps to safely clean and disinfect your surfaces’ here.


  1. List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) USA Environmental Protection Agency (2020).
  1. Factors Affecting the Efficacy of Disinfection and Sterlization. Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008)
  1. Cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces in the context of COVID-19: interim guidance, 15 May 2020,,World Health Organization (2020).
  1. 6 Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use. Protection Agency (2020).
  1. The Journal of Hospital Infection. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents, Healthcare Infection Society (2020).
  1. Cleaning and Disinfection for Households. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020).


B2B catalyst catalyst case Catalyst Lifestyle consumer technology coronavirus covid covid-19 disinfect disinfection EPA approved disinfectants EPA List N phone hygiene PPE SARS-CoV-2 total protection Total Protection Case washable cases Waterproof phone case

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