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How do I know which disinfectants work on the virus causing COVID-19?

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Did you know that not all disinfectants are effective against the novel coronavirus?

Why is this the case?

The reason behind this is that during the initial outbreak of a new virus like COVID-19 no disinfectants existed on the market that could make claims to kill the virus. This is because the virus was simply not available for testing.

How does the CDC recommend novel SARS-CoV-2 cultures be studied?  

The CDC recommends that studies of cultures of novel SARS-CoV-2 should be conducted in a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory using BSL-3 practices1 but there is a limited number of BSL-3 labs in the world.

Understandably, the immediate priority for research at these labs would focus on vaccines and treatments, so testing would have been a bottleneck. After that, it could still take more than one year to get a viral claim approved by a regulatory agency.

So, what approach did the EPA take?

Since few disinfectants could be tested, the EPA took the approach of fast-tracking approvals of already approved disinfectants using a ‘hierarchy-based’ policy.2

This means that if a company’s product has been found to be effective against harder-to-kill viruses, it is likely to a kill a virus like COVID-19.

What do you mean by harder-to-kill viruses?

Viruses can be generally categorized into three groups by virus structure. This affects the effectiveness of disinfectants in killing the viruses.2

  • Enveloped viruses are easiest to kill. (Examples are Influenza A Virus. Herpes Simplex Virus, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV))
  • Large, non-enveloped viruses are more difficult to kill. (An example is Rotavirus of Adenovirus.)
  • Small, non-enveloped viruses are hardest to kill. (Examples are Rhinovirus, Poliovirus, Coxsackie Virus, Parvovirus and Norovirus.)
  • Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfecting product.

With all this being said, which disinfectants are effective against COVID-19?

You should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using an EPA-registered disinfectant on the EPA List N.

Source: Facility Executive

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. Children should not use these products.3

The EPA expects the products on List N to kill SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, because they:

  • Demonstrate efficacy against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19);
  • Demonstrate efficacy against a pathogen that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19); or
  • Demonstrate efficacy against a different human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).4

How do I effectively use the EPA List N?

The EPA lays out a step-by-step guide of how to use this list so everyone can understand if the product is effective in killing the Coronavirus.5

So, knowing all the above, what is the best procedure to disinfect and keep surfaces clean?

 Source: Business Business Business

According to the EPA there are 6 steps for safe and effective disinfectant use.6

Step One: Check that your product is EPA-approved.

  • Find the EPA registration number on the product. Them, check to see if it is on EPA’s list of approved disinfectants at:

Step Two: Read the Directions.

  • Follow the product’s directions. Check ‘use sites’ and ‘surface types’ to see where you can use the product. Read the ‘precautionary statements’.

Step Three: Pre-Clean the Surface.

  • Make sure to wash the surface with soap and water if the directions mention pre-cleaning or if the surface is visibly dirty.

Step Four: Follow the Contact Time.

  • You can find the contact time in the directions. The surface should remain wet the whole time to ensure the product is effective.

Step Five: Wear gloves and Wash your Hands.

  • For disposable gloves, discard them after each cleaning. For reusable gloves, dedicate a pair to disinfecting COVID-19. Wash your hands after removing the gloves.

Step Six: Lock it Up!

  • Keep lids tightly closed and store out of reach of children.

Can I clean my device in a Catalyst case with approved disinfectants on the EPA List N?

Absolutely! 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 Infection7.

If the surface is visibly dirty, 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 effective.6

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.

Check out how to clean your phone case with our Total Protection range safely here.


Want to learn more?

There are a lot of details and considerations that go into picking the right disinfectant to use on a device or 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.


  1. Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020).
  1. American Chemistry Council. Center for Biocide Chemistries Answers your Questions about COVID-19 American Chemistry Council, (2020).
  1. List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) USA Environmental Protection Agency (2020).
  1. List N: How does EPA know that the products on List N work on SARS-CoV-2? USA Environmental Protection Agency (2020).
  1. List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) I can’t tell if the product I’m interested in is on the list or not. Can you help me? USA Environmental Protection Agency (2020).
  2. 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).
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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