Shortage of Disinfectants in Your Area? Here’s What You Can Do

Reopening America means everyone must work together to lessen exposure to the coronavirus. This calls for social distancing, virus testing, contact tracing and self-isolation. It also involves cleaning and disinfecting public spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created guidelines for disinfection. These guidelines apply to businesses, workplaces, schools and other public places.

You can apply the CDC guidelines to your home too. But if you want to buy disinfectant wipes or sprays, you might be out of luck.

Due to the pandemic, household essentials – like toilet paper and hand sanitizer – are in high demand. Disinfectants and cleaners are all but gone from the store shelves. Luckily, there are other solutions.

Reduce Coronavirus Risks

Cleaning and disinfection are important for keeping your family safe as America reopens. People can slow the spread of disease through social distancing and good hygiene. This involves wearing masks, washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces.

The right products can kill the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compiled a list of effective disinfectants. All are effective against viruses that are harder to kill than the new coronavirus.

The Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC) also has a list of EPA-approved disinfectants. It describes them as pre-approved for use against “emerging enveloped viral pathogens.”

Consider Alternative Solutions

A few months into the pandemic, some high-demand products are back on the store shelves. This includes a limited supply of cleaning wipes and disinfectant sprays. But what if there is a shortage in your area?

According to the CDC, cleaning your home with soap and water is a good place to start. But you should follow normal cleaning with disinfection. If EPA-approved disinfectants are scarce, homemade solutions can help fill the void.

When it is hard to get your hands on a disinfectant, here are three alternatives that can kill the germs in your home. Pay attention to ingredients and measurements to avoid toxic effects.

Household Bleach

Bleach is a cheap and effective disinfectant, but it may not be right for every surface in your home. Bleach discolors fabrics and can also corrode metal. Always do a spot test before using diluted bleach for disinfection.

Before you make a bleach solution, make sure the bleach is suitable for disinfection. Some products, like those designed for colored clothes, may not work for disinfection.

Disinfecting bleach has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of five or six percent. Check the label for this, and also be sure the product is not expired. Unexpired bleach is effective against the coronavirus when diluted the right way.

To make a diluted bleach solution, mix one-third cup (or five tablespoons) of bleach with a gallon of water. Use hot or room temperature water. If you need a smaller batch, mix four teaspoons of bleach with a quart of water.

For best results, leave the bleach solution on the surface you are cleaning for at least one minute. Wear housekeeping gloves and make sure you have good ventilation when disinfecting.

Diluted bleach solutions are generally effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. For this reason, you should not premix your solution. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleansers. And avoid using a spray bottle as bleach can react with metal in the trigger assembly.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic solution. It contains water mixed with isopropyl alcohol or denatured ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is a common disinfectant in hospitals and clean rooms.

Store-bought rubbing alcohol is already diluted with water in a specific concentration. It usually contains 60 to 90 percent isopropyl alcohol.

The CDC recommends solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol. They are the most effective against viruses, bacteria and fungi, and they work fast.

Solutions that contain 90 percent alcohol (or more) do destroy germs. But they need longer contact times for disinfection. This enables spores to lie dormant without being killed.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another household product that kills germs. A three percent solution can deactivate rhinovirus – the cause of colds – in less than eight minutes. Since rhinovirus is harder to kill than coronavirus, hydrogen peroxide destroys coronavirus faster.

Hydrogen peroxide is not corrosive, so you can use it on metal surfaces. Leave the solution on the surface you are cleaning for at least one minute before wiping. Like bleach, hydrogen peroxide can discolor fabrics, so be careful not to spill it on your clothes.

Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist, said hydrogen peroxide is good for hard-to-reach crevices. “You can pour it on the area, and you don’t have to wipe it off because it … decomposes into oxygen and water,” he said.


The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for disinfectants, causing shortages everywhere. While manufacturers make adjustments, supply and demand should balance out when America reopens.

Alternative solutions can fill the void until stores replenish the shelves. Until the, try the solutions above to kill germs in your home and keep your family safe.