Cleaning and Disinfecting for COVID-19

This is intended to help educate against fear mongering and “snake oil” sales people attempting to capitalize on the recent outbreak. It may be specifically useful for parents, educators administrators, city leaders and business owners. If you have been told about or approached by someone prescribing fogging or spraying an area to help guard against this or any virus please read on. Full disclosure, I own a disaster restoration business and you can read more about me at the end of this article.

You have been educated about washing hands and social distancing so we will not go over those items. This post is intended to speak specifically to cleaning and sanitizing procedures as well as applying EPA registered disinfectants. This is not a comprehensive guide to cleaning contaminated environments as we can’t possibly fit that into one post or one full day of training for that matter.

Short Version: Use proper personal protective equipment and engineering controls and clean first, Sanitize/Disinfect only after thoroughly cleaning.

Example: You can use hand sanitizer or you can properly wash your hands. Which do you trust more? One method (hand sanitizer) may or may not “kill” germs while the other (washing) removes them if done correctly.

First, there is no magic juice. No matter what anyone sells you or tells you. There is no magic juice that you can fog or spray by itself to kill or eliminate COVID-19 or H1N1 or any other virus for that matter.

These product efficacy tests are completed in laboratory environments and do not represent real world situations. This means that you may or may not achieve the same results. That can of lysol may make you feel better but realistically isn’t accomplishing much. The same can be said of fear mongering sales people trying to sell you on fogging (insert magic juice here). No, their product is not special and no, their methods are not special. It has to be remediated properly, there are no shortcuts. There are currently no products that have been tested against COVID-19 but there is List N from the EPA that is constantly being updated with products that meet the emerging pathogen kill claim efficacy (linked at the bottom of this article).

From the EPA:

“​While these products have not been tested against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, they are expected to be effective based on:

  • Demonstrated efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus;
  • Qualified for the ​ emerging viral pathogens claim​ ;​ or
  • Demonstrated efficacy against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.”

Sales people are pushing electrostatic sprayers that positively charge the chemical being applied so that it will wrap around objects achieving better results than with common sprayers. While electrostatic sprayers are great tools (we use them) when used properly there are a couple points to be made. Simply spraying will not achieve desired results regardless of sprayer type according to the EPA:

“​EPA does not recommend that products are applied using a method that is not described in the directions for use on the mater label, as the efficacy of the product has not been verified using these methods of application. For example, if a label specifies that a product can be applied as a liquid using a cloth, sponge or sprayer, EPA would not recommend that it be applied via a fogging device or electrostatic sprayer unless the label specifically states that it can be applied this way.”

You can find more information and FAQ’s from the EPA in the link provided at the end of this article.

Second, (but most important) ​YOU MUST CLEAN!​ Most disinfectants will not achieve kill claims listed on the label unless proper cleaning is performed first. Use common sense. If someone had hepatitis and bled on the floor would you just spray something on it or would you wear protective clothing and clean the affected area first before applying the proper disinfectant? Every EPA registered disinfectant has a label that describes the methods for application as well as stated efficacy and dwell times. Most direct you to apply the chemical to a pre-cleaned​ surface and specify that the surface must stay wet for up to ​10 minutes​ to achieve listed kill claims. Soiled surfaces, soft furnishings and many other items limit the efficacy of the products. Even surfaces that appear visibly clean must be cleaned thoroughly prior to application of chemicals. All items that you want to apply disinfectant to you must clean thoroughly. In the absence of the ability to perform cleaning due to circumstance (staffing, funding, etc…) of all surfaces you may perform a triage cleaning focusing on high touch surfaces such as door handles, desks, counters, keyboards, screens, etc.

No matter how thorough your procedures are, if a carrier of the virus enters the building, all procedures must be repeated. There is no guarantee that you can prevent contamination. The goal should be to use procedures that give you the best chance for desired success however you define that.

So how do you do it correctly? Please see the link to guidelines posted at the bottom of this article from the CDC on cleaning which I have posted an excerpt from immediately below.


  • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
    • Otherwise, use products with the EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims

Linens, Clothing, and Other Items That Go in the Laundry

  • Do not shake dirty laundry; this minimizes the possibility of dispersing virus through the air.
  • Wash items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Clean and disinfect hampers or other carts for transporting laundry according to guidance above for hard or soft surfaces.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Hand Hygiene:

  • Cleaning staff should wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.
    • Gloves and gowns should be compatible with the disinfectant products being used.
    • Additional PPE might be required based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash.
    • Gloves and gowns should be removed carefully to avoid contamination of the wearer and the surrounding area. Be sure to ​ clean ​ hands after removing gloves.
  • Gloves should be removed after cleaning a room or area occupied by ill persons. ​ Clean hands​ immediately after gloves are removed.
  • Cleaning staff should immediately report breaches in PPE (e.g., tear in gloves) or any potential exposures to their supervisor.
    Cleaning staff and others should ​ clean ​ hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
  • Follow normal preventive actions while at work and home, including cleaning hands and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Additional key times to clean hands include:
      • After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
      • After using the restroom
      • Before eating or preparing food
      • After contact with animals or pets
      • Before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g., a child)

If you need assistance in forming procedures for your cleaning staff at your school or facility please feel free to reach out to us. We want to help you in this time. We understand that this can be overwhelming with limited staffing and funding to handle such items. We can work with you and your staff to allow you to handle this to the best of your ability while maintaining the ultimate goal of safety for you, your staff, and your family and children that are under your care. We are a local company and have children attending the various schools within this county and want to be of assistance in any way possible. You can find us at our website or contact us at our office 256-236-2446. Thank you for your time.


Scott Mims

About the author: Scott has been in the restoration industry for 16 years owning and operating Mimsco Property Restoration as well as Disaster Academy and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of disaster restoration. Scott has trained thousands of students throughout the US and Canada as well as being published in national trade magazines. He holds the designations of Master Water Restorer, Master Fire & Smoke Restorer, and Master Textile cleaner as well as numerous nationally recognized certifications from the IICRC and is a licensed Home Builder in the State of Alabama. Scott has led international teams in the development of industry testing and curriculum during his involvement with the IICRC.


EPA: Frequently Asked Questions about List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2


List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2

CDC Links:

CDC: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and Information

Interim Cleaning Methods:

CDC: Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations

Science Magazine link on cleaning and disinfection:

Does disinfecting surfaces really prevent the spread of coronavirus?