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9 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Disinfectant Spray

If you think spraying a surface and then immediately wiping it is the solution, you might be in for a surprise.

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Spraying Cleaning Product on the Kitchen CounterCasarsaGuru/Getty Images

Disinfectant Spray

There are a lot of things to know about household disinfectant sprays — such as, what’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting?

It’s easy to think that spraying a surface means you’re instantly killing germs. But it’s not that simple. Read on to learn the mistakes you might be making, and how to correct them. Get to know if you can spray alcohol on your bed to disinfect it.

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Unrecognizable person in medical gloves holds bottle of sanitizer gel, poses in shop, leans at shopping cart, buys product for coronavirus protection, blurred background. Disinfection, preventionViorel Kurnosov/Getty Images

Not Thoroughly Reading the Labels on Disinfectant Sprays

You might want to start immediately cleaning and disinfecting your home, but sometimes it’s important to start slow.

“The biggest mistake is not reading and following the directions on the label,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president for communications, outreach & membership at the American Cleaning Institute.

“With disinfecting products in high demand, you may bring home a product you’re not as familiar with. Don’t assume it works the same way. Read the directions carefully and follow them in order to have the desired effect. This may seem like basic advice, but according to a recent American Cleaning Institute survey, 42 percent of Americans aren’t using disinfectants properly.”

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Woman Cleans Kitchen CounterGrace Cary/Getty Images

Not Letting the Sprays Sit Long Enough

If you think spraying a surface and then immediately wiping it is the solution, you might be in for a surprise.

“The most common mistake in using a disinfectant spray is not letting it sit long enough!” says Jacqueline Janus, cleaning expert and owner of cleaning company Two Chicks and a Broom.

“Disinfecting isn’t instant, so if you spray and wipe, you may be getting a surface clean, but you’re really not doing much in the way of disinfecting. Every product is different, so check the label of whatever disinfectant you’re using for the recommended time the product should sit on a surface in order to be most effective. It can be up to 10-15 minutes for some products!”

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Car disinfection. Coronavirus covid-19mladenbalinovac/Getty Images

Not Using Enough Disinfectant Spray

Disinfectant spray has to stay wet on the surface for the required amount of time.

“When people don’t follow the instructions on the label, the most common mistake we see is not getting a surface wet enough,” Sansoni says. “For the disinfectant to work, it needs contact time with the surface before it dries or gets wiped away. Depending on the product, this could range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. It will always tell you how long on the label.”

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Expiration dateEmma Kumer/

Not Checking the Expiration Date

Checking expiration dates is crucial when it comes to cleaning products. “Disinfectant does expire/lose its potency over time, so it’s also important to check dates and the labels,” Janus says. Disinfectant sprays aren’t the only cleaning products that expire.

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Woman in rubber gloves disinfects the keyboardAnton Petrus/Getty Images

Thinking Disinfectant Sprays Are a Long-Term Solution

“The most common mistake is that people think of disinfectants as a long-term solution. In fact, their effectiveness is temporary,” say the experts at Top Cleaners London. It might be time to carry a hand sanitizer with you (make sure it’s not one of these potentially toxic ones!).

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Air / furniture freshenerCatherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

Thinking the Sprays Purify the Air

Disinfectant sprays can do a lot of things, but air purifying is not one of them. “They don’t purify the air, only the surface they are applied on,” Cooper says. “Therefore, people need to use them regularly. Generally, the distance from which you spray the disinfectant is not important.”

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Car disinfection. Coronavirus covid-19.warodom changyencham/Getty Images

Not Cleaning the Surface Before Disinfecting

When disinfecting, you must clean the surface beforehand, according to the experts at Top Cleaners London.

“You first wipe with a multipurpose detergent to remove the dirt and then spray it, to kill the remaining bacteria,” they say. “However, bear in mind that the terms sanitizing and disinfecting are not interchangeable. Sanitizers reduce the number of bacteria, whereas disinfectants get rid of all germs. In that sense, people should buy disinfectants and not sanitizers.”

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Surface sanitizing against COVID-19 outbreak. Home cleaning spraying antibacterial spray bottle disinfecting against coronavirus wearing nitrile gloves. Sanitize hospital surfaces preventionMaridav/Getty Images

How Do You Properly Disinfect a Surface?

To clean, sanitize and disinfect a surface properly, you have to know your products.

“Your best bet for thoroughly sanitizing any area of your home is to clean first and then disinfect,” Janus says. “There are many products that clean and disinfect in one, but I prefer to use a product specifically meant for whatever surface I’m cleaning (for example, bathroom spray on bathroom counters) and then use a dedicated disinfectant on the cleaned surface.”

Sometimes you might want to hire a professional to clean your home. However, these are the things professional house cleaners aren’t allowed to clean.

There’s a certain method to how you clean, too. It’s not as haphazard as you might think.

“I recommend cleaning clockwise and top to bottom, alternating between cleaning and disinfecting,” Janus explains. “So for example, I’ll clean my bathroom sink and counter, spray it with disinfectant, and then move on to cleaning my shower. When the shower’s clean, I’ll spray it with disinfectant and then go back to dry off the sink and counter, etc.”

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Senior man obsessively cleaning his mobile phone with disinfectant spray, close-up of handsKathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

What Disinfectant Sprays Should You Use?

“My favorite disinfectants are the Seventh Generation disinfectant spray and Force of Nature,” Janus says. “We’re an all-natural, health-focused cleaning company, so I want something that’s effective while still being non-toxic and environmentally friendly.” Here are additional green cleaning products for smart homeowners.

Top Cleaners London recommends alcohol-based products with at least 70 percent alcohol. “Solutions with ammonia and chlorine are generally dangerous, so we never recommend them,” they say. “Trustworthy brands are Lysol, Clorox, and Dettol. A good alternative is Method Antibacterial All Purpose Cleaner Wild Rhubarb as it is advertised as a natural disinfectant and has shown very favorable results.”

If you’re looking for something different, Janus has the product for you.

“Force of Nature is a pretty nifty product, especially in pandemic times when getting your hands on disinfectant can be really difficult,” Janus says.

“It uses a small electrolyzer with concentrated pods, and you add water to make the disinfectant. They have a by-mail subscription option for the pods to auto-ship at your preferred interval, so no scouring the grocery store week after week. It’s more expensive up front, because you have to buy the starter kit to be able to use the pods, but it saves time and money in the long run.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: