Surface Disinfectants are Ineffective In Eliminating Viruses

disinfectant cleaners

Some 40 percent of commercial disinfectants used to clean surfaces are believed to be ineffective in eliminating noroviruses, a group of viruses responsible for more than half of all food-borne gastroenteritis outbreaks.

According to a recent study, only bleach-based disinfectants drastically reduce the concentration of these viruses.

Noroviruses spread directly via contact with infected persons or indirectly through contaminated objects, foods, or surfaces.

The effectiveness of disinfectants used to clean surfaces at home or at businesses in the food sector is therefore crucial for limiting the spread of these viruses, which affect over 21 million people every year in the United States alone.

Researchers tested the efficacy of three major categories of household disinfectants: bleach-based products, alcohol-based products, and quaternary ammonium–based products. Lab tests showed that five minutes of contact with a bleach-based disinfectant reduced the concentration of noroviruses on a stainless steel surface by a factor of 1,000. Alcohol- and quaternary ammonium-based products were 100 times less effective.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

About 40 percent of disinfectants on the commercial market are alcohol- or ammonium-based, and this new study has found that these cleaners are virtually ineffective at eliminating noroviruses -- a group of viruses that sicken over 21 million people in the United States each year with “stomach flu” or food poisoning.

This has major implications for restaurants and other public settings, as well as in your own home, where these disinfectants are being used under the false guise that they help prevent the spread of these viruses.

If you’ve been spritzing these disinfectants around your home, you’ve been exposing yourself and your family to these noxious chemicals for essentially nothing!

From an effectiveness standpoint alone, the bleach-based cleaners were 100 times more effective … but all chemical disinfectants are a lose-lose situation when it comes to your health.

Why You Don’t Need Chemical Disinfectants in Your Home

Disinfectants are indeed a necessity in the operating room and in hospitals. But they’re also a classic example of a good thing gone bad. Nowadays many people go on cleaning frenzies in their own homes, using disinfectants on their kitchen countertops, bathrooms, floors and even in their laundry.

But while disinfectant soap may be a good idea before surgery, there’s no need to use it every time you wash your kitchen counters.

One of the major problems with these cleaners, as this latest study has pointed out, occurs when they don’t completely eliminate bacteria or viruses.

When disinfectants are used in low levels, researchers have found that they actually make certain bacteria stronger and resistant to antibiotic treatment. This is true even in hospital settings, and certainly applies to the low-level disinfectants many use around their homes.

While building up antibiotic-resistance and thereby contributing to the creation of superbugs, chemical disinfectants disrupt the balance of bacteria, both good and bad, in your home, making it much easier for the bad bacteria to flourish.

Meanwhile, the chemicals themselves are toxic in their own right.

Cleaning Your Home with Toxic Chemicals?

The invention of chemical disinfectants is credited to Joseph Lister, an English surgeon who, back in the late 19th century, used carbolic acid to soak surgical dressings. To this day, Lister’s carbolic acid, now known as phenol, is a common main ingredient in household detergents like Lysol, Pine-Sol and Spic-n-Span (it’s also found in mouthwash).

As you’re “cleaning” your home with these products, you’re also exposing your family to their harmful properties. Phenol is toxic and people who are hypersensitive can experience serious side effects at very low levels. Studies have linked phenols to:

  • Damage to your respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Heart damage
  • Respiratory problems
  • Damage to your liver, kidneys and eyes
  • Nonyl phenol ethoxylate, a common ingredient in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is banned in Europe, and biodegrades slowly into even more toxic compounds

Beyond phenol, other chemicals found in household disinfectants include:

  • Formaldehyde, found in spray and wick deodorizers, which is a suspected carcinogen
  • Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners may damage mucous membranes
  • Butyl cellosolve, found in many all-purpose and window cleaners, may damage your kidneys, bone marrow, liver and nervous system
  • Triclosan, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products, not only kills bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells

Meanwhile, there is such a thing as being “too clean.” If a child is raised in an environment doused in disinfectant soaps and cleansers, they may not able to build up resistance to disease through normal exposures to dirt and germs.

This theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, is likely one reason why many allergies and immune-system diseases have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in the last few decades.

Your Immune System is what Ultimately Protects You

Germs, bacteria and viruses are literally everywhere and you’ve got them on your body right now. If you’re at a computer reading this, there are likely many germs on your computer mouse, keyboard and desk. The point is, you can’t run from germs and there’s really no need to, especially when your immune system is healthy.

A strong immune system is the best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, and will serve you well if you nourish it with the proper tools.

In other words, infectious agents only serve as triggers to cause illness; what is required or responsible for the actual infection is a dysfunctional immune system.

If you require more information you can read my article on how to keep your immune system in top working order.

Simple and Effective Natural Cleaning Alternatives

I strongly encourage you to think about ditching all of your chemical disinfectants, including your antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents and bath and kitchen cleansers, in favor of more natural alternatives.


Because no study has shown that a vigorous program of home disinfection leads to a reduction of illness in a family. Yet, studies have shown that disinfectants can cause you and your family harm.

For those times when you need to do a bit of cleansing, one of the best non-toxic disinfectants is simple soap and water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body and for other household cleansing. Another all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.

Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.

You can actually keep your home very fresh and clean by making your own natural cleaning products using items you probably already have around your home. Some more tips for making simple and effective all-natural cleansers:

  • Use baking soda mixed with apple cider vinegar to clean drains and bathtubs, or sprinkle baking soda along with a few drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil (which have antibacterial qualities) as a simple scrub for your bathroom or kitchen.
  • Vinegar can be used to clean almost anything in your home. Try it mixed with liquid castile soap, essential oils and water to clean floors, windows, bathrooms and kitchens. It can even be used as a natural fabric softener.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is another natural disinfectant that is safer to use than chlorine bleach for disinfecting and whitening.
  • Vodka is a disinfectant that can remove red wine stains, kill wasps and bees and refresh upholstery (put it into a mister and simply spray on the fabric).

The benefits to using these natural ingredients are many; your home will be clean and fresh smelling without exposing your family to toxins … plus, making your own cleansers is much less expensive than purchasing most toxic commercial varieties.