This guidance provides laboratory researchers with tools to identify valid disinfection methods for the virus that causes COVID-19 for use on their work areas and frequently touched equipment. Evidence suggests that the virus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces. Cleaning visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

F&S will continue to clean and disinfect public and common areas, such as hallways and restrooms, with their disinfection protocols.

Routes of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person; between people who are in close contact (<6ft) with one another. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Respiratory droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and can be inhaled into the lungs. Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth may also cause infection.

Frequently Touched Locations and Equipment

The following are locations and equipment with high frequency of handling and contact. As such these represent a higher probability of viral loading in the work area and should be disinfected on a routine basis.

  • Benchtops
  • Equipment handles and latches
  • Equipment controls and touchpads
  • Drawer and cabinet handles
  • Bin and water incubator lids
  • Hand tools
  • Micropipettors and other shared tools
  • Faucet handles and sprayer grips
  • Baskets, bins, trays, etc.
  • Outsides of shared chemical bottles and caps
  • Chair backs and arm rests
  • Pens, whiteboard markers, etc.
  • Phones

Use EPA-Approved Disinfectants

Use a disinfectant that is certified by the EPA to be effective against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Not all products with the name “Lysol” or “Clorox” are necessarily effective against coronavirus. There are two easy ways to find weather a disinfectant is approved and effective.

  • Verify the disinfectant is on the EPA’s List N registry of disinfectants. Disinfectants are listed by both name and by EPA registration number. Your product may not be listed by name, but if the EPA number matches a number on the list, then this is a good disinfectant to use. The EPA registration number is printed on the label.
  • The fine print of the label will list coronavirus among the organisms for which it is approved.

If a product does not have an EPA registration number, then EPA has not reviewed any data on whether the product will kill public health pathogens such as viruses. EPA will not add products to List N that do not have an EPA registration number because there is no data showing they will work and can be used safely.

However, if working with other infectious agents, like bloodborne pathogens, your primary disinfectant is likely effective against coronaviruses even though the product may not be on List N.

Common Laboratory Disinfectants Approved for the Virus that Causes COVID-19

  • 10% household bleach in water (.5% Sodium hypochlorite);
  • Quaternary ammonium sanitizers like Cavicide (EPA#46781-6) and Shockwave RTU (EPA#1839-83);
  • 70% alcohols (e.g. ethanol and isopropanol) mixtures like most common hand sanitizers;
  • 1% Hydrogen Peroxide cleaners like Rescue (EPA#74559-1), Spor-Klenz (EPA#1043-119), and Oxivir TB (EPA#70627-56);
  • Some common household disinfectants like Lysol Disinfecting Spray (EPA#777-99) and Formula 409 (EPA#5813-73).

How and Why these Disinfectants Work 

Alcohols, oxidizers and quaternary ammonium disinfectants are effective against SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses by disrupting, denaturing, or removing the virus’s protective lipid envelope making them the most susceptible to a wide variety of disinfectants.

Pay Attention to Disinfectant Contact Time

Disinfectants need time to work; simply spraying and immediately wiping is insufficient. All disinfectants require a contact time to be effective, although each varies from chemical to chemical and surface to surface. Look up instructions online if they are not listed on the packaging.

Use Care with Delicate Equipment 

Certain equipment, particularly computers and microscopes, may be damaged by spraying and by harsh disinfectants, like bleach. If you have approved quaternary-ammonium disinfectant or 70% ethanol wipes, use them for these more delicate tasks. You can make your own disinfectant wipes by soaking a dry wipe or clean soft cloth in the alcohol or disinfectant until it is soaked but not dripping. Be careful to avoid getting liquid into any openings when wiping surfaces. After wiping, the surface should be visibly wet, and the disinfectant should be left to evaporate from the surface.

Wear Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment 

You may already be wearing appropriate PPE based on your laboratory work, but if not; put on safety glasses, a lab coat, and chemical-compatible gloves. Review the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for information on PPE and the hazards of the disinfectant.

Look for words like “Danger”, “Corrosive”, “Warning” or “Caution”. Danger and Corrosive mean that the chemical can cause permanent injury. Precautionary statements are often found on the backside of the label and provide more information on potential health effects, hazards, recommendations for PPE, and instructions for safe handling. Never mix cleaners unless the manufacturer label directs you to do so.

Relevant Guides from the Division of Research Safety

    Last Update: 5/21/2020
    Updated By: msmiles