What's the Best Disinfectant for Viral Infections?

09 June, 2020
When choosing a disinfectant to prevent viral infections it's important to consider some of the product's properties. It shouldn't be confused with an antibacterial agent. We'll tell you more in this article.

With all the commotion caused by the coronavirus issue worldwide, many people have gone to pharmacies and supermarkets to buy gels and other disinfectant products. In fact, the high demand and subsequent shortage have considerably raised the prices of these products. However, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re choosing the right type of disinfectant for viral infections.

Currently, there’s a wide variety of antibacterial gels on the market that provide an alternative hygiene method when there’s no way to wash your hands with soap and water. However, as its name indicates, they only have the function of eliminating or inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Therefore, taking into account that Covid-19 is a virus, then it’s highly likely that many people are making a mistake when choosing and using these products.

Which is the best option? What should we consider? Keep reading to find out!

What’s the right type of disinfectant for viral infections?

A person using gel.
When it comes to viral infections, the option we should choose when buying a hand sanitizer is one that has viricidal activity.

There’s more than one type of disinfectant gel on the market. However, after the emergency came to light about the spread of Covid-19 in many countries, this product began to run out in almost all its formats. Even its sale price has reached astronomical figures.

The disadvantage is that many people don’t realize that not all disinfectants are effective against viruses. What’s more, most gels are antibacterial and don’t help in preventing this type of infection. Thus, both conventional gels and those that are perfumed and shiny are, in reality, ineffective.

So what disinfectants should we choose?

In an interview for the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, pharmacist Mar Sieira, who’s also the founder of a skincare firm, explains that, in the specific case of the coronavirus, the product needs to have viricidal capacity. Antibacterial gel repels bacteria or prevents them from growing excessively. Therefore, in the case of viral infections, these just aren’t effective at all.

To inactivate viruses, such as Covid-19, you need to use gels with at least 70% alcohol, which have viricidal properties.

In particular, to be effective against viruses, it must contain ethanol, according to Sieira, Ethanol has a stronger and more extensive viricidal activity compared to other types of alcohols such as propanols. Its viricidal activity spectrum is 95% but often covers most clinically relevant viruses.

Discover: Common Myths about Coronavirus

How to choose a good disinfectant

If you’re looking to prevent viral infections, the general recommendation is to take a few minutes to read the product label. You should check to see if, in addition to being antibacterial, it’s also viricidal. Also, the manufacturer should show the registration number of the relevant Medicine Evaluation Agency to guarantee its quality.

Viricidal activity can also be checked on the label to checks its compliance with UNE EN 14476. If it doesn’t have this information, then it’s probably a bactericidal disinfectant and not a viricidal one.

Read also: How Viruses Change

Disinfectants are an option in the absence of soap and water

A man washing his hands.
There are useful disinfectants for cleaning hands when it’s not possible to get to a sink. However, whenever possible, the best option is to use soap and water.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best method to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the risk of disease is to wash your hands with soap and water. If for some reason this isn’t possible, then one option is to use hand sanitizer.

However, it should be noted that these products don’t kill all types of germs and aren’t the best option if the hands are visibly dirty. However, using the right formula for each case (bactericidal or viricidal) can help.

Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuing to work to ensure that over-the-counter hand sanitizers meet quality standards and can be used safely and frequently.

  • Arbat, S. (10 de marzo de 2020). Cómo elegir un gel desinfectante efectivo contra el contagio del coronavirus. La Vanguardia Española. Recuperado de https://www.lavanguardia.com/de-moda/belleza/20200310/474049074685/coronavirus-gel-desinfectante-comprar-bacterias.html
  • CDC (2020). El lavado de las manos: las manos limpias salvan vidas. Recuperado de https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
  • FDA. (2020). Los desinfectantes de manos pueden ser una buena alternativa ante la falta de jabón o agua. Recuperado de https://www.fda.gov/consumers/los-desinfectantes-de-manos-pueden-ser-una-buena-alternativa-ante-la-falta-de-jabon-o-agua