13 Coronavirus Products Not to Waste Your Money On

They're unproven, overpriced, and sometimes even dangerous. Our advice? Steer clear and follow the CDC's guidelines to stay safe and healthy.

one hundred dollar bill under a surgical mask. blue backgroundZarifa/Getty Images

Preying on hope and fear

As the cases of coronavirus continue to grow, we’re all hoping to find a magical silver bullet (beyond social distancing) to help us avoid or combat the illness. Unfortunately, that can leave us vulnerable to con artists and price gougers, who pass off unproven or quack products as potential cures or ways to prevent coronavirus. Some of these “solutions” can even be flat-out dangerous. The bottom line is that COVID-19 is a new contagion, and scientists still have a lot to learn about it. There is no magical way to fortify your immune system to stave off infection or cure yourself, but hopefully someday soon, there will be a vaccine. So, think twice before you invest in these products, and instead, follow the CDC’s guidelines to stay safe and healthy. And remember: Coronavirus is actually just one of a long list of diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

Colloidal silver

There’s absolutely no evidence that drinking colloidal silver (tiny bits of silver suspended in liquid) improves anyone’s health in any measurable way—or kills coronavirus or any other known pathogen. But that didn’t stop televangelist Jim Bakker from touting the product Silver Solution as a potential coronavirus cure on his TV show. Recognizing the danger in this, several state governments filed lawsuits against Bakker to get him to stop promoting this quack medicine. So, if “news” of this potential treatment for coronavirus makes its way onto your social-media newsfeed, don’t fall for it. Here’s another coronavirus scam you need to avoid.

Sodium chlorite

The FDA recently posted a warning about drinking sodium chlorite, which may be sold as Miracle Mineral Solution or Master Mineral Solution. According to the warning, sodium chlorite is an active ingredient in many disinfectants, and it is dangerous to drink. It can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting, which some of the products’ proponents claim is a sign that they’re working. In reality, it’s just a sign that it’s making them dangerously sick—without any benefits in preventing or curing coronavirus.

N95 masks

An N95 mask is an essential piece of the personal protective equipment (PPE) used by first responders and health-care workers to keep them from contracting COVID-19 as they attempt to save lives. But stockpilers snatched up most of the stock early on, leading to shortages in hospitals where they’re actually needed, and also jacked up prices. Other sellers have started offering subpar counterfeit products on sites like Amazon and eBay.

But do you actually need a mask? Experts originally said no, but they are now rethinking that advice. According to CNN, new evidence suggests that COVID-19 can be spread through talking and simply breathing, not just coughing and sneezing; plus, virus particles can potentially linger in the air. That prompted Harvey Fineberg, MD, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences, to suggest covering up with a bandana or scarf when going to the grocery store or doing other essential tasks. However, he added that people should still skip surgical masks since they are so desperately needed by medical personnel.

The FDA notes that people should be more focused on avoiding exposure altogether by staying home, as well as washing their hands frequently and thoroughly. So, if you have real N95 masks at home, consider donating them to your local hospital, and if you don’t, don’t bother buying the ones you find online. In case you were wondering, this is what the N95 stands for in N95 masks.

Elderberry syrup

Some natural-health practitioners have suggested using elderberry syrup to help protect against or treat COVID-19. While is there is some evidence that this berry may help fight colds and mildly boost immunity, due to its antioxidants and vitamins, there is absolutely no evidence that elderberry syrup can combat the coronavirus. In fact, the FDA has stopped at least one manufacturer from claiming that its elderberry products are helpful in dealing with this virus. Here are more coronavirus myths you should stop believing.

Superblue Toothpaste

Conservative radio host and known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently got a cease-and-desist letter from the New York attorney general regarding his claims that his Superblue Toothpaste “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.” There is no toothpaste (or any other product out there) that can kill the coronavirus—yet.


This potent drug, which is used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, along with several other diseases, has shown some promise as a treatment for COVID-19. It’s one of several potential treatments being explored, including infusions of plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus and the antiviral drug remdesivir. Experts, however, caution that more research is needed.

Unfortunately, the excitement about the potential of chloroquine has caused problems. One man in Arizona has already died from ingesting a version of chloroquine that’s used to clean aquariums, and several people in Nigeria died after overdosing on the medication. Here’s how people infected with coronavirus are dealing with it—and what they want you to know.


Social media has spread the idea that drinking tea can help cure coronavirus. This idea is usually attributed to Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, the whistleblower who eventually died from the illness. While tea might help you feel better and stay hydrated, it won’t protect you from COVID-19. One silver lining: At least it’s a lot tastier than one of the other quack cures that are spreading around India right now—ingesting cow urine to fight against the illness.

Distilled white vinegar

Some social-media posts have claimed that this common household product can kill the virus when you gargle it or use it to clean your home. Unfortunately, vinegar cannot help you in either instance. To actually kill coronavirus, use antiseptic wipes, bleach solution, or simple soap and water to clean surfaces. There’s nothing you can gargle to fight the virus, but warm salt water may help soothe a sore throat. If you stocked up before reading this, try these smart ways to put all that vinegar to good use.

Tito’s Vodka

With hand sanitizer in short supply, many enterprising folks started sharing recipes for making their own at home. One recipe that spread like wildfire used Tito’s Vodka as the main ingredient. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer must contain at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective, and Tito’s Vodka straight up only has 40 percent. As a result, the company launched a campaign to keep people from mixing up a batch of ineffective sanitizer with their vodka—and encouraged them to mix up a cocktail instead. Here’s how to make your own (effective) hand sanitizer instead.

Red Cross home tests

Red Cross chapters across the country have had to warn against this coronavirus-related scam, where fraudsters come to your door and offer a free, at-home coronavirus test, courtesy of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is not offering any coronavirus tests at this time, so if someone tries this scam, you should lock your door and call the police immediately. Watch out for these other online coronavirus scams, too.

Vitamin C

High doses of vitamin C are being used as an experimental treatment for some New York coronavirus patients, reports Newsweek, so other people are now dosing themselves pretty heavily with the potent antioxidant. This has led to an increased demand for orange juice in some places and a surge in frozen concentrate orange juice futures in the commodity markets. However, drinking orange juice or taking vitamin C supplements at home will likely not provide any real benefits, according to Peter McCaffery, professor of biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. “Taking large doses of vitamin C tablets would be very unlikely to protect you from COVID-19—unless you were actually vitamin C deficient, which with a normal diet is quite rare,” he told Newsweek.


Zinc has shown promise against far-more-common coronaviruses, which can cause the common cold. As a result, people are stocking up on zinc supplements, and sales have risen more than 200 percent, according to the New York Times. Unfortunately, though, there’s no evidence that zinc works for COVID-19, which is a very different type of virus from the cold viruses we’re used to. Plus, taking too much zinc can cause health problems like anemia and actually negatively impact your immune system, so don’t go overboard with it.

Disinfectant wipes

Just like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes have become pretty hard to come by as people have been hoarding coronavirus-related supplies. That has resulted in serious price gouging, with sellers on Amazon and elsewhere charging exorbitant prices for these essential products. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to effectively clean your home and keep coronavirus at bay, including using high concentrations of alcohol, bleach solutions, or simple soap and water.

For more on this developing situation, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.