Here’s Exactly Why Clorox Is So Good at Killing Germs

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Hint: It has to do with the smell, too.

It’s always very obvious when someone’s just finished cleaning with Clorox. The smell is so distinct that many people automatically think of one word when they get a whiff: clean. Although spreading germs is a part of life, and some germs are living in and on you that you couldn’t live without, you can avoid the unnecessary ones that spread disease with the help of cleaning products like Clorox—but how does it work? And can it kill the coronavirus?

So why is Clorox good at killing germs?

If Clorox Regular Bleach is your go-to cleaner, you’re probably wondering how and why it’s so good at disinfecting. Thank the main ingredient, bleach, for these antimicrobial properties, according to Travers Anderson, a Research and Development Manager for Clorox. It’s is especially great for disinfecting because it’s an oxidant that attacks and breaks down the cell walls of microorganisms. “This mechanism is indiscriminate, meaning it will attack many different molecules that make up the cell walls of microorganisms,” Anderson says. “This allows it to work across a broad spectrum of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.” Plus, this means these organisms can’t develop a resistance to Clorox Regular Bleach, according to Anderson.

Is it effective against coronavirus?

The ultimate test of a cleaning product’s mettle right now is whether or not it kills the coronavirus, COVID-19. And, sure enough, Clorox passes this test! “Several Clorox disinfecting products…have demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to COVID-19 on hard, non-porous surfaces,” a Clorox spokesperson tells Reader’s Digest. “Therefore, per the EPA’s Emerging Pathogen policy, they can be used against COVID-19 when used as directed.” More than 25 Clorox products make both the EPA’s list and American Chemistry Council’s Center for Biocide Chemistries’ (CBC) list of antimicrobial products to use against the virus. These products include Clorox Regular Bleach, Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner & Bleach Spray, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. And Clorox’s site also has a list of the approved products, plus some more helpful information on the virus in general.

And what about that smell?

So you know Clorox works, but what’s the meaning behind the smell? According to Anderson, that distinct Clorox scent is purposeful. “The smell of the bleach when you open the bottle is a way to know your bleach still has active cleaning agents,” he says. “This is especially helpful if you tend to have bottles stored in your home for a long time.” When you use it, the smell lets you know that the product is working to breakdown the germs on the surface, according to Anderson. Next, find out these clever ways you haven’t been using bleach—but should.


Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.