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7 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Disinfectant Spray

Updated: May 28, 2024

If you think spraying a surface and then immediately wiping it is the solution, you might be in for a surprise.

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Disinfectant spray

There are a lot of things to know about household disinfectant sprays—such as, what’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting? It’s easy to think that spraying a surface means you’re instantly killing germs. However, there are more factors that go into disinfecting than simply spraying a surface. Read on to learn the mistakes you might be making—and how to correct them.

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Not thoroughly reading the labels on disinfectant sprays

You might want to start immediately cleaning and disinfecting your home, but sometimes it’s important to start slow. “The biggest mistake is not reading and following the directions on the label,” Brian Sansoni, Senior Vice President, Communications, Outreach & Membership, American Cleaning Institute tells Reader’s Digest. “With disinfecting products in high demand, you may bring home a product you’re not as familiar with. Don’t assume it works the same way. Read the directions carefully and follow them in order to have the desired effect. This may seem like basic advice, but according to a recent American Cleaning Institute survey, 42 percent of Americans aren’t using disinfectants properly.”

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Not letting the sprays sit long enough

If you think spraying a surface and then immediately wiping it is the solution, you might be in for a surprise. “The most common mistake in using a disinfectant spray is not letting it sit long enough!” Jacqueline Janus, cleaning expert and owner of cleaning company Two Chicks and a Broom, tells Reader’s Digest. “Disinfecting isn’t instant, so if you spray and wipe, you may be getting a surface clean, but you’re really not doing much in the way of disinfecting. Every product is different, so check the label of whatever disinfectant you’re using for the recommended time the product should sit on a surface in order to be most effective. It can be up to 10-15 minutes for some products!” If you’re ready to improve your cleaning at home, learn the 13 secrets of people who always have a clean home.
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Not spraying enough disinfectant spray

Along with leaving the disinfectant spray on the surface, it has to stay wet for a certain amount of time. “When people don’t follow the instructions on the label, the most common mistake we see is not getting a surface wet enough,” Sansoni says. “For the disinfectant to work, it needs contact time with the surface before it dries or gets wiped away. Depending on the product, this could range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. It will always tell you how long on the label.” Make note of these 10 things you should be cleaning every day from now on.

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Expiration date
Emma Kumer/rd.com

Not checking the expiration date

Checking expiration dates is crucial when it comes to cleaning products. “Disinfectant does expire/lose its potency over time, so it’s also important to check dates and the labels,” Janus says. Disinfectant sprays aren’t the only cleaning products that expire. Yes, bleach expires. Here’s what you need to know.

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Thinking disinfectant sprays are a long-term solution

“The most common mistake is that people think of disinfectants as a long-term solution. In fact, their effectiveness is temporary,” the experts at Top Cleaners London tell Reader’s Digest. It might be time to carry hand sanitizer with you. From restaurants to supermarkets, here is the dirtiest surface in 12 places you go to all the time.

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Thinking the sprays purify the air

Disinfectant sprays can do a lot of things…except purify the air. “Another important thing is that they don’t purify the air, only the surface they are applied on,” Cooper says. “Therefore, people need to use them regularly (for example, during the pandemic, government buildings are being disinfected on a schedule—every two to four hours depending on the used chemicals). Generally, the distance from which you spray the disinfectant is not important.” Here’s the answer to whether or not air purifiers can kill coronavirus germs in the air.

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Not cleaning the surface before disinfecting

Yes, when disinfecting, you have to clean the surface beforehand, according to the experts at Top Cleaners London. “Meaning you first wipe with a multipurpose detergent to remove the dirt and then spray it, to kill the remaining bacterias,” Top Cleaners London explains. “However, bear in mind that the terms sanitizing and disinfecting are not interchangeable. Sanitizers reduce the number of bacteria, whereas disinfectants get rid of all germs. In that sense, people should buy disinfectants and not sanitizers.”

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How do you properly disinfect a surface?

To first clean, sanitize, and disinfect a surface means you have to properly know your products. “Your best bet for thoroughly sanitizing any area of your home is to clean first and then disinfect,” Janus says. “There are many products that clean and disinfect in one, but I prefer to use a product specifically meant for whatever surface I’m cleaning (for example, bathroom spray on bathroom counters) and then use a dedicated disinfectant on the cleaned surface.” Sometimes, you might what to hire a professional to clean your home. However, these are the 9 things professional house cleaners aren’t allowed to clean

There’s a certain method to how you clean, too. It’s not as haphazard as you might think. “I recommend cleaning clockwise and top to bottom, alternating between cleaning and disinfecting,” Janus explains. “So for example, I’ll clean my bathroom sink and counter, spray it with disinfectant, and then move on to cleaning my shower. When the shower’s clean, I’ll spray it with disinfectant and then go back to dry off the sink and counter, etc.”

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What disinfectant sprays should you use?

“My favorite disinfectants are the Seventh Generation disinfectant spray and Force of Nature,” Janus says. “We’re an all-natural, health-focused cleaning company, so I want something that’s effective while still being non-toxic and environmentally friendly.” Here are 10 additional green cleaning products professional housekeepers trust most.  
There are a lot of products and Top Cleaners London recommends using alcohol-based products with at least 70 percent alcohol. “Solutions with ammonia and chlorine are generally dangerous, so we never recommend them. Trustworthy brands are Lysol, Clorox, and Dettol,” the experts at Top Cleaners London explain. “A good alternative is Method Antibacterial All Purpose Cleaner Wild Rhubarb as it is advertised as a natural disinfectant and has shown very favorable results.”
If you’re looking for something a bit different, Janus has the product for you. “Force of Nature is a pretty nifty product, especially in pandemic times when getting your hands on disinfectant can be really difficult. It uses a small electrolyzer with concentrated pods, and you add water to make the disinfectant,” Jaus explains. “They have a by-mail subscription option for the pods to auto-ship at your preferred interval, so no scouring the grocery store week after week. It’s more expensive upfront, because you have to buy the starter kit to be able to use the pods, but it saves time and money in the long run.” Next, here are 18 more cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy