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PART 1: SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 FAQ

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Mar 31, 2020

To view questions 14–38 in Part 2 of the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 FAQ Series, please click here.

1. How do I know which disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided a list of recommended and approved disinfectants for our fight against COVID-19 through the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. You can view the list—called List N—by clicking here.

2. Why doesn’t Betco have any products on List N?

As stated in List N’s introductory text, "these products may be marketed and sold under different brand names, but if they have the same EPA registration number, they are the same product. " These are known as supplemental, secondary, or sub-registrations.

Currently, Betco® has 10 such products. We have isolated them for your reading convenience in a Betco-only version, which you can download by clicking here.

All disinfectant product labels must include the EPA registration number. For secondary registrations, a company EPA ID follows the registration number, which is why Betco's ID—4170—appears after the EPA registration number on our labels.

3. How does the EPA know these products work against SARS-CoV-2? 

Because SARS-CoV-2 is such a new virus, it is not available commercially for laboratory testing. The EPA expects these disinfectants to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on:

  • Demonstrated efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus
  • Demonstrated efficacy against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2
  • Qualification for the emerging viral pathogens claim

4. What is an emerging viral pathogen claim?

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases defines emerging infectious diseases/pathogens as those “that have newly appeared in a population or have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range.” Many of the emerging pathogens of greatest concern are pathogenic viruses, and the ability of some of these viruses to persist on environmental surfaces can play a role in human disease transmission. SARS-CoV-2 is such a pathogenic virus.

Because the occurrence of emerging viral pathogens is less common and predictable than established pathogens, few if any EPA-registered disinfectant product labels specify use against this category of infectious agents. Therefore, in 2016, EPA provided a voluntary, two-stage process to enable use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against emerging viral pathogens not identified on the product label.

A company can apply for an emerging viral pathogen claim, even before an outbreak occurs, based on previous EPA-approved claims for harder-to-kill viruses.

The emerging viral pathogen guidance was triggered for SARS-CoV-2 on Jan. 29, 2020. EPA reviews the supporting information and determines if the claim is acceptable. Once approved, a company can make certain off-label claims as specified in the policy in the event of an outbreak such as SARS-CoV-2. For instance, the company can include an efficacy statement on:

  • Technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, and public health officials
  • Non-label-related websites
  • Consumer information services
  • Social media sites

5. Why are there no skin care products on list N? / Can skin care products make COVID-19 claims? 

List N only includes EPA-registered surface disinfectants. Hand sanitizers, antiseptic washes, and antibacterial soaps are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). EPA-registered surface disinfectants, including surface wipes, SHOULD NOT be applied on your skin or ingested.

Only products approved as pharmaceutical drugs can legally make COVID-19 claims, not over-the-counter topical anesthetics, which skin care products are considered. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. It does not differentiate between different types of soaps (antibacterial or plain soap). When soap and water is unavailable use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

6. What is the difference between disinfectants, sanitizers, and cleaners?

Cleaners use soap or detergents to physically remove dirt, dust, other soils. While cleaners do not kill germs, they do remove them. Cleaners are not regulated or tested by the EPA.

Sanitizers reduce bacteria on a surface by at least 99.9%, while disinfectants kill bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, and fungi. Both sanitizers and disinfectants are regulated and tested by the EPA and must be proven efficacious for specific germs.

7. How do I use disinfectants against coronavirus?

The CDC recommends pre-cleaning surfaces before using a disinfectant.

All disinfectant label instructions should be followed carefully, especially with regard to:

  • Dwell time, or amount of time that the surface must stay wet to ensure that germs are killed
  • Concentration, as some products may need to be diluted before use
  • Application method, including whether to use a sponge, paper towel, microfiber cloth, etc.
  • Personal protective equipment and other safety considerations
  • Suitability for use on different types of surfaces (see question #9 below)

8. Can I use disinfectants in an electrostatic sprayer, fogger, or mister?

In order for a disinfectant to remain effective, it has to be applied as a wet spray. Most disinfectants recommend a coarse wet spray. This can be achieved by use of a spray bottle, pump up sprayer, or an electrostatic sprayer. The key is that the particle size of the droplets has to be greater than 80 microns, and most electrostatic sprayers are 80–150 microns. Check the specific disinfectant label for further instructions on use in these machines.

Foggers/misters create a thick fog or—in the case of thermal (heat) foggers—steam and use very little product. This is an insufficient delivery system for disinfectants.

9. What surfaces should I disinfect?

All reachable hard, non-porous surfaces can be disinfected, but high-touch surfaces should be paid special attention. These include but are not limited to tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

The World Health Organization says studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 may last for a few hours or several days on surfaces, depending on the kind of surface, temperature, and humidity. Under the conditions in at least 1 experiment, the virus remained active on plastic and stainless steel for 2–3 days.

Not all disinfectants are appropriate for use on medical devices or food-contact surfaces. Disinfectants that are suitable for use on these surfaces may, furthermore, require additional actions, such as rinsing after disinfection. This information will be located on the product label.

10. What about soft or porous surfaces, like carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes?

No disinfectant can claim to disinfect soft surfaces. You may, however, sanitize with an EPA-registered soft surface sanitizer, such as Betco’s Triforce Disinfectant and Soft Surface Sanitizer, according to label directions.

You may also clean soft surfaces with soap and water or a suitable cleaner, then launder if possible (see question #11 below).

According to Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious-diseases physician, “In general coronaviruses last a lot longer on hard non-porous surfaces compared to porous surfaces.”

11. How should I do laundry with regard to SARS-CoV-2?

Clothing, towels, linens, and similar articles should be laundered using manufacturer’s directions in the warmest suitable water and be completely dry before use. Items used by an infected person can be washed with other items.

Dirty laundry should not be shaken to avoid releasing the virus into the air and should only be handled when wearing disposable gloves. Wash hands with soap and water immediately after removing the gloves.

Remember to pre-clean and disinfect hampers according to label instructions.

12. How should I disinfect electronics?

First, always check with the manufacturer of the electronics to see if there are any explicit requirements or specifications. To apply disinfectant to most electronics, spray the disinfectant onto a microfiber cloth or towel, do not oversaturate the fabric, then wipe the surface and allow to air dry.  Never spray directly on electronics.

13. What precautions should I take when cleaning/disinfecting?

If someone in a facility is sick, all areas they have used should be closed off, with any outside doors and windows opened to increase air circulation. Wait 24 hours or as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting all areas and surfaces used by the sick person.

Whether a sick person has used an area or not, always wear disposable gloves and gowns for the entire cleaning and disinfecting process, including handling trash. After you carefully remove these items, immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If hands are not visibly dirty and soap and water are unavailable, you may use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses, might be need based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash. Always consult product labels and ensure proper ventilation of the area.

Never mix bleach with any other chemicals.

Our new Smart Tools™ Enhanced Facility Disinfection Program provides the framework, tools, techniques, procedures, safety guidelines, and support materials for facilities of all types to develop and execute a comprehensive cleaning and disinfection work plan, allowing them to confidently reopen while keeping all who enter safe.  It combines evidence-based infection control strategies supported by agencies such as the CDC, EPA, and FDA with tactics to put the minds of facility occupants at ease in just 5 steps. Click here to learn more. 

Click here to visit our dedicated SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 web page, which also has crucial information and resources.