False and Misleading COVID-19 Disinfectant Claims

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EPA states that the advisory was issued because it has received tips and complaints concerning potentially false or misleading claims, including efficacy claims, associated with pesticides and devices.

We are daily receiving calls from businesses, schools and churches in our community, asking if the commercial cleaning and disinfection guarantees they are being sold are true.

To understand some of the cases of cleaning services making false and misleading disinfection claims regarding SARS-CoV-2, please read on.

We’re always being sold to. According to the marketing industry, there are over 100 different ways we are marketed to, including print, radio, mail ads, or even annoying banner ads or spam.

Every company will sell you on why they are better.

Unfortunately, some have capitalized on that through unscrupulous means: snake oil. Snake oil was a real thing. It was marketed by overseas railroad workers here in the United States in the 19th century. It was promoted as a cure-all to make people feel better. It was a false bill of goods to capitalize on the lack of knowledge on science and medicine. 

It’s no different in the cleaning industry. 

We are always trying to keep ahead of the latest and greatest techniques to come up with that one unique selling proposition that keeps us ahead of everyone else. With the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID19, we are finding that there are a high number of false claims made out there on the efficacy of different disinfectants and their abilities to combat the virus. More specifically, we are seeing claims made by companies that “guarantee” that your location will be virus and germ-free for days or even months after using their disinfectant product. These claims are absolutely false.

The reasoning behind their claims varies from company to company, but the premise is typically the same. Let’s say your facility is clean and disinfected fully. Some of these companies are claiming that they can spray a microbial or surface disinfectant all over your location. They would coat walls, floors, furniture, door handles, etc. with a film, they say, will eliminate all germs and viruses within your location. So if a visitor to your facility coughs with the virus, that virus would eventually settle to the nearest surface and that surface disinfectant will automatically kill the virus making your facility safe. 

To add to the claim, they will say that their product is EPA-registered and is on EPA’s List N as a certified disinfectant. That statement could be true. In our research, several of the products we reviewed are on EPA’s List N as a product that can kill SARS-CoV-2. But what they aren’t telling you is that their product is not certified as a surface disinfectant that can residually kill the virus.

False disinfection claims we recently found

  • One company offered a guaranteed 10-day surface disinfection against germs and viruses if you used their product. Here’s their problem: they couldn’t even get registered by the EPA to certify any of their kill claims, including for other viruses, bacteria, and other germs.
  • A number of cleaning companies claiming that the manufacturer of their disinfectant they use will protect your facility for 3 months. These cleaning companies even included these claims on their respective websites. We reached out to the manufacturer and found out these claims were false.
  • We found a company manufacturing disinfectant out of Asia. In late April and early May of 2020, they released dozens of press releases promoting their new product, and how it not only will kill SARS-CoV-2, but will provide 3-6 months of surface disinfecting. They even promoted that they are on the EPA List-N. Sounds too good to be true so we followed up. On their label, they are only certified for bacteria and fungi, and make no claims on any viruses. 
  • We found a cleaning company out of New York that offered 3-6 months of surface disinfection. They even talk about the products they use for service on their website. After some investigation, we reached out to the two manufacturers and none of them will back up the claims that their customer is making on their products. 

This claim takes the cake

We found a company that distributed a product that offers surface disinfecting for 1 year! Wow, imagine never needing disinfecting again for a year. How great would that be? Well, it’s too good to be true. We asked for more information from them about the product they are reselling. They asked us to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If the product is so good, then why a NDA? We didn’t sign it and reached out to the manufacturer. The result: the claim was false.

Beware of false claims out there

We should note that there are some surface disinfectants out there rated for bacteria, fungi, and mold that do cover several days. But none of them target viruses. Dishonest companies are piggybacking on our fears to sell a false sense of security. One day we’ll have the science, safety, and technology in place to provide a lasting surface disinfectant.

As of this article, the EPA just released a press release on their first surface disinfectant approval. It is through Lysol. How long is the surface disinfectant claim? Two minutes.

Kudos to the makers of Lysol. We know legitimate and ethical companies like theirs are making strides in the right direction without selling snake oil.

We’ll have a lasting surface disinfectant one day. Until then, Universal Janitorial Services will keep looking.

Related resources

Microbicidal actives with virucidal efficacy against SARS-CoV-2

American Journal of Infection Control:


EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)


Lysol disinfectants that eliminate coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2


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