Not All COVID-19 Disinfectants Are Created the Same

In this unprecedented era in which environmental cleaning has become a global priority, it is imperative to use the right cleaning tool in the market.  A tool that is effective, efficient, and evidence-based organic cleaning solution that has been demonstrated across a range of settings.

In the United States, there is an old adage used at the beginning “You get what you pay for” and sure enough this also applies in the disinfection world.

In this great country Malaysia, one would see many Sanitization or Disinfectant companies popping up here and there; offering the cheapest liquid or spray solution just to get a quick contract and easing the public’s mind BUT do you know the harmful effects of these liquid solutions??

So, why is there excessive global use of these disinfectant liquids or spray solutions??  Some even applied with the use of electrostatic sprayers?  Well, it’s the COST.  Overall, they are initially less expensive, less effective, and may be in violation of government registrations especially in the United States due to the solutions used in the sprayers.  Electrostatic sprayers are not qualitatively and quantitatively tested with their solution, nor registered in combination with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Furthermore, the electrostatic sprayer’s solution is extremely corrosive to the surfaces that it touches, degrading furniture fabrics, and frames, creating deterioration of metals, and fraying carpets and fabrics.

“In life, one gets what one pays for, so don’t ever expect to get the best for less.”

Here are the facts:

Electrostatic sprayers use many different solution products.  For example, with different operational requirements: Clorox 360 needs a wet contact time of 5 minutes for its main ingredient, Tetrasodium EDTA (made from formaldehyde), which degrades slowly, making it a poor choice for environmental health, and that is without mentioning the two quaternary

ammonia products it contains.  This product should never be sprayed on electronics, wiping is recommended after it dries, and features microns greater than 40 microns.  After all of that, you just get a 3-log kill (99.9%).

Quaternary ammonia products, which are very common US EPA registered disinfectants, have NO  efficacy studies.  This results in NO proof that an electrostatic sprayer using quaternary ammonium disinfectants can ensure proper efficacy on the surface or that the US EPA product is even compatible with the sprayer.  The sprayer may not be spraying enough chemical to the surface to kill the virus or bacteria; however, it is enough to destroy the objects you are spraying over time, within 6 months or sooner.

Chlorine dioxide can be sporicidal in the gas form; however, the gas is unstable, toxic, and very explosive.  In a liquid/tablet, buyer beware, as per the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), many products are misleading.  Some work as sanitizers and disinfectants with a long-wet contact time, and depending on concentration, is usually corrosive to steel.  A white solid tablet of chlorine dioxide is considered by the United States as a 3 for health and a 2 as a physical hazard on a scale of 0 – 4. 0 is minimal and 4 is significant hazard.  Again, the electrostatic sprayer may not be spraying enough material to the surface to kill a virus or bacteria but may be enough to destroy the objects you are spraying over time, within 6 months or sooner.

Vital oxide, composed of 0.200% chlorine dioxide, is less caustic and only achieves a 3-log kill (99.9%) unless fogged in a chamber using parts per millions in the thousands.  It has a wet contact time of 10 minutes and is not to be applied to sensitive equipment.  Additionally, it is also composed of multiple quaternary compounds and has been reported to cause asthma in healthcare workers when fogged or aerosolized.

Similar to quaternary ammonium products, when chemicals such as chlorine dioxide are used in an electrostatic sprayer, due to the large micron (40-120 microns), the surface-treated does not receive the same amount of active ingredients per unit area.  As a result, the level of efficacy achieved may be lower than the 3-log kill (99.9%) claimed on the solution label, yet enough to destroy your property.

Purtabs (NaDCC, sodium dichloroisocyanurate), a disinfectant that is a free form of chlorine – a diluted tablet is placed in an electrostatic sprayer and the surface is kept wet for   4 minutes.  Try to prove efficacy by delivering 4300+ parts per minute to the surface as needed?  This has not been validated.  One cannot use this on equipment and/or metals.  Try this for 3 – 6 months and check your fabrics and furniture finishes.

E-mist an electrostatic sprayer with its large 85-micron droplet.  Protexus (using destructive Purtabs), Victory Backpacks, and Fog master all use a smorgasbord of disinfectant products.     All of the above discussions apply regarding corrosiveness, potential illegality depending on the product you use in the pesticide fogger, and most importantly, deterioration of fabrics,   carpets, electronics, and furniture finishes.

Another misleading trend in this unique COVID-19 timeframe is applying bio-static surface protectants.  These are Quaternary Ammonium Compound containing 3 (trimethoxysilyl) propyl dimethyl octadecyl ammonium chloride.  This compound is similar to that which is found in vital oxide but has an additional added silane as a coupling agent.  All of these products are QAC- based (Quad Ammonia Compounds).

The method in which biostatic surface protectant works in order for proper efficacy: First, treated surfaces must be cleaned.  Then, the treated surface must be allowed to dry at optimal temperatures to ensure complete condensation of silanol groups and remove the water, solvents, and traces of methanol from hydrolysis.

Acute toxicity data for a 50% formulation of 3-(trimethoxysilyl) propyl dimethyl octadecyl ammonium chloride (Dow Corning 5700) show low acute toxicity for single exposures by the oral, dermal, and inhalation routes.  However, severe acute toxicity is observed with respect to skin and eye irritation of this active ingredient over repeated touches.  Many biostatic surface protectant products should be used with a pump spray, not an electrostatic spray.

Why use these products? It’s a simple question: Do you pay now or regret later?


Logic should tell you that leaving surfaces wet for any period of time – especially 4 to 10 minutes – will lead to the damage or destruction of those areas.  Are these liquids and disinfectant products really addressing the biggest issue?  During a pandemic, it’s important to disinfect all surfaces, high-touch areas, all equipment, and to do so in an efficient,   effective, and quick manner.   If the efficacy is a lower standard and does not hit all surfaces, are you really protecting your company or your client?

The electrostatic sprayer was created decades ago for paint spraying and indoor/outdoor mosquito and fly control, but it has surfaced as an inexpensive way to disinfect businesses and homes during this pandemic.   There are hundreds of companies that claim to be experts in the disinfection industry utilizing these methods, so buyers beware!!

So next time if you are looking for the “cheapest” solution, make sure to weigh the longer-term effects: Efficacy, labor hours to disinfect, corrosion to materials, equipment, and technology, and most importantly, the harmful effects to the team performing the services.


This is where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.