Unfortunately, it seems the coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither is spraying and wiping down surfaces. Is it possible to find spray cleaners that reduce plastic waste AND the spread of coronavirus?

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Disinfectants vs Cleaners

According to the CDC, cleaning does not kill germs, but removes them from surfaces and thereby decreases the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting kills germs, thereby reducing the risk of spreading infection, but it does not remove germs from surfaces.

“Killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.”

So here’s recommended process to reduce the risk of surface-borne spread:

  1. Clean the surface to remove dirt, grime and the first layer of germs/viruses.
  2. Disinfect the surface to kill the germs/viruses that remain using a product from the EPA’s COVID-19-approved Disinfectants list, known as List N.

Below, we’ve listed a few products that can achieve this process and have some degree of eco-friendliness, whether it be non-toxic ingredients, minimal use of plastic, efficient shipping models or give-back and donation programs.

Eco-Friendly Disinfectants

Disinfectants kill germs through chemical means and are most effective when applied after a surface cleaner.

Force of Nature

Force of Nature is a proven disinfectant and pretty darn eco-friendly.

It kills 99.9% of germs and has a spot on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Disinfectants for Use Against SARVS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. But unlike Clorox wipes, it comes with reusable bottle and contains no toxic chemicals.

To make the spray, mix tap water and the contents of the capsule in the bottle, and charge it on the electrolyzer. Each batch lasts up to two weeks before the magic wears off.

A starter kit costs $70 and comes with 5 activator capsules.

What we like:

  • Made from three simple, non-toxic ingredients — salt, water and vinegar
  • Highest SkinSafe rating from Mayo Clinic
  • Safe to use without gloves unlike Clorox wipes section below
  • Effective on carpets, sports equipment and other common surfaces
  • Direct-to-consumer model cuts out shipping emissions and middleman retail markups

What we don’t like: We wish Force of Nature would rely less on plastic for its reusable bottles and activator capsules!

Puracy Disinfecting Spray Cleaner

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Puracy’s hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant kills 99.9% of germs and holds a place on the EPA List N (Disinfectants for Coronavirus) for hard, non-porous surfaces.

For $15.98, it’s cheaper (upfront) than Force of Nature and a hell of a lot safer than Clorox wipes. It’s completely non-toxic can even be used as a produce wash.

Puracy also offers nearly-natural multi-surface spray cleaners that come with concentrate refills. With just 7 ingredients, its 99.5% natural multi-surface cleaner is definitely one of the safer, simpler options.

What we like:

  • Puracy is one of the few places that offers non-toxic disinfectants and cleaners
  • The ingredients are minimal, mostly natural, and listed transparently
  • Although small, Puracy donates to a number of nationwide and community charities
  • They also have baby-safe products for new parents

What we don’t like: Plastic, plastic, plastic — we’re still waiting for disinfectants and surface cleaners that ditch plastic!

Eco-Friendly Spray Cleaners

The CDC recommends cleaning surfaces to remove germs before applying disinfectant to kill them.

Dr. Brite Multi-Purpose Cleaner

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At $26.99 for 64 oz. of multi-purpose cleaner, Dr. Brite packs a big, natural punch. This cleaner meets CDC recommendations with a simple blend of isopropyl alcohol, natural fragrances, and hydrogen peroxide.

*We use Dr. Brite’s Balsam Pine cleaner to shine up products in the Emeraldology Shop!

What we like:

  • Fun natural scents like Balsam Pine, Cranberry Cider, Eucalyptus and Pumpkin Spice
  • Simple, natural and effective ingredients, featuring medical-grade isopropyl alcohol
  • Cruelty-free, vegan and non-toxic

What we don’t like:

Little effort to avoid plastic in any of their products.

Blueland Spray Cleaners

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We reviewed Blueland hand soap before, which you can find here, and applauded them for their near zero-waste and plastic-free model.

A surface cleaner starter kit costs $12 and comes with one tablet. Refill tablets cost less than a dollar and come in compostable packaging (yay!!!).

What we like:

  • Blueland is almost entirely plastic-free and its ingredients are non-toxic
  • This company’s mission is to “make it easy for everyone to be environmentally responsible”
  • Leaping Bunny, USDA BioPreferred and EPA Safer Choice certified

What we don’t like: It would be great to see Blueland convert those last few synthetic ingredients into natural ones!

Check these zero-waste cleaners and laundry products in the Emeraldology Shop!

Infuse by Casabella Spray Cleaners

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Infuse has three types of mix-at-home spray cleaners: bathroom, glass & window and all-purpose.

The starter kit costs $35 and comes with three bottles, three concentrates and six microfiber cleaning cloths. Not a bad price at all.

Honestly, I’m most interested in the multi-surface floor cleaning kit with reusable mop pads and refill concentrates.

What we like:

  • Leaping Bunny certified and free of known toxins
  • Reusable bottle/refill capsule system is less wasteful than single-use bottles.

What we don’t like: Infuse seems to be stuck in the middle ground between eco-friendly and effective. Everything is made of plastic and made in China, and the formula may be free of certain toxins, but still has an ugly list of ingredients. Also, Infuse is subsidiary of Casabella, which seems to have no eco-friendly ambition whatsoever.

DAZZ Spray Cleaners Tablets

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DAZZ is trying something completely new by cutting out the spray bottle altogether.

This company seems to focus on selling refill tablets and having their customers reuse the spray bottles already underneath the kitchen sink (yeah, we all have those).

A whole house starter kit ($18) comes with three bottles and enough tablets to make six 32 oz bottles of spray cleaner. A whole house refill kit is $16 and makes a dozen 32 oz bottles-worth of cleaner, and comes with no plastic bottles.

DAZZ claims it is working on an EPA registered disinfectant like Force of Nature’s.

What we like:

  • Refill tablets that work for any bottle
  • Relatively short, non-toxic list of ingredients
  • There is money and plastic to be saved by heading right for the refill tablets

What we don’t like: DAZZ sure sells a lot of plastic for a company intent on reducing plastic waste. Unless I’m missing something, the tablets come in plastic-wrapped pairs — couldn’t they use compostable wrappers like Blueland or package all the tablets together in one box?

The tablet wrappers are definitely too small to recycle in my county and will almost certainly end up in a landfill or ocean.

And, as someone that has scoured thousands of “sustainability” web pages, I am not impressed with Dazz’s. There seems to be no effort to prove how their products reduce plastic waste, and there are no certifications or partnerships.

Why not wipes?

First things first. Why not just stick to disinfectant wipes like Clorox and Lysol? Environmental journalist Alison Morrow and her father, Dr. Charles Abrahamsen, tackle that in the video below. Here’s the gist:

  • The chloride compounds — the active ingredient in disinfectant wipes — are harmful to humans. But as soon as regulatory bodies ban a certain compound, petrochemical companies come out with a new and unregulated one.
  • These compounds are easily absorbed by the skin, leaving that freshly “disinfected” surface dangerous to touch.
  • These wipes leave residue that inhibits the growth of good bacteria and allow resistant bacteria to thrive. Left unwiped, beneficial bacteria naturally crowds out and inhibits harmful bacteria.
  • In some cases, using these wipes incorrectly is actually a violation of federal law. Who else is wanted for wiping without gloves?

And then, of course, there is the waste aspect. Toxic, single-use wipes in single-use plastic containers is any environmentalists worst nightmare. Fortunately, there are several non-toxic and less wasteful surface cleaners on the market that aren’t subject to hoarding and price gouging. And while your at it, this might be a good time to ditch paper towels.

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Feature photo by Anton on Unsplash.