8 Ways You're Secretly Ruining Your Disinfectants

Experts reveal the cleaning mistakes you make every day that are rendering them totally useless.

With disinfectants of all kinds in high demand these days, it feels like a win when you get your hands on an all-purpose cleaner that kills germs and viruses. We're guessing you probably want to make it last, and of course avoid doing anything to make your cleaner less effective. You may not have realized all the little mistakes that can strip your favorite formula of its coronavirus-killing powers—you may even be making some of them without realizing it. So we talked to experts about all the things you may be doing that are ruining your disinfectants.

To stop sabotaging your disinfectant, keep reading about these easy-to-make errors. Cut them out of your routine and be confident that your cleaner is eliminating as many germs and viruses from your home as possible. To learn about some places that need the most attention, check out These Are the Dirtiest Areas in Your Home You Need to Disinfect.

Using it past the expiration date.

Hand sanitizer expiration date

Disinfectants have an expiration date for a reason, explains Rashmi Byakodi, a health and wellness writer and editor at BestforNutrition.com. "They are not tested for their effectiveness past their expiration date, so it's best to go ahead and buy new after that date passes," she says.

Luckily, most disinfectants do have a relatively long shelf-life, so your new spray should last until shelves start to be fully stocked again. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to quickly write the date you purchased your cleaner on the bottle somewhere, since expiration dates can be difficult to find. To learn what not to do when you're on the go, check out The Single Worst Disinfectant to Use in Your Car.

Exposing it to extreme temperatures.


Just like the sun's rays can be damaging to your skin, they're not good for your disinfectant either. A spray disinfectant left out in the hot sun will have a much shorter shelf life, says Abe Navas, the general manager of Emily's Maids in Dallas, Texas. But that's not the only thing you'll need to worry about. "Alcohol-based cleaners, when heated to a certain temperature, can combust or become a fire hazard," he points out. So be sure to keep your sanitizer in your purse rather than leaving it in a hot car as summer approaches.

Leaving the bottle open.

Closing bottle of disinfectant

One of the fastest ways to ruin a disinfectant? Leaving the top open. "It's one of the worst things you can do," Navas says. "Leaving the top open or even loosely screwed on allows for oxygen to start breaking down the chemicals, which can render your product useless." For a tip on how to check if your bottle is still effective, check out There's Only One Way to Make Sure Your Disinfectant Works.

Double dipping your rag or sponge.

Dipping sponge into disinfectant

Hands up if you're ever accidentally (or lazily) dipped a dirty rag or sponge into a bottle of brand-new disinfectant. Most of us are guilty of this, another common way to ruin a disinfectant. While you may think of the contents of your bottle as self-cleaning, putting a dirty rag into it introduces germs that may survive. To prevent this, either use a spray bottle or pour a small amount into a separate container that you can use for your particular cleaning job.

Spraying it on solid waste.

Disinfectant spray

If you're cleaning up germ-ridden solids, like fecal matter or vomit, it's definitely wise to reach for that disinfectant! But as unpleasant as it is, you need to remove the solid waste before you spray. While that may seem counter-intuitive, think of it like this: When you mix the spray with the solid matter without cleaning it up first, it leaves less of the disinfecting agent for actually killing the microbes. In order to avoid this, first take a paper towel and dispose of the mess, then use the disinfectant to deep clean the affected surface, advises Navas.

Mixing it with water.


When you realize you're almost out of disinfectant, you might be tempted to add water to make it last longer. But this common practice can over-dilute your cleaner, which reduces its effectiveness, says Linda Morgan, a health and wellness expert at Motivation Nook. A much better practice is to always keep a backup on hand, or buy more when you notice you've used half of your current bottle. If you're looking to keep your bathroom safe, check out 7 Bathroom Disinfectants Proven to Kill Coronavirus.

Mixing it with another cleaner.

Mixing disinfectants

Similarly, you should avoid mixing two cleaning agents together. This can be incredibly dangerous in some cases, says Navas, such as with bleach and ammonia. The two combined create toxic fumes that can be deadly when inhaled.

Not following the recommended usage instructions.

Woman spraying disinfectant with towel

When using any cleaning product, it's always a good idea to quickly glance at the instructions on the bottle to ensure you're using it properly. This is for your safety, but also to make sure you're using the cleaner the way it's intended to be used. Failing to do this could reduce the effectiveness of your cleaner without you knowing. And to avoid making another common cleaning mistake, check out The One Thing You're Doing Wrong Every Time You Disinfect.

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Christin Perry
Christin Perry is a freelance writer covering health, lifestyle, and parenting. Read more
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