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Beware of ‘COVID-free’ cleaning products and services

Only one product is approved to provide long-lasting protection

August 31, 2020

DES MOINES ― Americans are cleaning like never before and seeking ways to keep homes and workplaces free of COVID-19. As a result, scams and misleading claims are spreading.

Some businesses offer cleaning products or services that claim long-lasting protection ― 90 days in some cases ― against the coronavirus.  

The truth: No products are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with labels claiming that they are effective against viruses over the course of weeks.  

The EPA, which regulates claims on pesticide products, has approved only one long-lasting antiviral product for use against COVID-19. In August, the EPA permitted the state of Texas to allow American Airlines and Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine to use SurfaceWise2, a surface coating that inactivates viruses and bacteria within two hours of application and continues to work against them for up to seven days.  

“Protecting the health and safety of Americans is EPA’s top priority. It is vital that you read and follow the label instructions on any disinfectants you pick up in the marketplace,” said Jim Gulliford, administrator of EPA Region 7, which includes Iowa. “Currently, most EPA approved disinfectants only kill viruses at the time they are applied; they do not provide continued protection against new viral droplets after that initial application.”

“We’re concerned that Iowans may think they’re purchasing cleaning services that will provide long-term protection from COVID,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “They may be wasting their money and ultimately harming their health.”  

Miller advises that if consumers purchase any cleaning/remediation services, they do the following:

  • Ask the business what disinfectants and other products they use.
  • Check whether that product appears on the EPA’s “List N,” which lists disinfectants that meet EPA’s criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.  

While surface disinfectant products on List N have not been tested specifically against coronavirus, EPA expects them to kill the virus because they demonstrate efficacy against a harder-to-kill virus. The agency notes that your success in killing viruses depends on following all label directions.

The EPA has also released an advisory about products and services making misleading claims about being able to disinfect and kill COVID-19. The advisory notes: “It is unlawful for any person to distribute or sell a pesticide in the United States making claims to that it will kill a particular pathogen, unless that pesticide is registered with EPA and that particular claim has been deemed acceptable by the agency.”

The agency also cautions that unregistered products could be harmful to human health.

Know your rights as a consumer

The Iowa Door-to-Door Sales Act applies if a sale is for more than $25, if the sale is made at a location other than the seller's place of business, and if the goods or services will be used for personal, family or household purposes. Under the Act, Iowa consumers must be given written and oral notice that they have three business days to cancel a purchase, and they must be told the procedure for cancellation.

How to clean properly

Whether you are responsible for a public space, workplace, school or home, see this guidance from the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control on cleaning and disinfecting.

Know the six steps from the EPA on using disinfectants.

How to file a complaint with us

If you suspect a scam, contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, go here or call 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area). 

For more tips, follow the Iowa Attorney General on Facebook and Twitter at @AGIowa

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