OHS Canada Magazine

Considering sanitizers and disinfectants in the age of COVID

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July 21, 2020
By Iqbal Anwer

Health & Safety COVID-19 Disinfectant Hand Sanitizer

Seek expert opinion when selecting a product

Health Canada has published a list of hand sanitizers that are authorized for sale in Canada. (Freepik)

While businesses are reopening and the threat of COVID-19 is still around, this situation has brought a new set of requirements that employers have to understand and implement.

As research and studies are still going on and new knowledge is emerging, questions are often being asked regarding which hand sanitizer to select and which disinfectant is effective against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Sanity in sanitizers

As per Health Canada: “To date, there are no hand sanitizers in Canada approved with COVID-19 related claims.”

In general, a 20-second rub with soap and then cleaning with water is the best hand-cleaning method. Hand sanitizers should only be used sparingly in situations where a sink is not available.

Many reputable institutions have recommended hand sanitizers with concentrations of 60 to 80 per cent ethyl alcohol or 60 to 75 per cent isopropyl alcohol. This high percentage of hand sanitizers makes them flammable and irritant.


If you have applied the sanitizer and your hands are wet, never try to light a cigarette. Depending upon the concentration of alcohol and other additives, flame of such fire may also be invisible. Imagine how bad it can be!

Health Canada has published a list of hand sanitizers that are authorized for sale in Canada. They have also recalled sanitizers because they contain industrial-grade ethanol not good for health.

Effectiveness of disinfectants

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. It does not necessarily kill germs, but removes them, lowering the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs.

Killing germs after cleaning can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective and may be used against coronavirus that causes COVID-19 with a caveat that list does not constitute an endorsement by Health Canada.

Disinfectants are listed with a DIN (drug identification number) which is a legal requirement to be sold in Canada.

It is interesting to know that American Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) has recommended EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) List-N Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

The list also indicates the method to use and the time duration that surface should be in contact for product to effectively inactivate the virus.

Consider seeking expert opinion when selecting a product, as use of corrosive product may deteriorate ceramic surfaces, and use of flammable products can poison the catalytic sensors of gas detectors used in Canada’s oil and gas industry.

Iqbal Anwer, CRSP, is a safety professional based in Calgary.


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