Disinfectants, sanitisers and soaps. Do they all kill COVID 19?



My Mum swore by sunlight soap. If she were still here, she would have used it as her personal Covid 19 weapon. And she would have had a backer. Soap is widely reported by the World Health Organisation as killing covid 19 on hands as part of good hand-washing practice (https://en.unesco.org/news/how-soap-kills-covid-19-hands)

 But sunlight soap says nothing on its label about killing covid 19. Why is that?  

What is the difference between a sanitiser, a disinfectant, and a soap when it comes to hand hygiene practice to prevent Covid 19? The answer lies in the fact that Australian product regulation is about as unique as our wildlife. Procurement gurus and regulatory consultants live in this space but mere mortals can find it confusing. Here is my heads up and some tips on deciphering labels.


Many surface sanitisers and disinfectants use the same ingredients. Disinfectants specify use on hard surfaces, warning against use on skin.  Sanitisers may be applied on skin or surfaces, or both according to the label. In Australia, sanitisers are regulated differently to disinfectants, and are classified as cosmetics for labelling and other requirements. Hand sanitisers typically are alcohol or QUATs. Each has pros and cons in terms of speed of activity, ongoing length of activity, toxicity and side effects, corrosiveness, storage requirements, shelf life once opened and expiry date.


The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) sets the rules and requires testing data to prove effectiveness against bacteria and viruses. The TGA must further approve label claims such as kills viruses like Covid 19. The testing generally has an emphasis on speed of kill time over length of ongoing protection. Something that kills bacteria quickly may offer little in terms of ongoing protection (e.g., alcohol) and be rated the same as a product that provides ongoing protection for hours or longer. A disinfectant only needs to disclose the active ingredient or ingredients on the label, and you really can’t find out what else is in the bottle. Any harmful chemicals need to be listed on a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) which you are entitled to access.

If there is an AUST R or AUST L and a 4–7 digit number on the label, that means the disinfectant is registered or listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). To check if a product is registered, you can enter the name into the ARTG at https://tga-search.clients.funnelback.com/s/search.html?query=&collection=tga-artg. Many disinfectants  aren’t there as they are classed as “exempt disinfectants”. This means they haven’t done the TGA hoop jumping and rely on the manufacturer maintaining records of testing. Without the TGA registration, label claims are not permitted for viruses. 


Sanitisers can be spotted most easily by the term “kills 99.9% of bacteria".Most hand sanitisers are a subset of sanitisers given special dispensation by the TGA during Covid 19 providing they are not making claims beyond kills 99.9% of bacteria. Testing must have been done to support that claim or the sanitiser must meet the WHO alcohol content monograph (or both).

Hand santisers play an important role in prevention of COVID-19 as they are used in circumstances were hand washing with soap and water is not available or practical. Importantly,  washing with soap and water and the use of hand sanitisers ensure hand hygiene can be maintained in all settings.

A cosmetic sanitiser which uses the words like "hospital grade" or "disinfectant" on its label is breaking the law in Australia. Surprisingly, it does happen. A sanitiser must also list all ingredients on the label in descending order of volume. Ingredients should come from an approved list of chemicals maintained by Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) part of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Even natural products are classed as industrial chemicals for the purpose of this list. Safety Data Sheets (SDS's) are also a requirement for sanitisers. Big users of disinfectants and sanitisers such as building services contractors for early learning centres pour over product labels, SDS's and real world testing data in professional promotion provided by suppliers help inform chemical suppliers in meeting customer needs. Choosing products that are effective and the least harmful to people and the environment are important KPI's.


Most soaps we use are classified as cosmetics and don't make antimicrobial claims on their labels. Whilst my Mum was convinced, health care infection control experts think that sanitisers kill more micro-organisms. Even if soaps do kill Covid 19, soap and water doesn't offer any ongoing protection and isn't always accessible when and where you need it.  So, a good quality sanitiser in your pocket or purse is worthwhile. 


Whether it is vaccines, masks, soap, sanitisers or disinfectants we can empower ourselves with knowledge  to make choices to care for ourselves and others.   

For the rest of us, if you can’t pronounce the name of any chemical, google how it is made and keep googling what the sub-ingredients are until you find things you can recognise. Plant based, non-toxic and safe for kids in marketing hyperbole in reality can mean a crude oil extract blended with chlorine “quaternised” with another substance methylated with methanol. This is the case for one common disinfectant and sanitiser active called benzalkonium ammonium chloride, benzalkonium chloride or BAC.  

DoxallTM is our range of hand and antimicrobial wash sanitisers, surface cleaner and sanitisers, and cleaner disinfectant (AUST L, Covid 19, residual performance). The range relies on a patented active ingredient called Capric Acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid made by your body naturally to defend itself. Capric Acid is found in a wide range of everyday foods. Performance data can be found at www.doxall.com

Take care, stay safe and I invite you to subscribe for further articles in the footer of www.doxall.com. I promise no spam. 

Written by Ros Peacock, Director B2B, Marketing and Partnerships


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