Hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers (COVID-19)
On this page
What we are doing
The health and safety of Canadians is our priority. Along with measures reported in the Government of Canada’s response to COVID-19, Health Canada introduced innovative and agile regulatory measures to make health products available to Canadians and health care workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need for disinfectants and hand sanitizers. To increase supply and ensure Canadians have access to these products, we have:
- introduced interim measures to expedite access to hand sanitizers, disinfectants and personal protective equipment to address product shortages
- published an up-to-date list of disinfectants approved for use against COVID-19
- published an up-to-date list of hand sanitizers approved for sale in Canada
- provided information on our quality requirements to ensure the alcohol used in the preparation and distribution of hand sanitizers is safe
Hygiene and hand sanitizers
To date, there are no hand sanitizers in Canada approved with COVID-19 related claims. Although they do not claim to kill viruses such as coronaviruses, hand sanitizers can help reduce the risk of infection by, or spread of, microorganisms.
Personal practices, such as proper hygiene help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
- use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available
- keep hand sanitizers out of reach of children and always supervise them when using hand sanitizers, as ingesting even small amounts of sanitizer can be fatal
- when coughing or sneezing:
- cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
- dispose of the tissues as soon as possible in a lined waste basket
- wash your hands right away
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
We have published a list of hand sanitizers that are authorized for sale in Canada. This list is updated regularly. Inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement by Health Canada.
Store hand sanitizers out of reach of children (refer to ISMP Canada Safety Bulletins for a related safety alert on May 1, 2020). Never attempt to make hand sanitizer at home using alcohol intended for consumption, witch hazel or essential oils. Doing so could be unsafe and will produce an ineffective product.
As with all health products, always read and follow the directions on the product label. Never eat or drink hand sanitizers as ingesting even small amounts can be dangerous or fatal.
Health Canada is working with disinfectant manufacturers and industry associations to inform Canadians of the products that can be used to help against the spread of COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses. This means they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant when used according to the label directions.
We have published a list of hard-surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against (COVID-19). This list is updated regularly.
Although they do not claim to kill viruses such as COVID-19, cleaners can help limit the transfer of microorganisms. For high-touch hard surfaces such as door handles and phones, we recommend cleaning these often with either regular household cleaners or diluted bleach according to the label directions. Use bleach in a well-ventilated area and never mix with other chemical products.
Prepare a diluted bleach solution according to instructions on the label or if using bleach that has a concentration of 5% hypochlorite, add 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of bleach in 250 mL (a cup) of water, or add 20 mL (4 teaspoons) bleach in 1 litre (4 cups) of water to give a 0.1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Be sure to prepare the solution fresh, when you are intending to use it, and only dilute bleach in water (and not with additional chemicals).
Disinfectants, household cleaners, and bleach are meant to be used to clean surfaces. Never use these products on the skin or internally (e.g. by swallowing or injecting these products) as this could cause serious harm.
A surface sanitizer is a substance, or mixture of substances, that reduces the population of microorganisms on environmental inanimate surfaces and objects. Unlike disinfectants, surface sanitizers do not destroy or eliminate all microorganisms.
In Canada, surface sanitizers are considered pest control products. Surface sanitizers must be registered before they can be manufactured, imported, distributed, sold or used in Canada to ensure they meet Canadian health and environmental standards.
As surface sanitizers are not as effective as hard-surface disinfectants, Health Canada is prioritizing the availability of disinfectants at this time.
For questions about hard-surface disinfectants or hand sanitizers, contact Health Canada’s Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate at firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about surface sanitizers, contact Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) at email@example.com
For questions about household cleaning products, hand soaps and body soaps, contact Health Canada’s Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org