Office COVID-19 Cleaning: Is Dettol Disinfectant Good Enough?

Now in post-MCO Malaysia, offices are resuming business as usual, and “new normal” SOPs like mandatory face masks, temperature scans, and social distancing are required as part of daily operations.

White-collar workers are returning to their offices and the general public will be getting back into the swing of things once again. However, everyone won’t be going about as nonchalantly as they did before.

An air of uncertainty and fear hangs heavily regarding the cleanliness of a premise, or whether they should risk entering at all.

For this very reason, businesses are to follow closely to the Standard of Procedure provided by the Ministry of Trade and International Industry, which includes sanitising the premise before operations begin.

“Memastikan pembersihan (sanitizing) premis dibuat pada kadar yang kerap dan konsisten,sekurang-kurangnya 2 kali sehari” (Ensure that premises are sanitised frequently and consistently, at least twice a day)

– Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Standard Operating Procedure

Standard Operating Procedure: Office disinfecting is required

When you think of disinfecting, you might imagine large fogging machines covering every surface with chemicals, similar to what Bangkok did with their “disinfecting trucks“.

But for office disinfecting, it’s possible to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 just by using ordinary household disinfectants such as Dettol. Similar brands include Clorox, Lysol, Tesco, Magiclean, and Mr Muscle.

But is Dettol enough to abolish all traces of the virus from your office surfaces?

We’ve broken them down to each active ingredient in Dettol cleaning products and their efficacy against the coronavirus to tell you if they are REALLY effective.

What are the main ingredients in Dettol?

Primarily, Dettol products contain either one of these active ingredients in their line of cleaning solutions: benzalkonium chloride, ethyl alcohol, and chloroxylenol.

Benzalkonium chloride

Benzalkonium chloride is a quaternary ammonium compound effective for killing bacteria and viruses, and commonly used as a substitute for alcohol in various hand sanitizers and cleaning agents. Dettol products containing this ingredient are their surface cleanser sprays and wet wipes.

Dettol Anti-Bacterial Surface Cleanser for COVID-19 disinfection containing 0.07% benzalkonium chloride
Dettol Anti-Bacterial Surface Cleanser contains 0.07% benzalkonium chloride
Dettol Anti-Bacterial Wet Wipes for COVID-19 disinfection containing benzalkonium chloride
Dettol Anti-Bacterial Wet Wipes contains benzalkonium chloride

Ethyl alcohol

Ethyl alcohol, or also known as ethanol, is a class of alcohol and a potent virucidal agent commonly contained in aerosol cleaning products and hand sanitizers. Only one product contains ethyl alcohol which is the Dettol disinfectant spray.

Dettol Disinfectant Spray for COVID-19 disinfection containing ethanol
Dettol Disinfectant Spray’s active ingredient is 60% ethyl alcohol


Chloroxylenol is a commonly used bactericidal phenolic compound and acts as a key disinfecting agent used for skin disinfection and cleaning surgical instruments. This compound is an active ingredient in Dettol’s antiseptic liquid.

Dettol Antiseptic Disinfectant Liquid for COVID-19 disinfection containing chloroxylenol
Dettol Antiseptic Disinfectant Liquid contains 4.8% Chloroxylenol

How does it work against coronavirus?

Disinfectants work by killing germs and viruses on a surface. As per a previous article written on proper disinfection, bactericides and virucides in disinfecting agents act by oxidising or denaturing proteins in the protective layer around microbes to successfully deactivate or kill the cell.

Benzalkonium chloride

Benzalkonium chloride, or quaternary ammonium compounds in general, are cationic detergents capable of breaking down cells by being attracted to negatively charged surfaces of microorganisms. This action then binds phospholipids to the hostile cells’ membranes, thus denaturing proteins.

Quaternary ammonium compounds also have a long-lasting effect that keeps surfaces bacteriostatic (inhibits cell growth) for some time.

Ethyl alcohol

Ethyl alcohol at an optimal 60% to 90% concentration, reacts similarly by rapidly denaturing cell proteins and dissolving lipid layers, resulting in a cell membrane damage and cell lysis.


Phenolic compounds like chloroxylenol are known to disrupt cell membrane and walls which leads to the microorganism’s death. The belief is that multiple cytoplasmic membranes of a cell are heavily affected by phenolic-type agents.

Studies proving their effectiveness

Many researchers and Dettol themselves have clarified that there is no proven study claiming Dettol products can kill the COVID-19 virus. It is only expected that Dettol products are as effective towards COVID-19 as they were to other coronavirus variants such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and Human Coronavirus when they were tested.

However, once broken down to each key ingredient, some studies have proven each one’s effectiveness to coronavirus strains (viruses similar to COVID-19) in the past and is believed to react identically to the novel coronavirus.

Benzalkonium chloride

At a concentration above 0.05%, benzalkonium chloride can kill the novel coronavirus, according to a study by Saknimit, Inatsuki, Sugiyama, and Yagami (1988). Based on this research, the National Environment Agency of Singapore cited the same in their list of household products for COVID-19 disinfection.

Another review in the Environmental Research and Public Health Journal also reinforced the hypothesis that benzalkonium chloride is effective to inactivate the virus by adsorbing the cytoplasmic membrane of the cell.

Ethyl alcohol

According to a study by Kampf, Todt, Pfaender, and Steinmann (2020), ethanol at 62-71% concentration can successfully inactivate human coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.

McDonnell and Russell (1999) also stated that alcohol is an active agent for microbial resistance and have shown antimicrobial activity against vegetative bacteria. The study also elaborated that ethyl alcohol is more potent than isopropyl in terms of efficacy against viruses.


A report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that chloroxylenol is an active ingredient capable of killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

The previously mentioned study conducted by McDonnell and Russell (1999) also states that due to its phenolic nature, chloroxylenol is expected to have a degrading effect on microbial membranes.

How to use them properly

In the disinfection products listed by both Centre for Disease and Prevention (CDC) and Singapore’s National Environmental Agency (NEA), a few general instructions were heavily emphasized on proper disinfection and ensuring the user’s safety:

  1. Follow the directions according to each product closely to effectively disinfect surfaces.
  2. Do not mix chemical products together while cleaning.
  3. Ensure that the area is well-ventilated.
  4. Avoid contact with eyes or nose while handling cleaning products.
  5. According to the product label, allow the appropriate time for products to disinfect.

Dettol Antibacterial Surface Cleanser Spray

How to use: Spray solution onto surface and leave for up to 5 minutes before wiping off.

Spraying disinfection solution onto surface and wiping
Wiping in an ‘S’ shaped pattern widens cleaning coverage

Dettol Antibacterial Wet Wipes

How to use: Wipe down items or surfaces and leave them to dry for a few minutes.

Wiping down electronic gadgets with disinfectant wipes
Apart from surfaces, wipe down gadgets and other high-touch objects regularly

Dettol Disinfectant Spray

How to use: Spray onto surface and leave for 2-3 minutes to dry.

Spraying disinfectant aerosol spray into the air
Do not spray disinfectant into open flames or other ignition sources

Dettol Antiseptic Liquid

How to use: Prepare the solution by adding 20ml of Dettol liquid into 400 ml of water. Soak washcloth with the diluted solution and wipe down hard surfaces.

Wiping down hard surfaces with disinfectant solution
Dettol Antiseptic Liquid has a versatile range of use other than surface disinfection: laundry, skin disinfection, bathing, midwifery, etc.
Solutions for office disinfection provides regular office cleaning services so you can be sure your premises are disinfected and sanitised often, as per standard operating procedures.


For more comprehensive disinfection, we also provide professional industry-standard office disinfecting service. This includes wiping with disinfectants, as well as spraying an antimicrobial coating on all high-touch surfaces (provides up to 12 weeks of protection) as well as cold fogging (disinfection in hard to reach spaces). Book office professional disinfection to create a safe workspace for you, your staff and your customers!

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