Lysol Disinfectant Spray Experiments

Will Lysol Disinfectant Spray disinfect the toilet?


Answer: Yes, if you spray a ton of Lysol so that the toilet is dripping wet and leave it for 10 minutes. It is best to wipe the toilet clean first because Lysol doesn't work well if there is much soil. 

Experiment details

I have already shown that Lysol disinfectant spray does not kill bacteria nearly as well as 3% hydrogen peroxide in my countertop experiments. However, those experiments may have more dirt and germs than real life situations and seem to overwhelm many cleaning products. I've also shown that Lysol is not that great for disinfecting the bottoms of shoes, probably because of the dirt and crevices. But Lysol should do a great job disinfecting a toilet, right? I decided to test it. Since my toilets are always perfectly clean, I used my neighbors' toilets. (I clean my toilets with this 3% hydrogen peroxide every day so they are always very clean.)

 Here is a typical toilet of a normal person who does not obsessively clean them daily like me. 

First, I swabbed the dirty toilet (top and underside of seat only) and rubbed the swab all over an agar plate. 

Then I sprayed the toilet seat (top and underside) with a normal amount of Lysol Disinfectant Spray. I bought a brand new bottle of Lysol Disinfectant Spray (Early Morning Breeze scent) for this experiment. I sprayed all around both sides of the seat. I tried to use a normal amount. The seat was wet but not dripping.  I let the spray sit for 10 minutes and then swabbed the top and bottom of the seat again and rubbed the swab onto another agar plate. I incubated the plates in my warm incubator for 48 hours. 


This toilet had visible dirty marks on it from poop and pee.

This toilet looked clean and did not have dirty spots.

The results show that most toilets have a LOT of bacteria. (I've swabbed mine and nothing grows because I clean them every day with this 3% hydrogen peroxide.) The results also show that a normal amount of Lysol Disinfectant Spray killed some of the bacteria but not all. So, I tried again using a TON of Lysol Spray.

I repeated this experiment on another toilet. This time I used so much Lysol Spray that it was dripping off and there was a puddle of Lysol on the floor next to the toilet. I think this is much more Lysol than anyone would normally use when attempting to disinfect something. 

I let the Lysol sit on the toilet for 10 minutes and then swabbed. The agar plates were incubated for 48 hours. 

As you can see, the Lysol did a great job killing bacteria in this experiment! The key for Lysol, and most cleaners, is that you really need to soak the surface that you want to disinfect. It also helps if the Lysol is used on an already clean surface which is what the directions on the can say. After I was done testing, I thoroughly cleaned my neighbors' entire toilets with hydrogen peroxide. I scrubbed the inside of the bowls with bleach. I couldn't help it. I'm an OCD toilet cleaner because almost all contagious illnesses are spread through poop. (My floors are filthy from the dog and the kids, but my toilets and food preparation surfaces are clean.) I clean my toilets daily with this particular bottle of regular 3% hydrogen peroxide. You can buy them at Walmart, too. However, if someone in the house is sick with a vomiting or diarrhea illness, I recommend using a stronger disinfectant like a solution of 10% chlorine bleach in water or the Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Spray because stomach bugs are very hard to kill. 

How well does Lysol disinfect fabric and carpet?


Answer: Great as long as you soak the fabric/carpet with Lysol until it is dripping wet and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Experiment Details

"How do I disinfect the couch after someone throws up on it?" That is a very common question that I get. Lysol disinfectant spray is one of the few products that claims to kill a norovirus surrogate (feline calicivirus) and claims to work on upholstery. After my countertop experiments, I was not impressed with Lysol disinfectant spray. It was not as good at killing bacteria on the countertop with dirt present as was 3% hydrogen peroxide. However, Lysol disinfectant spray did great disinfecting toilets as long as I thoroughly soaked the toilets. (A light mist doesn't do much). So, I bought some Lysol Max Cover Disinfectant Mist to test on fabric. The MaxCover has the same ingredients as the regular Lysol disinfectant spray, it just has a different shaped sprayer so it produces a wider spray. 

I was nervous about testing the Lysol on my couch because I didn't want to smell it forever. I don't like the smell. So I tested the perfect, germy, fabric item-- the dog bed.

First I vacuumed the heck out of the dog bed to make sure it was free of debris. Then I removed the cover and shook it outside. I put the cover over a chair so I could more easily work with it. Luke was very concerned about what was happening to his bed. 

Then I put distilled water on 3 circle areas of the dog bed to get it wet. Germs transfer easier from wet/damp surfaces than from dry surfaces. I rubbed 3 agar plates onto those 3 damp spots. These were the dirty controls that should grow a lot of germs. 

Then I sprayed Lysol on 3 other spots on the dog bed. I made wide circles of wet Lysol spray about 6 inches in diameter so that agar plates would not touch any fabric that wasn't sprayed. 

I sprayed a lot of Lysol and rubbed it in with my gloved fingers. The fabric was fully saturated with the Lysol. It was dripping.

I let the Lysol sit on the dog bed for 10 minutes. It was still very wet after 10 minutes because I used so much Lysol. Then I rubbed 3 new agar plates onto the 3 spots that had Lysol. All of the agar plates were incubated for 48 hours in my warm incubator. 


As you can see, the Lysol disinfectant spray did a great job killing germs on the dog bed! I had also done the same experiment on the dog bed with 3% hydrogen peroxide. 

3% hydrogen peroxide did a great job killing germs on the dog bed, too. I had also done the same experiment on the dog bed using LESS Lysol. The fabric was wet but not soaked. It wasn't dripping but it was still wet after the 10 minute time. 

As you can see, the Lysol did not work as well when I used less. So, it is important to use a LOT of Lysol.  After these experiments, I washed Luke's dog bed in the washer numerous times to get the Lysol smell out of it. He is happy now. Neither the Lysol, nor the 3% hydrogen peroxide faded or left any stains on the dog bed. 

Will Lysol disinfect the carpet?

Answer: Yes, if you use a ton of Lysol and really soak the carpet until it is dripping wet.

Experiment Details

Someone inevitably throws up on the carpet, so I wanted to test how good Lysol is at disinfecting the carpet. To do this, I first vacuumed the heck out of an area of carpet to remove dirt, debris, and dog hair. Then I used distilled water to dampen 2 spots on the carpet and rubbed agar plates around on those spots to collect germs. 

Then I sprayed the Lysol MaxCover Spray on two different (but nearby) areas of carpet until the carpet was wet. I rubbed the Lysol into the carpet using my gloved fingers. 

I let the Lysol sit for 10 minutes and then rubbed another agar plate on the areas of the carpet with the Lysol. 


As you can see, the Lysol did a good job killing germs in the carpet. Perhaps, I didn't use quite enough Lysol on the spot corresponding to the plate that is not as clean as the other. 

The take-home message here is that Lysol is good at killing germs on relatively clean surfaces without dirt present IF you use a ton of Lysol until the item is dripping wet and leave it sit for 10 minutes. To be fair, most disinfectants require you to fully cover/saturate the item. That is not unique to Lysol. However, the fact that Lysol comes as an aerosol spray might mislead you into thinking that you only need to spray a fine mist. This is not true, according to my experiments. Some disinfectants, like 3% hydrogen peroxide, work better in my experiments against bacteria with dirt present than Lysol does. However, 3% hydrogen peroxide could fade some surfaces over time. I also don't test for specific bacteria. So, there may be some germs that Lysol kills that 3% hydrogen peroxide doesn't and visa versa. Overall, I think Lysol is a great choice for disinfecting upholstery or carpet. I've also used the Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Spray to clean vomit and diarrhea off of my carpet when people have been sick. I did not have any problems with fading. If you would like more information on actually cleaning vomit and diarrhea off carpet and upholstery, please read this page of my website

Will Lysol disinfect the bottom of shoes?

Answer: Not very well. Lysol doesn't seem to work that well when dirt is present. 

Experiment Details

Many germ-a-phobes and norophobes spray the bottoms of their shoes with Lysol disinfectant spray after a trip to the pediatrician's office or any other risky public place. I wanted to determine how well spraying the bottoms of the shoes worked for killing bacteria. I used my shoes and my son's shoes school shoes. Neither pair were particularly muddy. 

First, I dipped a sterile swab in distilled water and swabbed the bottoms of each shoe and rubbed the swabs onto agar plates. (The swabs work best when wet.)

Next I sprayed the HECK out of the shoes. I sprayed Lysol disinfectant Spray for about 30 seconds on one shoe. This was SO MUCH Lysol that it was dripping off and left a fairly large puddle on the floor. I completely covered the bottom of the shoe with Lysol. Then I sprayed the heck out of the other shoe with 3% hydrogen peroxide until it dripped off and left a puddle. I let the shoes sit (sole side up) for 10 minutes. Then I swabbed each shoe again. Here are the results.

From these results, I can see that while Lysol kills some bacteria, it is not leaving the bottom of my shoes really clean as I had hoped. Also, since hydrogen peroxide also left a few colonies, I've learned that the bottoms of shoes are quite difficult to clean. 

Will Lysol Disinfectant Spray disinfect a hard surface with dirt present? 

Answer: Not very well. Lysol needs to be used on already clean surfaces and you need to use a lot of Lysol to get the surface very wet.

Experiment details

To test cleaning products, I used masking tape to section off squares on my kitchen countertop and labeled them according to what I would be testing. I made sure that my countertop was very clean to start with, of course. 

Next I made germy water. To do this I mixed a small scoop of mud from our back yard into purified water. Then I poured the muddy water through a paper towel to filter out the chunks. I was left with very dirty water which contains lots of bacteria. For some experiments, I also scraped bacteria off of an already grown agar plate from a previous experiment and mixed those germs in. This way my "germ water" had lots of bacteria in it. 

I put 1mL of germ water onto each square with the exception of the "clean" control square using these 1mL syringes

I rubbed the germ water around the square with my gloved finger. Then I let the squares dry completely which took 2-3 hours. 

Once the squares were dry, I put .5mL of each cleaning product onto its respective square. 

I rubbed the cleaning product around to completely cover the square using a clean gloved finger. I went over the square a few times to make sure that the cleaning product completely covered it. Then I set a timer and let the cleaning product sit on its square for 5 minutes (10 minutes for some experiments). 

After the allotted time, I used a sterile swab to swab the square. Most squares were still wet after 5 minutes. However, if a square was dry, I dipped the swab in sterile water before I rubbed the square. I rubbed all over the square but I did not touch the tape (just in case the tape held onto bacteria and interfered with the experiment). 

Then I scribbled all over an agar plate with the swab. 

If you want to do these experiments yourself, I used these agar plates available on amazon. They come with the sterile swabs.

The plates were incubated for 24 hours in my homemade incubator consisting of a plastic box and a heat lamp. The temperature was about 90 degrees F. In case you are repeating this, the plates need to be put into the incubator upside down. (That means that the agar is on top so condensation does not settle on the bacteria colonies.)  Any bacteria present on the plate will grow and multiply. After about 24 hours you can see colonies (or piles) of bacteria on the plates. It is important to remember that viruses do not grow on these plates. Just bacteria and some fungus. Also all types of bacteria do not grow on these plates. So, a clean looking plate does not necessarily mean that there were no microorganisms present. It just means that nothing that could grow on the agar plate was present. However, this is still a very valuable information for comparing different cleaning products. 

In this experiment, I tested 3% hydrogen peroxide(H2O2), 10% chlorine bleach, Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray, Scott 24 Hour Sanitizing Spray , 70% isopropanol, Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface CleanerMethod All Purpose Natural Surface Cleaner, pure white vinegar, and 3 different bottles of Lysol Disinfectant Spray. This experiment had a TON of bacteria to start with because you can not even see individual colonies on the dirty control plate. That just means that the cleaner had a LOT of work to do. 

Only the 3% hydrogen peroxide, the 10% chlorine bleach, the Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray, and the Scott 24 Hour Sanitizing Spray did well. I simply can't BELIEVE the results for the 3 different bottles of Lysol spray. The Lysol bottle says that it takes 30 seconds to sanitize and 10 minutes to disinfect. Keep reading to see the 10 minute experimental results. Also, some of my experiments have TON of bacteria in them (much more than would normally be on a household surface). Also, almost all of these cleaners say that they need to be used on a "pre-cleaned surface" which is not happening in my experiments. So, just because a cleaner doesn't appear to do anything in my experiments, doesn't mean that it really doesn't do anything at all. The cleaner probably works as advertised in their specific laboratory tests. The cleaner just has to be really powerful to look good in my experiments. My experiments separate the MEN from the BOYS.  So, I am not saying that "Lysol doesn't do anything." I am saying that Lysol disinfectant spray does not kill bacteria in these experiments nearly as well as regular 3% hydrogen peroxide. Here is a photo of the 3 different cans of Lysol that I tested in these experiments. If you want more information about how I clean with hydrogen peroxide, please read the bottom of this page.  

Lysol Disinfectant Spray 10 minute experiment

Since the bottle of Lysol disinfectant spray says that it takes 10 minutes to disinfect (and only 30 seconds to sanitize), I thought I had better try the experiment again and let the Lysol have the full 10 minutes. I bought another new bottle of Lysol for this experiment (the pink one) and used the purple one that I had used in the previous experiments. 

I put 1mL of germ water onto each square of the countertop and let it dry completely. The germ water was made from dirt from the back yard with a smaller than usual amount of additional bacteria added. When the squares were dry, I shook the Lysol, and sprayed it into small Dixie cups. I let it settle for 1 minute so I could measure it accurately. I used  1mL syringes to put .5mL of Lysol or Hydrogen Peroxide onto the appropriate square. I rubbed the cleaner around on the square with my gloved finger to be sure that it was completely covering the square. There was PLENTY of Lysol to completely cover the squares.  Then I set my timer for either 5 minutes or 10 minutes. When the timer beeped, I swabbed the square and rubbed the swab all around an agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24 hours. I did note that the squares were almost dry at the 5 minute time period and were completely dry at the 10 minute period. Here are the results. 

Well, it does look like Lysol did some germ killing in this experiment. It looks like the pink Lysol had a little improvement at the 10 minute time period compared to the 5 minute time. However, Lysol just doesn't compare to hydrogen peroxide in these experiments. I guess it is not that surprising. According to the Lysol website, Lysol needs to be used on an already CLEAN surface. I used dirty surfaces. Lysol does better in my toilet and fabric experiments, so keep reading.

If you would like to suggest an experiment, please post on my facebook page. I also really need to earn money from this website in order to keep doing experiments (agar plates, essential oils, and cleaning products are expensive). If you want to contribute, please use my Amazon affiliate links. Just click on any of my links that go to amazon, and buy whatever you want. You don't have to buy what I recommend or even the product that the link goes to. Here is a link. I'll get a small percentage of the sale and use the money to buy experiment supplies. Thank you.

--Annie Pryor, Ph.D. 

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