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Safety Precautions When Using Electrostatic Sprayers, Foggers, Misters, or Vaporizers for Surface Disinfection During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Safety Precautions When Using Electrostatic Sprayers, Foggers, Misters, or Vaporizers for Surface Disinfection During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Updated Feb. 27, 2023

Carefully select cleaners and disinfectantsExternal and application methods for use in facilities, businesses, and public indoor spaces to ensure that you can clean and disinfect safely and effectively.

In most situations, cleaning surfaces (using soap or detergent) is enough to reduce SAR-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Clean surfaces before disinfecting.

Disinfection (using a product or process designed to inactivate SARS-CoV-2) is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours; when the presence of infectious virus is more likely. When disinfecting, choose the safest method that is also effective. For most situations, using traditional disinfectant methods, such as liquids, wipes, or disinfectant spray bottles, is sufficient to reduce virus exposure. Be sure to use products safely and according to label instructions, and use products that are on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19)External.

Electrostatic sprayer: A device that works by applying a small electrical charge to aerosols when passing through the nozzle. These charged droplets adhere easier and stick to environmental surfaces.

Fogger (also known as mister): A device that uses a fan and a liquid solution to create a fog (aerosol with small droplets) or mist.

Vaporizer: A device used with hydrogen peroxide disinfectant solutions. Doors and ventilation systems must be sealed while in use. Should be used only in healthcare or laboratory settings.

Choosing to use an electrostatic sprayer, fogger, mister, or vaporizer:

If trained professionals are available to apply them, people may decide to use newer technologies that either spray disinfectant electrostatically, or disperse it through fog, mist, or vapor. Cases where these technologies could be more practical include situations where there might be a confirmed case of COVID-19, use of the space is needed quickly, and some surfaces could be very hard to reach to disinfect by hand. These are sometimes used in healthcare settings after a patient is no longer using a room.

These devices aerosolize chemicals, or suspend them in the air, and they can stay in the air for long periods of time, especially if the area is not well ventilated. Aerosolizing any disinfectant can irritate the skin, eyes, or airways and can cause other health issues for people who breathe it in.

CDC does not either recommend, or not recommend, use of these devices for disinfecting community spaces for COVID-19. If they are used, they should be used with extreme caution. A disinfectant product’s safety and effectivenessPdfExternal might change based on how you use it. If electrostatic sprayers or foggers are used, they should be used:

  • Only by trainedExternal professionals
  • With disinfectants approvedExternal for this method of application
  • According to manufacturer instructions for safety, use, and contact time
  • With appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety measures to ensure safety for the operator, others nearby, and for people who might use the room afterward
  • When rooms are not occupied
  • With extreme caution if using around food preparation or areas where children play

For information about the application of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) List N disinfectantsPdfExternal with electrostatic sprayers and foggers, refer to the EPA’s “Can I use fogging, fumigation, or electrostatic spraying or drones to help control COVID-19?” websiteExternal. If the product’s label does not include disinfection directions for use with fogging, fumigation, wide-area or electrostatic spraying, EPA has not reviewed any data on whether the product is safe and effective when used by those methods.

Understand the risks

Note: Directions for specific devices and chemicals may vary. Always follow safety directions on product labels. If the label is hard to read or missing, do not use the product.

Exposures to chemicals in aerosolized disinfectants can cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation.

  • If you use an electrostatic sprayer or fogger, only the person applying it, wearing appropriate PPE, should be in the room. The person applying should leave the room following application. Stay out of the area for the time indicated in the product label and specified by the application device. Open windows and doors after use, if possible, to air out the space.
  • Remove chemical residue, which can pose health risks, before others enter the room. Follow product label directions for wiping or rinsing residue after the appropriate contact time has been achieved.
  • Some people, such as children or people with asthma, are more vulnerable to certain chemicals. Follow CDC guidance for People with Moderate to Severe Asthma as any disinfectant can trigger an asthma attack.

In dining and food preparation areas or areas where children spend time, safety risks are greater.

  • Use extreme caution if you choose to use an electrostatic sprayer or fogger in dining and food preparation areas. The aerosolized disinfectant could land in areas where the chemical may contaminate food preparation surfaces (e.g., countertops, dishware) or food, or areas where children might touch things (e.g., toys, desktops). Using a liquid, spray bottle, or wiped disinfectant gives you more control over where the disinfectant goes.
  • Use only products approved for food contact surfacesExternal in food areas.
  • Follow recommendations about how to safely disinfect daycares and schools and restaurants and bars.

Disinfectants have different safety precautions and hazard risks. Anyone handling or using disinfectants with electrostatic sprayers or foggers should understand how to choose the appropriate disinfectant for the device, how to use Safety Data SheetsExternal, and how to protect workers and others.

  • Train cleaning and janitorial staff on how to apply disinfectant safely (e.g., use of PPE; how to respond to chemical exposure) and effectively (e.g., application method, concentration, contact time).
  • Disinfectant products are approved for certain devices or equipment and are not interchangeable with different products.
  • Follow manufacturer’s label for application instructions. Beware of new technologies and devices or equipment not specified on manufacturer’s label.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling disinfectants. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.