How to Read an EPA Product Label

How to Read an EPA Product Label
Have you ever read the back of a household disinfectants like Lysol or Clorox wipes? Would you be surprised if I told you the directions say to wash your hands after use? As you can see in the image below it is true. Throughout 2020 and now into 2021 we have all used more disinfectant than ever in our history, but do we know enough about these chemicals to make informed decisions on which ones to use in different applications? So make sure you read the rest of this article before your throw that disinfectant into an electrostatic sprayer or ULV fogger.
Product label for lysol disinfectant spray circled in red reads wash hands after use
In this article we will walk through how to read a disinfectant label and determining factors on which chemistry should be used for different applications. Let’s get started!
How to Read a Chemical Label
Injury and illness to a child or household pet is a parent’s worst nightmare. Improper use of some chemicals can result in great injury or even death. Which is why the EPA has placed strict guidelines for approval of labels for disinfectants. Understanding how to read a chemical product label is essential in choosing the right product for each application. It will also help you as the user understand the necessary precautions that need to be taken to keep you, your family and environment safe from the certain side effects of different chemistries. The first step to avoid any harm is to simply read the label. Below we will walk through the different portions of an EPA registered product what you should look for to make an informed decision.
EPA Registration Number
Every EPA registered product is assigned a number. Every EPA number is a four-digit number followed by a dash and one to three numbers. Some products may have an additional five digits, this tells the user that is a sub registered product from the original manufacturer. For example, the EPA registration number for the disinfectant BioVex is 9804-1 since that is the end of the registration on the label it indicates to the user that this product is registered to the manufacturer. Whereas the EPA registered disinfectant ES-15’s EPA registration number is 1839-220-64900, the additional 64900 indicates it is sub registered from the original manufacturer. If the product has the same first four numbers on the EPA registrations then the products are under the same manufacturer label and contain the same active ingredients, the only difference between the products is the label.
Active Ingredients
EPA registered products are required to list their active ingredients on the label. There are several kinds of chemistries that can make disinfectant claims. The most common are Quaternary Ammonium Compounds aka Quats, Oxidizers, and Thymol based products. Each have advantages and drawbacks, but I generally choose natural chemistries like oxidizers and thymol products.
Kill Claims
The major reason any product seeks to gain EPA registration is the ability to legally make kill claims against different organisms. When a product is seeking registration, the EPA runs the product against a series of tests to see if the product is effective in eradicating different pathogens. Once the product has successfully passed the test for a specific pathogen the product can feature the kill claim on their label.
Disinfectant Directions
Disinfectant’s labels feature directions on how to properly administer the disinfectant. These instructions are to be followed without deviation.
Precautionary Statements
Every registered product contains precautionary statements. The statements are placed into four categories according to the products toxicity level. The four categories which are indicated by signal words:
Category I Signal Word: DANGER Fatal if swallowed. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco, or using the toilet.
Category II Signal Word: WARNING May be fatal if swallowed. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco, or using the toilet.
Category III Signal Word: CAUTION Harmful if swallowed. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco, or using the toilet.
Category IV Signal Word: CAUTION (OPTIONAL) No statements are required. However, the registrant may choose to use category III labeling.
 Now that you have read this article you are equipped to properly read and interpret an EPA registered product label. This will enable you to make an informed decision in the purchasing and application of the next disinfectant product you use. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to our team at For a detailed example of BioVex G Disinfectant label refer to the image below! Stay safe!
BioVex G Label With Each Section Detailed Out

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