How To Use A Disinfectant

The Problem with Clean:
So you’ve taken the time to wipe down every wall, got down on your knees to clean each corner, and mopped your way out of the room without leaving a single footprint. But is the room really clean? Did you get all of the germs? It seems every time we check our Twitter feed a new virus outbreak is occurring, whether it’s bird flu, pig virus, or giraffe something or another. Those germs and bacteria are seemingly ganging up on humanity. Unless you’re using a disinfectant, that room may still be a health risk.
Defining Terms:

  • General Purpose Cleaners effectively remove dirt and soil, but most cleaners that fall into this category rarely double as a disinfectant.
  • Disinfectants kill bacteria and viruses.
  • Sanitizers are not equal to a disinfectant.
  • All Disinfectants manufactured within the United States must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or similar governing entity for disinfectants manufactured in other countries.

Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting:

The act of sanitizing is equal to the act of cleaning. Wipe a surface with any general purpose cleaner and you have effectively sanitized that surface. There is no advantage to be gained in using a chemical that is label a “sanitizer” instead of a “cleaner.” In truth, you will remove 90% of the germs and bacteria that are present in the room by simply cleaning the room, but if you want to attack that remaining 10% you will need to apply a disinfectant.

Though they are often confused, disinfectants are not the same as sanitizers. If you want to sanitize a doorknob you’ll need a cleaning chemical, cloth and a quick wipe. Disinfecting is a much different process and is heavily reliant upon dwell time. To disinfect that same doorknob you’ll need to spray the chemical and let it air dry. (Roughly, 10-minutes.)

Kill Claims:

Dwell time is what allows the disinfectant to work – complying with the kill claims (efficacy) you’ll find on the label of any EPA registered disinfectant. Some of the listed bacteria or viruses are killed upon contact, but most of them, like dominoes, fall one by one as time ticks away. If you wipe the surface dry before the 10-minute mark you are asking for lingering health risks.

The efficacy of a disinfectant is just as important as the dwell time. If you’re trying to kill the bird flu with a disinfectant that was designed for pig viruses only then you’re wasting your time. Wait 10-minutes or an hour, it won’t matter in the least. Make sure the bacteria or virus you are attempting to eliminate is actually listed in the kill claims.

Disinfecting vs. Cleaning:

While most general purpose cleaners do not double as a disinfectant, so too, disinfectants do not typically contain cleaning agents. Worse yet, most disinfectants contain a quaternary which will buildup over time, resulting in a sticky surface that will attract dirt and soil. Instead of working like a cleaner, disinfectants can actually deteriorate the appearance of a room. It is therefore important to use both a cleaner and a disinfectant as part of your daily maintenance routine. The cleaner will prevent quaternary buildup and the disinfectant will ensure no viruses are lingering around.

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