Proper Use of Disinfectants

Wash your hands, social distance and disinfect surfaces frequently. disinfecting with wipesSeems like a fairly simple concept to help keep ourselves, our families and our coworkers safe. We have all been trained on proper hand washing techniques since childhood. Taken with a grain of salt in elementary school, we are all paying attention now. Social distancing, a new skill to most, but can be easily accomplished. Disinfecting surfaces frequently sounds simple enough, until we begin to remember that disinfectants are pesticides and when used improperly can be ineffective or cause harm. Every bottle of disinfectant comes with a warning on the label “It is in violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling”. Sound ominous? It can be if we do not follow the manufacturers guidelines. More than ever before, it is becoming important that we learn to use disinfectants properly.

  • While it is very important to frequently disinfect high touch surfaces we need to be mindful of the surfaces we are applying the product to. If a surface has the potential to be used for food prep or extended contact, the disinfectant should be rinsed once the contact time has been achieved to prevent human and animal inhalation, ingestion and absorption exposure.
  • Concentrated disinfectants should always be diluted properly. Adding more disinfectant to your solution will not kill the microbes faster. It will most likely just leave you with a sticky residue that will require a proper cleaning later.
  • Surfaces must be free of dirt before they can be properly disinfected. Disinfectant need to attack the microbe at full strength to penetrate the cell walls, filter through and kill the microorganism. The presence of soil limits the disinfectant activity.
  • Always use fresh disinfectant. When utilizing a can or bottle make sure that the towels or wipes you are using are clean to avoid cross contamination. When mopping, change water and disinfectant frequently as soil load within the bucket will affect the efficacy of the disinfectant.
  • Allow the disinfectant to dwell on the surface for the correct contact time. Choosing a disinfectant with relevant kill claims is important. A disinfectant cannot make a claim against an organism without the manufacturer testing it first and then requires EPA approval of that data. If the end user does not correctly allow for wet contact time, the disinfectant will be ineffective. Contact times can differ based on the ingredients and the microbe being targeted. Wet or contact times will range anywhere from 30 seconds to ten minutes. If unsure of a products contact time, it is always the best practice to let the disinfect remain wet for ten minutes.
  • New technology…Foggers, Misters, Electro-Static Sprayers. These tools are an outstanding resource to efficiently disinfect or sanitize large areas. However, as this genre of equipment grows, it is very important to make sure that we are marrying the proper disinfect with the technology. A miss judgment by a facility or operator error could be detrimental and lead to health consequences for all.

I believe that as we evolve through this pandemic the media will turn its attention to the overuse of disinfectants. I can see the breaking news icon now, “Are we creating a new superbug?” We have always been taught that disinfectants should only be used when necessary. Today’s reality is making disinfectants a necessity. Please practice common sense and always read the label.