In my article last month, I mentioned asking your customers and prospects WHY they use the disinfectant they buy. I challenge you all to start asking your customers that question, and if you currently use disinfectants, ask yourself why you use a particular brand of disinfectant. Amazingly, most people do not know the reasons they purchase a particular disinfectant, which is one of the most important chemicals in their inventory. I consider this a a problem, and you should also.
In this article and most likely a follow-up article or two, I shall try to educate you on disinfecting and disinfectants. In doing research for this subject, I discovered this is not a simple topic, and most of the articles were full of big fancy words, and I truly felt I should have a bio-chemistry degree to understand it all. I’m going to try and simplify all the biology and chemistry jargon for all of us who failed chemistry in high school.
The greater presence of things we can’t see or touch, which can hurt us, make us ill, and possibly kill us has led to a resurgence in disinfecting throughout society and the use of disinfectant chemicals. Unless, you are in healthcare or infection control you most likely have very little knowledge about disinfectants, even if you sell or use them. Since I now work in a business development role for a company, with a marketing tag line highlighting we are a “pathogen control” company, I considered it prudent for myself to better understand the process of killing the “bugs” we cannot see. My goal here is to make all of you also less ignorant on the subject.
If you are in healthcare or infection control you could probably write this article for me, thus my target readers are janitorial staff and management in schools and universities, office building facility managers and staff, building service contractors, and of course janitorial wholesalers, who often are looked upon to guide their customers to the right disinfectant and cleaning protocols regarding disinfecting.
Why is disinfecting such an important topic? …because, if disinfecting procedures are not done correctly, people get sick. Yet, as important a subject as this is, surprisingly most of you know little about why we disinfectant, where to disinfectant, how often to disinfect, and what product(s) should we actually be using to accomplish the most important of all cleaning tasks. Most of us rely on “experts” to guide us, CDC recommendations, Infection Control regulations, and yet I find most of you still have no idea why you do what you do, and why you buy what you buy. And, since we are all about solving problems, again, this is a HUGE problem.
Lesson #1: Disinfectants kill pathogens, which are only viewed under a microscope, and which have been determined to be harmful to humans and even animals in some cases. The US EPA categorizes disinfectants as pesticides, and thus the reason disinfectants are not certified as being “green” products.
Just like farm, home, and garden pesticides are formulated to kill specific bugs n’ varmints, disinfectants are also formulated to kill specific pathogens(germs, viruses, bacteria, fungus, etc.) The US EPA then certifies the manufacturer’s claims as to what pathogens the product will eradicate. This information is then listed on an Efficacy Data Sheet, which often is attached to each container of the disinfectant. In my experience, healthcare professionals are the one’s most likely to request this information, because in most cases they are the only one’s who understand it, but in reality all of us should understand what we are looking at on those forms full of latin words for diseases and the many numbers besides them. The numbers represent the amount of specific pathogen is killed within a specific amount of time.
Time is an important factor in disinfectants, because some cell structures take time to break down before the pathogen is killed. We call this Dwell Time, which in most cases is 10 minutes or less, dependent on the pathogen being killed. Disinfectants with 3 minutes or less dwell times are often referred to as “kills on contact” disinfectants.
And thus step #1 in deciding what disinfectant to purchase is first determining what bad bugs you need to kill within your facility and how much time you would require per cleaning application. The simple answer is: “I want to kill every bad germ possibly present in my building in the fastest time”. Is this possible? Yes, but not necessary. Broad spectrum disinfectants, which kill the most pathogens in the shortest amount of time are also some of the most dangerous to use, with the most extreme example being bleach(Hypochlorite) & water, which is a caustic, unstable, and unsafe product if used improperly. Finding a balance between what NEEDS to be killed and SAFETY is important in determining, which disinfectants to use.
Lesson #2: There are many different types of disinfectants today, and more are being developed, which will safely kill more pathogens in a faster time. The variety of products with disinfection claims today is beyond the scope of this article, thus my goal is educate you on the decision criteria needed to determine, which products are best for your facility. Today, even ionized water has a disinfection claim by certain manufacturers, but not yet approved by the EPA or CDC in areas where high level disinfection is a priority, which should tell you something about the controversy about those claims.
This chart should help provide more information on 4 common types of disinfectants and specific properties of each one.
Regional Sales Manager