Disinfection (part 2)

More stuff about controlling pathogens!
Have you started asking your customers about the disinfectants they use?   What kind of responses are you getting?   …we would love to hear from you about how people are responding to your question.

As I shared in my previous article, unless you are in healthcare, most likely your customers do not have a logical explanation or reason about why they buy the disinfectant chemical they use.   So, I will continue my education about disinfectants to make us all more knowledgeable on the subject.

Lesson #3- Sanitizing vs Disinfecting vs Sterilization.   All of these terms are often used interchangeably and to many they mean the same thing.  Incorrect.   The basic difference is they all kill micro-organisms, but at different levels.   Sterilization is most often used in healthcare and medical manufacturing and is the process of killing 100% of the pathogens present using high heat(180+ degrees), pressure, and chemical action.   Disinfection procedures kill 99.999% of the targeted micro-organisms within a 10 minute dwell time.  Sanitizers and sanitizing procedures are primarily used in food preparation, food service, and food manufacturing operations, where within 30 seconds 99.99% of the targeted pathogens are killed off.   With that explanation it appears a sanitizer may be better than disinfectants, but the the major difference is disinfectants target and kill a larger spectrum of bad germs and viruses compared to sanitizers.  Sanitizers have no fungicidal or virucidal kill activity.  
Sanitizers are also safer chemical compounds and usually require no rinse of the surface if in a food prep or food consumption area.  Disinfectants require a fresh water rinse following their application in those types of areas.
Since disinfectants kill a wide spectrum of pathogens, they do not all need to have a 10 minute dwell time, as some of the specific pathogens could be eradicated within 30 seconds, but within a 10 minute dwell time 99.999% of the pathogens listed on the Efficacy Data Report need to be eradicated.  The dwell times for each specific pathogen are listed on the Efficacy Data Report.

Lesson #4- Time and Temperature.  Did you know the most popular type of disinfectants, quaternary ammonium, are more effective when diluted with warm water vs cold water?   Did you know many of the disinfectants lose their efficacy over time, and most should be used within 24 hours of dilution?  How many of you keep disinfectants in quart bottles for a week or more?  Bleach & water solutions should be used within 60 minutes, as the effectiveness is significantly reduced beyond an hour.    Bleach solutions work best for disinfection and are more stable in cold water, as hot water decomposes the active ingredients.  
The biggest complaint I get from custodians is “ I don’t have enough time to let the disinfectant work for 10 minutes”.   Dwell time is so important to any disinfecting program, but custodians rarely give disinfectants time to work.   Training and gaining agreement about the importance of dwell time and how to accomplish this without adding time to the cleaning tasks in a particular space is needed in many facilities today.   Thankfully, there are products now, which require less dwell time for full disinfection, and are also safe to use.

Lesson #5- It’s against the law…    On every disinfectant label it states:  “It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with it’s labeling”.   Wow!   Are you ready to go to prison because you aren’t using the product correctly?!   The most egregious “crime” is the incorrect dilution of disinfectants.   Many of you think you are smarter than phD bio-chemists, and doubling the dilution strength will enhance the cleaning effectiveness of the product and maybe dwell times are reduced.   WRONG!   Disinfectants should be diluted using automatic dispensing systems, or using measuring cups.   To not correctly dilute disinfectants not only is against the law, but also puts people in danger, by creating an unhealthy environment exposing people to the micro-organisms you are now not eradicating.   

Lesson #6- The disinfection only lasts until the surface is touched again.   Incorrect.   Some disinfectants leave a bio-film on the surface offering residual protection on the surface to re-contamination for a period of time, and yet the more bio-matter to build up on a surface the less effective the the bio-film.   Quat disinfectants actually do leave a bio-film behind.   The negative to this, is that quaternary ammonium chemicals are harmful to people in some cases and situations, and as mentioned previously may need to be rinsed off following use.  
Most facilities disinfectant high touch surfaces during daily cleaning once per day.   Is this enough?  No, as the bio-mass and micro-organisms build up the greater the touches on the surface throughout the day.   There is just not enough cleaning time allocated to disinfection in most facilities, but I have seen some schools and cleaning contractors dedicating staff to just disinfecting specific surfaces(door knobs, door push bars, bathroom surfaces, etc.) during the day.   The more you can disinfectant properly, the healthier the building for visitors and staff, and in my opinion most facilities need to do more particularly in the winter.  

Lesson #7- Spray and Wipe.  There are basically 3 ways to apply disinfectant to an above the floor surface:  spray chemical onto surface and wipe off after dwell time met ; spray chemical onto a wiper and apply to surface and let air dry ; use a disinfectant disposable wiper.  
Which application you use is dependent on the area you are cleaning.   If you are cleaning a bathroom, spraying the chemical directly onto the surfaces being cleaned works great.   If you are disinfecting door knobs a wiper application works best to better control the application of the cleaner.   The key consideration with here is to assure you get the surface wet enough to allow proper dwell times.   Disposable wipers are often not wet enough to get the surface wet enough.

Based on doing hundreds of cleaning efficacy tests in schools using 3M’s CleanTrace unit, I learned the type of wiper used also impacts the disinfecting effectiveness.   Paper towels and micro-fiber wipers work the best, while washed rags or terry towels yielded the worst results.  
Is your disinfection IQ now improved?   My last article on the subject will summarize all this, and make you all disinfecting consultants.

Now go out and make the world a healthier place and kill some bad micro-organisms or help someone else do the same!    

If you want more information on controlling your own pathogens, please reach out to myself and The Bullen Companies.

Jack Collins
Regional Sales Manager