According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “Clean first before you disinfect. Germs can hide underneath dirt and other material on surfaces where they are not affected by the disinfectant. Dirt and organic material can also reduce the germ-killing ability of some disinfectants.”
When should building service contractors clean, vs. sanitize, vs. disinfect surfaces?
Clean low-risk surfaces, such as floors, windows, etc., where the likelihood of pathogen transfer from the surface is low. Sanitizing should only be applied to food contact surfaces, which is required as part of the food code. Disinfection is appropriate for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces likely to harbor pathogens. Since sanitizing does not make anti-viral claims, sanitizing offers no confidence of killing the flu or other viruses commonly found on surfaces.
Cleaning a surface simply removes visible debris, dirt and dust. Sanitizing a surface makes that surface sanitary or free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect your health. Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Disinfecting a surface will “kill” the microscopic organisms as claimed on the label of a particular product.
Cleaning alone will always contribute favorably to the health of indoor occupants because allergens and microorganisms are being removed from the surfaces of the indoor environment. The problem, however, is the risk of cross-contamination. The mopping solution and the cleaning tools could be spreading disease in the absence of a germicide.
When you sanitize, you are killing/reducing the number of bacteria present by 99.9 percent (3 log10) but doing nothing about viruses and fungus. Sanitizing is better than cleaning alone but the reduction of pathogen populations on environmental surfaces is exponentially better when you disinfect.
The minimum level of effectiveness in a modern-day disinfectant is 100 percent kill of 6 log10 of an organism. A sanitizer is only required to reduce that 6 log10 down to 3 Log10. We can put that into real numbers. If we start with 1 million organisms on a surface then a disinfectant must kill 100 percent of them; zero left. A sanitizer only reduces the number of organisms down to 1,000 and does nothing about virus and fungus.
Given that the highest cost component of the cleaning process is labor, why would a facility manager compromise on the quality and quantity of antimicrobial solution being applied?
Do disinfectant wipes allow for enough dwell time to meet kill claims?
Ready-to-use wipes with short dwell times are ideal for high-traffic areas. By selecting ready-to-use wipes with a strong substrate and that stay wet longer, staff can disinfect greater surface areas with fewer wipes reducing costs and delivering a better value for facilities. Using the right disinfecting wipes with the fastest kill times coupled with implementation of standardized cleaning protocols, commercial facilities should see a return on investment while never compromising on clean.
Year-round (with peaks during cold and flu season), the spread of norovirus, influenza, rhinovirus and other common illnesses present a challenge to the cleaning staff responsible for eliminating germs with proper cleaning and disinfecting. Staff will often turn to wipes for a convenient solution and can be confident they are killing germs of the highest concern.
Some do, some do not. Some chemistries keep the surface wet for the full contact time. Others, especially those that are alcohol based, generally evaporate before the contact time, creating a risk that the surface is not being properly disinfected. It is important to consider this factor when determining whether the disinfectant is acceptable for use.
Yes, when used as directed. The EPA is taking a close look at how wipes are used. They mandate specific protocols to follow when testing wipes to show the “mileage” of the wipe. That is how much surface area can be covered with the wipe before it is used up.