2021 Disinfectants and cleaners

Trends in ... disinfectants and cleaners

Know the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting

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You’re at work wiping down commonly used surfaces. Three minutes after you’re done, a co-worker comes in and touches the surface briefly. “It’s probably still clean,” you think. “I don’t need to wipe it again.”

Except you do. “Every time that a person touches, coughs or breathes near a surface, it will become contaminated again,” says Patrick Haddad, chief product and technology officer for Disinfect & Shield. “Traditional disinfectants and cleaners are meant to remove whatever is currently on the surface as a reactive measure, but as soon as the next person comes by, it is contaminated again.”

A panel of experts spoke with Safety+Health about using cleaners and disinfectants in the workplace. Here’s what else we learned from them.

A better understanding

First, workers need to know the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. “Sanitizing reduces surface bacteria identified on the product’s label, while disinfecting inactivates both the bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label on hard, nonporous surfaces,” said Mike Flagg, head of SC Johnson Professional’s North American business.

He went on to say that “an often misunderstood, yet essential, part of cleaning is allowing proper contact time for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces. Contact time is the amount of time that a sanitizer or disinfectant must be kept visibly wet on a surface to sanitize or disinfect it.”

Robert Cook, vice president of Biomist Inc., echoed that: “I wish employers and workers better understood how to apply disinfectants and cleaners. Directions for use on the label are often ignored; too many [people] use trigger sprayers and immediately start wiping. This does not allow enough contact for the sanitizer/disinfectant to sufficiently kill microorganisms that might be present and leads to cross-contamination.” 

Patrick Kehoe, U.S. marketing manager, cleaning chemicals, for 3M, pointed out another thing workers need to better understand. “One area that is sometimes overlooked or taken for granted is the assumption that your chemical management system is dispensing the proper amount of chemical concentrate with the necessary amount of water every time. As we all work diligently to curb the spread of COVID-19, each facility manager should be verifying that their respective systems are diluting accurately per the Environmental Protection Agency label dilution guidelines to ensure a safe and effective clean.”  

Words of advice

“During the pandemic, many people have been wary of which products work and why,” Cook said. “The infection control market has been inundated with different solutions and technologies, some make false claims as to their efficacy and effectiveness. If you’re unsure, ask for data that supports the claims the manufacturers are making. The EPA’s website is also a good source for information.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory protection

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