We’ve found that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding disinfecting and how it relates to cleaning.
The important thing to remember is that cleaning should come first — if a surface is dirty, germs (bacteria & viruses) can be hiding below the dirt and grime (the bio-load), making disinfecting efforts less effective.
That make disinfecting a surface a two-step process. Step one being cleaning that removes the bio-load (all the soil that exists on the service) and disinfecting as step two that actually kills the remaining germs. For maximum effectiveness and to achieve true disinfecting, one has to follow the other.
Now that we’ve clarified what steps need to be taken to achieve true disinfecting, we can safely assume that with the way most people use disinfecting products today, we’re not doing a very good job.
Please read the disclaimer label on the back of your disinfectant bottle. It will tell you that there is anywhere from 1 to 10-minute dwell-time required to reach the 99.9% or 99.99% kill rate of bacteria and viruses (germs) that are described on the label. Dwell-time means that the disinfecting chemical has to be in contact with the surface being disinfected for the entire time specified on the back of the label.
So, not only are we not cleaning properly, but we’re also not following the label directions on dwell-time needed to achieve the 99.9% germ kill rate. A good example is the disinfectant wipes we use for wiping shopping cart handles. With no real cleaning (the bioload removal step) happening and with virtually no dwell-time of the disinfectant on the contact surface, it might give us some peace of mind, however, no actual disinfecting has taken place.
If there’s any advice I’d like to give to our readers it is this; thorough cleaning with microfiber is very effective at removing most of the bio-load along with a huge percentage of the harmful germs. The final step would then be to apply a disinfectant product to the surface being cleaned and giving the product the label specified dwell-time on the surface to achieve its 99.9% (or higher) kill rate, before wiping it off.
I hope that helped clarify some of the misconceptions that I see surrounding cleaning and disinfecting.
Sincerely, Eric Bollmann
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