Items that are touched the most frequently should be cleaned the most often. It is a simple concept, and as sanitation professionals, we know this to be true. Especially during a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, paying particularly close attention to cleaning hard surfaces in high-traffic areas is critical not only to ensure a sanitary school or workspace but also to help protect peoples’ health.
At Spruce Industries, we want you to be equipped with the best tools and techniques to effectively and efficiently carry out your facility’s cleaning practices. We also want to empower you with the knowledge to debunk popular myths about cleaning. Informed with this knowledge, you can choose the right products and methods for the jobs at hand.
Our experts have compiled the following guidance on when, how, and why to use disinfectant wipes, and which kinds are the best for getting you the cleanest clean.
Contrary to what some may believe, disinfecting and cleaning are not one and the same. While cleaning removes germs from hard surfaces or objects, disinfection kills them. Removing germs from surfaces by cleaning does decrease the number of germs present, thus reducing the likelihood of spreading them if you clean using the proper techniques.
And when used in conjunction with regular cleaning practices, disinfectant wipes can be incredibly effective in killing the germs that remain.
The “hygiene hypothesis”
But first, how often and when is disinfecting an appropriate add-on to your regular cleaning routine?
There are some instances where disinfection can do more harm than good. Research has shown that there is such a thing as an environment that is “too clean.” The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that the problem with overly sanitized environments is that they do not provide humans—particularly younger people with developing immune systems—with the appropriate exposure to germs in order to teach their bodies to develop immunities.
This is why cleaning is always appropriate, but disinfecting should be used only when required. Additionally, disinfecting should not take the place of, or be an additional step built into a daily cleaning regimen—that is, under normal circumstances or in most environments.
However, this theory does not apply to infectious diseases.
When to clean and when to disinfect
In most normal instances, traditional cleaning practices to remove dirt, grime, and everyday buildup will suffice. Bathroom surfaces, however, require frequent disinfecting. And in high-risk areas like hospitals, constant disinfection is essential to mitigate contagion. It is also critical to remember that any time blood or other bodily fluids are present, disinfection absolutely must be employed.
And during a pandemic, disinfecting more liberally than you normally would is important to protect human health. To mitigate the spread of highly transmissible diseases like the novel coronavirus that is causing the COVID-19 pandemic, disinfecting needs to be incorporated into your regular sanitation processes.
In times like this, wipes can be especially convenient and effective for a cleaning routine that involves quick and frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces in your facility.
How to effectively disinfect surfaces
While disinfecting should not occur every time you clean, cleaning should occur every time you disinfect. You want to eliminate all of the dirt and grime and as many of the germs as you can by giving surfaces a good clean in advance of disinfecting them. This helps your disinfectant not have to work as hard, having fewer pathogens left over to kill.
By first cleaning surfaces and objects with detergent and warm water before you disinfect them, you can further lower the risk of spreading germs and potentially infectious diseases from one surface to the next.
And by using single-use disinfectant wipes on surfaces that have already been cleaned, you will get an even cleaner clean—or, more accurately, a more effective disinfection. However, wipes must be used correctly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for disinfecting products to be the most effective, they must remain on the hard surface for at least several minutes. This means that the surface must stay wet long enough for the disinfectant to successfully kill viruses and bacteria. Your products’ labels should indicate the time requirement for each different cleaning solution.
This may mean that you will need to use multiple disinfecting wipes to fully wet the surface that you are disinfecting.
Disinfectant wipes are designed to be single-use products—used on a single surface or object and then properly disposed of. Disposable wipes are not intended for repeat use. In fact, if overused, they will lose their effectiveness and become much more likely to transfer pathogens to other surfaces.
Alternatively, reusable cloths and disinfecting spray can be equally as effective as wipes so long as the appropriate disinfecting solution is used along with them. But before you reuse a cloth to disinfect another surface or object, it is essential that you thoroughly wash it. The cloth itself must be disinfected to eliminate all germs and ensure that they are not transferred to the next surface you disinfect.
Reusable cloths are also appropriate for everyday cleaning with detergent or dish soap and water—a job that a disposable wipe cannot and should not do.
There are plenty of different types of disinfectant wipes on the market. Some are formulated to work most effectively on specific types of surfaces—like glass, wood, or tile—and all of them have a different chemical makeup. Understanding what surfaces or objects you are disinfecting will typically help you identify the best cleaner to use.
Make sure to check the labels of each product before use to ensure that you have selected the appropriate product for the appropriate surface.
Antibacterial vs. disinfectant products
Knowing what each disinfectant product targets is also important to ensure that you are selecting the right product for the job. Most disinfectant products will kill both bacteria and viruses when used properly. In fact, in order for a disinfecting solution or product to be called a disinfectant, it must be proven to kill both bacteria and viruses.
Antibacterial wipes and other antibacterial products, on the other hand, are designed and formulated specifically to kill bacteria. This difference is important to understand when cleaning according to proper coronavirus sanitation policies because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not a bacterium.
Disinfectant wipes can be used on almost any surface or object that is touched by human hands. However, we say this with the caveat that not every surface responds well to disinfectant wipes. The best way to know for sure whether it is safe to use a wipe to disinfect is to read the label of the particular disinfectant product that you have chosen.
In general, a good rule of thumb is to think twice before using disinfectant wipes on porous surfaces, fabrics, or leather, unless the product label specifically states that you can. Otherwise, you could ruin the surface.
Where to focus efforts when you do need to disinfect
To prevent the spread of germs and viruses in your facility, it’s helpful to know what to prioritize in your sanitation routine. Surfaces and objects that are most frequently touched should also be the most frequently disinfected.
Start by targeting high-traffic areas. High-touch surfaces that always need frequent attention are tabletops, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, and stair railings. Objects such as doorknobs, handles, and faucets should also be prioritized.
Hand washing and personal hygiene are, of course, extremely important in the fight to slow and stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But they cannot be solely relied on in the fight against this virus. As cleaning professionals, it’s important to focus our efforts on disinfecting the areas that are frequently touched by hands that may or may not be clean themselves.
Disinfecting the kitchen
Kitchens, and anywhere that food is prepared, are some of the most important internal environments to keep clean and germ-free. You want to make sure that the place where your staff prepares food is regularly and thoroughly cleaned, with disinfection occurring only when needed.
And there are times when disinfection is always needed. You must disinfect food prep surfaces after every instance of preparing raw poultry, fish, or other animal proteins. This is critical because these and other animal meats are the foods that are most likely to be contaminated.
You will need to mitigate the risk of these bacteria—and other germs that could cause foodborne illness—being consumed by people. And one of the best and safest ways you can achieve a quick and thorough clean is by using disposable disinfectant wipes. According to one study published by the Journal of Applied Microbiology, using disinfectant wipes in the kitchen can reduce the risk of food poisoning by 99 percent.
Disposable wipes are ideal for use in kitchens because of their single-use nature. In the midst of food preparation, there is little to no time to run laundry to wash and rewash cleaning cloths or towels. To avoid the risk of these reusable items spreading germs from surface to surface, disposable wipes are a safe and reliable alternative.
There are plenty of options in the market for disinfecting wipes, and the popularity of this type of cleaning product has been steadily rising over the years. Consumers are simply flush with choice for selecting the best cleaning wipes for them. By following a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are cutting through the noise to choose the best product for your facility.
Learn the dwell times
As we now know, disinfectants work when they are wet, and all require a certain amount of time to kill all of the harmful pathogens on a surface. This time is also known as “dwell time” or “kill time.”
Some disinfectants have a dwell time of up to ten minutes, which can be inconvenient or even impossible for your facility’s employees, depending on the size of the cleaning job and the amount of time allowed. Some wipes also contain alcohol, which is a drying agent and may evaporate before the product’s recommended dwell time is achieved.
When looking for the best cleaning wipe for you, read product labels to understand ingredients and kill time. If you have a lot of down time when your facility is not experiencing much foot traffic, a product with a higher kill time might be your best option. Alternatively, products that have shorter kill times are typically ideal for peak times at busy, high-traffic facilities.
Understand the kill claims
Similar to dwell times, “kill claims” can be found on product labels. A product’s kill claim will state what types and percentage of pathogens that product kills during use. Knowing the types of pathogens—such as types of bacteria and viruses—that you may encounter at your facility will inform what types of wipes you should choose. The higher the kill percentage, the better. Look for products that kill up to 99.9 percent of pathogens.
Regardless of the type of cleaning or disinfecting products you are using, it is important to use them safely. Cleaning agents are often made up of chemicals that could be harmful to the skin or other parts of the body on contact.
Some may also produce corrosive or dangerous fumes if mixed, so keep disinfectants and cleaners separate. Never mix liquid products. Another benefit of using disposable wipes is that it’s more difficult to mix products, so you don’t have to take the extra precautions that you do with liquid solutions.
To best protect yourself, whether you are using a disinfectant wipe or some other product, make sure to always wear protective gloves when cleaning and disinfecting, and read the labels of any of the products you use to ensure you are taking the proper precautions.
And remember, we are always here to help. Contact our helpline to get advice on the safest and most effective disinfecting solution for you.