How to balance the trade-offs needed when purchasing disinfectants
By Mark McInnes, Research + Development Manager Charlotte Products Ltd.
Product choice can be the linchpin of your infection prevention program, but finding one that checks every box is a virtually impossible task that often overwhelms purchasers. With strict regulations to consider, along with staff health concerns, environmental guidelines and the public health responsibility of controlling the spread of infection, finding the ideal disinfectant can sometimes feel like an impossible ask. And according to experts in the field of antimicrobial chemistry, it just might actually be impossible in the end.
There’s a valuable resource available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website that helps purchasers understand what should go into choosing the right disinfectant, called “Properties of an Ideal Disinfectant.” The traits listed on that table include stability, broad-spectrum kill claims, fast-acting efficacy, non-toxicity and a perfect environmental profile. Before we dive further into that table, I’d like to let you in on a little secret: There really is no ideal disinfectant; this list is aspirational.
Still, I always advise purchasers to use the CDC table to narrow down priorities and identify the needs of their infection prevention programs. That might include identifying the top three traits on the list that are most important, and then using those traits as a guide to find the best-fit disinfectant. For example, in an infection prevention program in a healthcare setting, that product may need to be a sporicidal disinfectant to tackle hospital-acquired infections like C.diff. Identifying an “ideal disinfectant” for that facility would mean finding a broad-spectrum, fast-acting product, which could have environmental trade-offs.
On the other hand, a school facilities department will be looking for a disinfectant that helps improve microbial outcomes but that is also safe for vulnerable populations like young children, and that complies with a district-wide health and safety profile. In that case, finding a disinfectant that has low toxicity and doesn’t damage the environment when disposed may take priority over kill claims.
After you’ve done your research, considered your priorities and identified the traits you are looking for, it’s always best to compile a list of questions to ask manufacturers whose products you are considering. Often manufacturers have chemists like me on staff who are available to answer your personalized questions and weigh the options available to you, balancing priorities and trade-offs. Remember, no decision is ever final. A pilot program is always a smart way to test out a new product, and track for efficacy and occupational health concerns.