By Jim Flieler, VP of Sales for Charlotte Products Canada

Lately, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about our disinfecting products. It is always good news to have end users taking a close look at cleaning chemistry and asking for products that will make their infection prevention programs more robust. However, we don’t want to over-emphasize disinfection to the detriment of cleaning. Cleaning continues to be the cornerstone of any facility’s pandemic plan. 

Don’t take my word for it. Industries best practices and health organizations like Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control include cleaning as the important first step in removal of the novel coronavirus. Cleaning removes soil and debris, allowing for a disinfectant to be effective when applied to the surface. 

Now is the time for cleaning companies and departments to focus on tweaking their regular cleaning processes and products, managing frequencies and efficiencies where possible. It is not necessarily the time to over disinfect, invest in fancy new technology being marketed toward the pandemic, and it is never the time to stop regular cleaning with a solid, environmentally preferable general purpose cleaner. 

Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting

First, let’s review the difference between cleaning and disinfecting:

Cleaning physically removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects by using soap (or detergent) and water. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. 

The disinfection process should be considered as two steps: First, a surface or object should be cleaned. Then, that surface or object should be disinfected. In order for disinfecting to occur, a surface must be cleaned of all dirt and impurities so that the disinfectant may effectively do its germ-killing work.

Dangers of Too Much Disinfecting

When facilities start to clean with disinfectants only, there can be real dangers to human health, the environment and the building’s infection control measures. First, disinfectants contain active ingredients that can be harsher than the ingredients in certain cleaners. These disinfectants should only be applied sparingly and when needed as part of your infection prevention plan on high-touch surfaces. The harsher active ingredients in these products can have adverse health effects on end users and building occupants. It is always recommended that disinfectants are sprayed in well ventilated areas and that applicators wear the proper PPE.

Second, the indiscriminate application of a disinfectant for cleaning purposes wastes money. Disinfectants are more concentrated and often more costly. Furthermore, soil, particles and dust on a surface prevent the chemical reaction necessary to inactivate pathogens, including coronavirus. This becomes a waste of time and money, something no contractor or cleaning department can afford right now.

Follow the Five Steps to Disinfecting Protocol

When you are ready to use a disinfectant on your high touch points, it is absolutely imperative to follow the five steps to disinfecting protocol. 

  1. Use a registered product, and thoroughly read and understand the label and SDS’s.
  2. Dilute it properly, regardless of your type of delivery method- use (PPM)  litmus paper to test your dilution frequently depending on the type of facility and protocol 
  3. Always pre-clean the surface using a high quality all purpose cleaner or disinfectant
  4. Respect and ensure the dwell time is met
  5. Include a potable water rinse according to each label especially on food contact surface

Be Wary of False Claims

It is no surprise that companies are marketing all sorts of new technologies to be effective against COVID-19, like antimicrobial surfaces and new types of coatings that can kill viruses for seven days after spraying them. In times of heightened attention to public health, new companies often come on the market making spurious claims and trying to capitalize on public concerns over the pandemic to make a buck. 

In reality, if your facility was paying attention to its infection prevention program before the pandemic, including regular and frequent cleaning, strong product choices, following the five steps to disinfection protocol listed above, there should be no need to make any big changes now. If you are over-disinfecting, or being lured by false marketing claims, you could get into dangerous territory. Rely on the experts, like your distributors and your local and federal health agencies and experts, to provide you with the resources, information and tools to make healthy decisions for your programs.