By Asquith Williams, COO, Charlotte Products Ltd

In April 2021, the U.S. CDC issued updated guidance walking back the focus on disinfection in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in facilities. While this guidance shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those of us who’ve been cautioning against overuse of disinfectants for many years, it is an important reminder that we should all take to heart. It’s time we considered not only cleaner spaces, but also safer and healthier spaces for all who inhabit them. 

At Charlotte, we emphasize infection control programs that safely remove organic matter and then sparingly, thoughtfully and carefully apply disinfectant and sanitizers to those high risk, high contact touch points.

In other words: If you are still spraying disinfectant indiscriminately throughout your building, or considering drones or foggers for the wanton hygiene theater you feel necessary to prove your buildings are safe, it’s now time to stop. 

Let’s take a closer look at the new CDC guidance, issued in early April 2021 more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“In most situations, cleaning alone removes most virus particles on surfaces. Disinfection to reduce transmission of COVID-19 at home is likely not needed unless someone in your home is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours.”

General Purpose Cleaners Versus Disinfectants

A general purpose cleaner is safer for your employees and your building occupants than a disinfectant. A disinfectant is manufactured with the goal of killing in mind. That means a disinfectant, by its very nature, will need to contain more toxic chemicals. These are ingredients intended to kill a wide range of microorganisms, including everything from C. Dificil to norovirus. COVID-19 and other coronaviruses are relatively easy to kill, and as the CDC states, can be removed with a general purpose cleaner. It makes sense that in many cases, if there has not been a positive COVID-19 case and your area is low risk and low-touch, you will not need to use a disinfectant. 

Disinfectants have been known to contribute to eye and skin irritation and respiratory issues in cleaning workers, even when proper PPE is worn while applying them. Using a general purpose cleaner when you can will contribute to improved employee wellness and fewer issues with absenteeism. Not only will reduced absenteeism save you money, but you’ll also save money by purchasing the general purpose cleaner. Disinfectants tend to be as much as five times as expensive as general purpose cleaners. Plus, general purpose cleaners often have higher dilution ratios, which means less plastic in the landfill. 

Oftentimes people will think that a surface will be “cleaner” if they use a disinfectant, because disinfectants are stronger chemicals. However, people may not realize that a general purpose cleaner can do a better job of removing contaminants from a surface in certain situations. That is because the chemistry of a general purpose cleaner is focused on detergency, not kill claims. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should stop using disinfectants altogether. When used sparingly and thoughtfully applied to high-touch contact points, disinfectants are very effective at keeping facilities free from infection. We recommend following these five critical security elements of disinfecting to ensure you are using disinfectants safely. 

The new guidance from the CDC is a necessary wake-up call to the cleaning industry. We have to turn this pandemic into an opportunity to improve for our future. Few facilities will go back to the old way and the public won’t ever trust a dirty facility again. Now that we’ve collectively been able to bring cleaning standards up to a higher level across the world, it’s time we started paying attention to cleaning thoughtfully and safely. When it’s possible to choose a less toxic, safer product to do an effective job, we should always make the right choice.