If you've been driving on freeways over the last couple of days you've seen the "Disinfect 2 Protect" signs illuminated everywhere. That got me thinking about the proper practice of disinfecting and the fact that most people think they are disinfecting when they are using products that make disinfecting claims of 99.9%. The cold-hard truth is that virtually no one is following the label instructions and therefore is not achieving the disinfecting rate claimed on the front of the label, not even close!
Have you ever bothered to read the small print on the back of the disinfectant spray bottles you're using? Turns out that to achieve your goal of killing those nasty viruses and bacteria they need to be in contact with the disinfecting chemical for anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes. It's referred to as "dwell-time". Who cleans like that? Most people I know will spray and wipe, not spray, wait for ten minutes and then wipe. However by not doing it that way, you're not disinfecting effectively and you're for sure not achieving that touted 99.9% effectiveness.
We've found that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding disinfecting and how it relates to cleaning. We define cleaning as bio-load (all the soil that exists on the service) removal and disinfecting as the killing of bacteria and viruses. Typically one has to follow the other for maximum effectiveness, and true disinfecting only happens if there is sufficient dwell-time of the disinfectant product on the contact surface.
With the way most people use disinfecting products today, that kill rate is not even close to being achieved. In essence most of the grime and germs are moved around on top of the surface, however the dwell time is completely missing. Spray and wipe is what most of us do with minimal or no dwell-time whatsoever. A good example is the disinfectant wipes we use for wiping shopping cart handles. With no real cleaning (the bio load removal step) happening and with virtually no dwell-time of the disinfectant on the contact surface, it might give us peace of mind, however, no actual quality 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 sincerely hope that this article helped clarify some of the misconception that I see surrounding cleaning and disinfecting.