All about disinfecting
The last two years have made us conscientious about germs and disinfecting. On many occasions, we’ve gone to our local store in search of disinfecting sprays or wipes only to be greeted with empty shelves. And when we can find them, there may be purchase limits. It’s vital to know how to use these products correctly not only to get the full benefits but also to not waste them.
Disinfecting is a two-step process. The first step is to clean the surface. It’s important to understand that cleaning is not disinfecting, and disinfecting is not cleaning.
To fully disinfect a surface, it must be free of any dirt, dust, or grime. You can use any all-purpose cleaner. The best all-purpose cleaner is good old soap and water. A tablespoon of dish soap in a quart of water mixed in a spray bottle is a fantastic cleaner that is safe on most surfaces.
Once the surface is clean, you’re ready to disinfect. Virtually all disinfectants require a rest period on the surface to be effective. How long depends on the product, so read the label carefully. Spray the disinfectant so the surface is thoroughly wet. The surface must remain wet for the duration of the rest period. If after the rest period you find the surface has dried, reapply the product and allow it to rest again. Your surface is now disinfected.
Understanding the label
It’s important to understand the label of the product you‘re using when disinfecting. Most products will read “kills 99.9% of germs”, followed by an asterisk. This does not mean that it kills 99.9% of all types of germs. It kills 99.9% of the germs listed behind the asterisk. If you want to disinfect against COVID-19, for example, you need to read the label to make sure it claims to kill that virus.
Disinfecting with bleach
Bleach is great at what it does. It disinfects against many types of bacteria and viruses. There are a few important things to note before using bleach. First, there are many varieties of bleach and they don’t all disinfect. Scented bleach, splash-less bleach,
and color-safe bleach are not disinfectants. The only type of bleach that will kill germs is plain, unscented bleach. The label must claim to kill 99.9% of germs. Once you have determined you are using the correct product, you must next dilute it. Please do not use bleach full strength. It will not kill more or faster at full strength. Full strength bleach can cause injury and damage surfaces. Follow label instructions for dilution and rest time. If there are no instructions, mix 1/3 cup bleach per gallon or, four teaspoons per quart of water. Follow the steps above leaving the bleach solution on the surface for at least one minute. To avoid any dangerous chemical reactions, it’s a good idea to rinse the surface thoroughly with water before and after applying the bleach.
Disinfect with hydrogen peroxide
I love using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect, particularly in the bathroom. If like me you are a boy mom and have little ones still working on their aim, hydrogen peroxide is wonderful for disinfecting and removing unpleasant odors. It is also a safer alternative to bleach because bleach can react with the ammonia in urine and create toxic fumes.
How to use it
Hydrogen peroxide can be unstable when exposed to light. That’s why it comes in a dark bottle. The best way to use it is to use the spray nozzle from an old bottle and attach it to the bottle. Sometimes you can find peroxide in a spray bottle. Follow the disinfecting steps using full strength and allow the peroxide to rest for ten minutes then wipe away.
Disinfect with alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is another great household disinfectant. It is available in concentrations from 70%-99%. It may be tempting to go for the highest concentration but not so fast. 70% isopropyl alcohol is actually the best for disinfecting because anything above that evaporates faster than the rest period. Follow the disinfecting steps using full strength and allow the product to rest for thirty seconds.
To learn more about disinfectants and the science behind them, visit Chemical Disinfectants | Disinfection & Sterilization Guidelines | Guidelines Library | Infection Control | CDC