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What You Should Look Out for in Your Surface Disinfectant 

Disinfecting a keyboard

Proper cleaning is more important than ever. In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re collectively more aware of the sanitation of public spaces and our homes alike. But there can be some confusion around what the best way to keep our surroundings clean may be.

What makes a disinfectant effective? Can certain cleaning products be irritating to the skin and inadvertently cause harm? Will my cleaning product be as effective as it needs to be to keep myself and others safe? 

These are a lot of valid questions being bounced around.  

As we wade through the changing tides of this pandemic, we should continue to keep sanitation at the forefront of our concern. The health and safety of ourselves and others depend on it. Here is everything you need to know about various surface disinfectants and how to properly use them.

For more information about health and safety during COVID-19, please refer to the CDC's resources.

What Makes a Good Disinfectant? 

The hallmark of a good disinfectant is its ability to kill germs. They aren’t necessarily meant to clean a surface per se – cleaning is aimed at the physical removal of grit and grime. A disinfectant’s primary focus is to get rid of any and all pathogens on a surface. 

When looking for a quality disinfectant, be on the lookout for indicators on the label that a given product kills germs and bacteria. A good way to double-check that a product will also work on something like the coronavirus is to see if it’s on the EPA N List

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Are There Any Ingredients in a Disinfectant I Should Avoid?

Yes. There is a broad range of disinfectant products available. Some just don’t hit the mark. From the potentially irritating to the flat out ineffective, there are a handful of ingredients that can mark a disinfectant you may want to pass on. 

Bleach is a fairly safe chemical disinfectant. But it can cause mild irritation to the skin as well as discolor or damage to certain surfaces. The smell alone can be quite cumbersome to the nostrils.

Alcohol can be effective at killing harmful germs. But since it evaporates so quickly that can reduce the time it has to actually do the job. That means you need to apply alcohol-based disinfectants multiple times in order to be sure a surface is sterile. More on this later. Also, keep in mind that we’re not talking about just any alcohol like Tequila, but alcohol designed to kill bacteria and sold for this purpose.

Phosphates are an ingredient in many cleaners and disinfectants. But they can be extremely toxic to humans as well as lead to pollution once they find their way into our waterways. 

Quats (or quaternary ammonium compounds) are another common ingredient found in disinfectants. They are extremely effective at killing pathogens but most public spaces and homes don’t require that much disinfection. They are major lung and skin irritants.

How to Properly Use a Disinfectant

It’s not uncommon for a disinfectant to be used inadequately. If you don’t follow the proper protocol you can end up spreading pathogens around rather than getting rid of them. 

Before you even begin the disinfection process, you need to clean. Remember, cleaning is defined as removing dirt and grime from a surface. If you skip this step, your disinfectant may not reach pathogens hidden under the layer of grit. 

Once it comes time to disinfect, keep in mind that you can’t simply wipe a surface down and call it a day. The disinfectant must sit on a surface anywhere from 2 - 10 minutes in order to get the job done, but it’s best to stick with 10 minutes across the board. This period is referred to as dwell time (or kill time if you’re feeling more maniacal). This is why it’s so important that a product remains wet for that allotted period of time. 

What Should I Focus on Disinfecting and When?

In a public space, focus on high-touch areas when you’re cleaning and disinfecting. The CDC recommends that public spaces should be cleaned at least daily during COVID. But high touch objects like shopping carts or point of sale keypads should be cleaned before and after every use.  

Disinfecting in your home is important too. We recommend cleaning and disinfecting high-touch zones every day or two and any time someone from outside of your home visits. 

Here are some more examples of high-touch surfaces:

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Tables 
  • Doorknobs
  • Chairs (seat, back, and arms)
  • Toilets (seat and handle)
  • Light switches 
  • Remote controls
  • Sink handles 

If you have any questions that are COVID related, we implore you to search the CDC’s library on how to take action and care during this pandemic. If you have any questions about choosing a disinfectant for your business or home, give us a call or email us at info@greenearthcolo.com.