If you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about disinfecting before, 2020 may have been the year that changed that. However, the amount of information swirling out there around the most effective cleaning and disinfecting techniques is beyond overwhelming – and sometimes misleading. Since maintaining proper hygiene is more critical than ever, it's important to be able to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to your disinfecting routine.
These are the eight of the biggest disinfecting myths out there, debunked.
Myth: Cleaning & Disinfecting are the Same Thing
We’ve gone over this topic in detail here, but it’s an important one. Though commonly used synonymously, cleaning and disinfecting are not the same actions. First, it’s important to understand that cleaning is not disinfecting – and disinfecting is not cleaning. Rather, disinfecting is a second step – what you do after you clean. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning “refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.” Disinfecting, on the other hand, “refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.” It’s important to note that the term “disinfecting” is regulated by the EPA. In order to be registered as a disinfectant, the product has to go through significant antimicrobial testing and meet rigorous germ-killing standards. There are 3 EPA classes of disinfectants, limited spectrum disinfectant, broad-spectrum disinfectant, and hospital disinfectants. Vital Oxide is classified as a hospital disinfectant.
In short, trying to disinfect a dirty surface is a waste of time and disinfectant solution. You must always clean and then disinfect – otherwise, the dirt, grime, debris, and other organic materials will work as a shield for germs, rendering the disinfection process ineffective. Remember: it’s imperative to clean first, disinfect second.
While strategies for cleaning and disinfecting are abundant, one way to take guesswork out of the equation is to choose products that can do both, like Vital Oxide. Under lightly soiled conditions, Vital Oxide can be used to pre-clean before disinfecting. Clean and disinfect in two easy steps: Spray and wipe Vital Oxide to clean, then spray and leave behind to disinfect. Just make sure you are applying enough solution to remain wet for the proper contact time.
Myth: All Disinfectants Can Be Used in the Same Way
False. There are vast differences in concentrations, dwell times, safety protocols, and personal protection equipment needed for proper disinfectant usage. Always follow the instructions on the disinfectant product’s label to ensure proper usage and follow up with the manufacturer with any specific questions you may have.
Myth: Disinfectant Products Work Instantly
It’s tempting to think that disinfectants have the ability to kill germs instantaneously. However, in order to ensure their effectiveness, all disinfectant products need to be given a certain amount of dwell time (also known as contact time) with the surfaces they’re disinfecting. Dwell times usually range from 60 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the pathogen.
The bottom line: Disinfecting ineffectively isn’t disinfecting at all. Proper disinfecting takes time, no matter which product you use. So, if you’re spraying disinfectant and then immediately wiping it off with a paper towel, you aren’t giving the product time to its job, and in turn, all of your hard, meticulous work isn’t accomplishing what you think it is. Always check the product’s label to determine the appropriate dwell time (see Vital Oxide’s label here).
Myth: All Cleaning Products Disinfect
General cleaning products – such as soap and water, vinegar, conventional all-purpose cleaners, or essential oils – are not designed to eliminate pathogens that can cause an illness. In addition, there is not any criteria that cleaning products have to meet when it comes to efficacy. Unless a cleaning product specifically states that it disinfects, it will only clean. If you’re unsure, check for the EPA registration number on your product’s label. Then, type that number into the agency’s database to find out which bacteria and viruses it has been approved to work against.
Myth: Vinegar Can Kill Germs
The CDC and NSF (a public health and safety organization) both state that though vinegar is a suitable cleaner (remember – that means it’s adequate for removing anything visible from a surface), it’s not strong enough to disinfect. To ensure that you're properly disinfecting, avoid the gross odor and opt for EPA-registered products instead.
Myth: Disinfecting Alone is More Powerful Than Cleaning
As you learned above, cleaning and disinfecting actually go hand-in-hand. Always clean before you disinfect to remove surface dust, dirt, and grime. Surface grime can act as a barrier for germs and get in the way of the effectiveness of a disinfectant product. Don’t let your germ-killing efforts go to waste by forgetting to clean before applying disinfectant!
Myth: Disinfectants Provide Lasting Protection
False. If you follow the directions on the label, you can count on your disinfectant product to deliver on that 99.9% germ-killing claim. However, if a sick person comes around right after your surface dries and touches it, those germs are there until you clean and disinfect again. A disinfected surface only stays that way until it’s touched again (by hands or airborne particles).
Myth: All Disinfectants are Created Equal
Not even close. When evaluating and comparing disinfectant products, always start by taking a close look at their core ingredients. Most disinfectants on the market are extremely toxic, but Vital Oxide gives you peace of mind that you are using an effective product that does not come with alarming safety warnings and precautions. Rather than using harsh chemicals, Vital Oxide harnesses the power of oxygen – in the form of stabilized chlorine dioxide – to create a fast-acting, environmentally-friendly, effective broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, all without harsh chemicals, odors, fumes, or harmful residues.