Are You Disinfecting Correctly? 3 Important Steps for Effective Disinfectant Use

By this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us know how to properly wash our hands – wet, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, dry – but we may be less clear on the proper way to disinfect. And like many aspects of our current situation, there is a lot of misinformation and hype about which areas of our home need vigilant attention and the proper methods for cleaning and disinfection. Chances are, we could all make a few tiny (but very important) tweaks to our cleaning and disinfecting routine. 

During the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, good household hygiene means cleaning and disinfecting the same areas you tackle in normal times, though much more frequently now. Every day, you should clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces and disinfect high-touch surfaces around the home as needed, including countertops, light switches, faucets, remote controls, doorknobs, refrigerator door, microwave handles, computer keyboards, tablets, and phones. In cases where more frequent disinfection of surfaces results in possible buildup of dry disinfectant residue, a wipe down with a moist towel or microfiber cloth of surfaces that come into contact with clothing (chairs, desks, bus seats, etc.) will prevent any possible discoloration of fabrics.

Vital Oxide is now tested and proven effective to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, on hard, non-porous surfaces with a dwell time of just five minutes. 

At Vital Oxide, we know firsthand how important it is to effectively disinfect our homes and protect our families from pathogens, without exposing our children and pets to harsh chemicals. 

In this article, we’re going to go over some of our top tips for disinfecting.

Step 1: Understand the Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing & Disinfecting 

There is a difference between these three actions, and understanding the difference is critically important for disinfecting correctly. Surface disinfectant products are subject to more rigorous EPA testing requirements and must clear a higher bar for effectiveness than surface sanitizing products. There are no sanitizer-only products with approved virus claims.

Cleaning involves physically removing dirt, grime, germs, and other impurities from objects and surfaces and leaves things looking shiny and clean. Soap (or detergent) and water might be used in this process. However, general cleaners – 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. 

Cleaning does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of contamination or spreading infection. Cleaning is the first step to a complete process of preventing illness. 

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by cleaning and treating surfaces or objects with a sanitizing solution, and/or physical removal (such as commercial dishwashing machines) to lower the risk of contamination or spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills more germs than sanitizers. Disinfecting works by using chemicals, heat or other processes to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, and requires a pre-cleaning step to remove gross dirt build up before disinfection to allow full contact with the disinfectant.

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.

Now that you know the difference, you’re ready to clean! 

Step 2: Always Clean First

Make this your new disinfecting mantra: “Always clean first.” 

Before you expose a surface to a disinfectant, always clean the surface of all debris first – a commonly skipped – but very important step. As mentioned above, the process of cleaning can start to reduce germs by removing dirt, grime, and residue that can harbor bacteria and viruses, but it does not reduce the germ-load to the 99.9% level. Once a surface is clean, the disinfectant will be able to do its job. Remember: you always want the disinfectant to come into contact with 100% of the surface, otherwise it won’t be as effective. 

Vital Oxide can be used to pre-clean surfaces before disinfecting under lightly soiled conditions. 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.

Step 3: Take Safety Precautions

  • Follow the Directions
  • Always follow the label directions carefully when using any cleaners, disinfectants, or sanitizers, and only use the products as intended. Follow the contact time (the amount of time it takes for the disinfectant to sit on a surface before a certain pathogen is inactivated) on the label and avoid overapplication of any product. For proper disinfection, the surface should be visibly wet, but not completely soaked, for the duration of the contact time. 

    You can read Vital Oxide’s full label here

  • Be Cautious with Products that Contain Harsh Chemicals 
  • Conventional cleaners and disinfectant products often contain harsh chemicals (for example, bleach and ammonia), so it’s important to take precautions. Conventional disinfecting and cleaning products can contain a host of harmful chemicals that can affect our respiratory systems and trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. A recent study found that prolonged exposure to conventional cleaning products is as dangerous as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

    Vital Oxide does not contain any harsh chemicals. In fact, our active ingredient, stabilized chlorine dioxide (CLO2), has long been used to purify drinking water. Vital Oxide is non-irritating to the skin and non-corrosive to treated articles. It’s also an NSF certified (no rinse required) food contact surface sanitizer and kills 99.999% of bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria in less than 60 seconds.

  • Never Mix Products 
  • As we discussed at length here, never mix cleaning products! The outcome could be extremely dangerous (potentially even deadly). The best-case scenario when mixing products? One product could simply neutralize another, causing it to be ineffective. 

  • Store Products Safely 
  • Every day, over 300 children in the U.S. are treated in an emergency department for poisoning, including from ingesting household solutions. Keep lids tightly closed and always store cleaning and disinfecting products out of reach of children and pets. And if you make your own cleaning products, or if you dilute products, always label the containers so that it’s clear what’s in them, too. 

    At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer our revolutionary disinfectant that is powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals. Learn more about the science behind our product, as well as tons of great tips on cleaning, disinfecting, and more. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. No question is too small. We’re all in this together and we're here to help.
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