How Important is Surface Disinfection In The Fight Against Pathogens?

Germs are a part of everyday life. Some of them are helpful, but others, known as pathogens, are harmful and can cause disease. Germs, both good and bad, can be found everywhere – they’re on our skin and inside our bodies. They’re also on the surfaces and objects all around us. Sometimes, pathogens can spread to us and make us sick. For instance, there could be disease-causing germs on a doorknob, cellphone, or kitchen countertop. You could become infected if you touch the contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Targeted hygiene practices like surface disinfection have long been an essential strategy in the battle against dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, cold and flu viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), H1N1, and most recently, SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Numerous studies have shown that the disinfection of surfaces is a preventive and strategic method to contain the spread of harmful germs. 

The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting 

While these three actions are often (incorrectly) used synonymously, there are distinct definitions of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces in homes, schools, and public places. Understanding the difference is essential for correct disinfection. These definitions are set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to define the level of microbial contamination left on a surface after treatment. 

Cleaning is the process of removing visible debris, dirt, and dust and organizing a space. Cleaning a surface uses soap or detergent and, usually, water to remove soil and germs through chemical (cleaner), mechanical (scrubbing), and thermal (water temperature) action.

Cleaning may or may not kill bacteria and germs, but it will dilute their numbers and aid in lowering the risk of spreading infectious microbes.

Sanitizing means reducing germ colonies down to a less dangerous 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 to lower the risk of contamination or spreading infection. Sanitizing is particularly important in food preparation areas, where germs and fungi can cause foodborne illnesses.

Disinfecting means killing all applicable bacteria and viruses on a hard, nonporous surface to an EPA-designated, extremely low tolerance. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces and requires a pre-cleaning step to remove dirt and grime build-up before disinfection to allow complete contact with the disinfectant. A surface looks much the same after cleaning and disinfecting, but it is much freer of invisible pathogens after that second step.  

It’s important to note that the EPA regulates the term “disinfecting.” To be registered as a disinfectant, the product must undergo significant antimicrobial testing and meet rigorous germ-killing standards. 

Related: Are You Disinfecting Correctly? 3 Important Steps for Effective Disinfect Use 

Combating the Coronavirus with Surface Disinfection

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in countless ways. We’re probably all more aware than ever of viral infection risks and have made adjustments in our daily lives to minimize these. As of the end of April 2021, more than 202 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S, but the pandemic isn't over yet as new variants continue to emerge and spread across the country. While the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mainly transmitted through person-to-person contact, it can persist on surfaces from minutes to days. How long a virus remains viable on a surface depends on the environment, including factors such as temperature and the initial amount of virus initially deposited on the surface. 

Research has shown that households, where one person had COVID-19, did have lower transmission rates when surfaces in the home were cleaned and disinfected. Disinfectants like Vital Oxide are used to speed up and ensure virus destruction. 

The Importance of Dwell Times 

We’ve gone over this topic here, but it’s an important one for effective surface disinfection. In short, dwell time (also known as “kill time” or “contact time”) is the amount of time needed for a given disinfectant to destroy specific pathogens on hard, nonporous surfaces. Dwell times are listed in the use directions on disinfectant product labels

Unfortunately, the crucial role of time may be overlooked by consumers who do not read or have difficulty reading or understanding the use directions. However, simply spraying a surface with disinfectant solution and immediately wiping it away can reduce its effectiveness because it has not had sufficient time to work. Disinfectants registered with the EPA must document evidence of their effectiveness when applied according to label use directions. If the product label claims “Kills 99.9% of germs,” consumers can be confident of this result if (and only if) they follow the product’s use directions carefully. Without the correct dwell time, the disinfection method may be ineffective. And that matters greatly when it’s us against the invisible enemy.

Final Thoughts

If you're dealing with potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, you'll need to disinfect the surfaces, not just clean them. The product you use to disinfect is equally important as using the correct surface disinfection method. Our product, Vital Oxide, is unique in that it is effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria and viruses. Vital Oxide also has the advantage of being an all-in-one product, as it can be used to clean, sanitize, and disinfect a wide range of surfaces.

At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary disinfectant powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals. Follow us on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial) for more great cleaning and disinfecting tips. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help.
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