Only Sanitize, Disinfect High-touch Surfaces
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BY Ronnie Garrett
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The cleaning industry is beginning to move away from products that kill germs when it might not be necessary, such as antibacterial soaps. Although sanitizers and disinfectants are still industry staples, their heavy use is also being questioned.
“It’s my opinion, and the opinion of many others, that as a culture we are using way too many disinfectants and sanitizers,” he says.
Moody agrees, adding that microrganisms can become stronger when regularly exposed to disinfectants.
“It’s very much like how antibiotics became less effective against superbugs,” he says. “It was because we were using them too much.”
This phenomenon has required many operations to change the way they are cleaning, says Heller, noting the industry is starting to move away from disinfecting as matter of course.
“If a surface is truly clean, you then only need to disinfect high-touch or high-germ exposure areas,” he says.
Years ago, many hospitals would clean a surface then disinfect it automatically, says Griffin. Today, cleaning operations only disinfect in critical areas where there are bodily fluids or blood present, or in areas where certain medical procedures can lead to a higher risk of infection.
As a general rule, says Moody, janitors can apply a general-purpose cleaner 95 percent of the time, and then use a disinfectant on high-touch surfaces and restroom floors.
“They don’t need to mop a lobby floor with a disinfectant; a neutral cleaner would be fine there,” he says. “But when cleaning bathrooms, where there can be E. coli, excrement or urine on the floor, a disinfectant should be used. In those areas, a general all-purpose cleaner is not going to give any confidence that the organisms were killed.”
But remember, says Heller, that even in those cases, a general-purpose cleaner must be still be used first to remove dirt and debris. Disinfecting sprays are not meant to be used for that initial cleaning.
“They are bug killers,” he says. “Effective cleaning will rarely be reached with a bug killer.”
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