Let's Clear Things Up - Top Disinfectant Myths
Truthfully, it's never been as simple as we thought.
The cleaning industry is huge, and historically there has been no real shortage of cleaning supplies (this year is a bit of a different story, though). There are countless products on shelves, and it still seems like there's a new wonder formula every week.
We've all heard claims about super-effective aerosol sprays, incredibly convenient kitchen wipes - all perfectly "safe to use" around kids and pets.
Would you believe me if I told you some of these claims are a little bit misleading? Don't throw your Clorox wipes in the trash just yet, though.
Read on to clear the air surrounding 5 of the largest myths, or misconceptions, about the products most of us use daily in homes and workplaces.
Myth #1: Clean = Disinfected
These two words are seemingly interchangeable. Most of us probably assume that they mean the same thing. However, Webster defines the term "disinfected" as...
No, we're not pulling out a dictionary. The difference between the two terms is simple, actually.
Stated plainly, “clean” here means “doesn’t look or smell dirty”.
That’s why moms praise their kids for a bedroom that looks clean or smells nice. The concept of clean is superficial. However, viral pathogens are too small to be seen with our own eyes, so even though a surface looks free of germs, that doesn't mean they aren't still there.
Consider this: Would you eat off of a clean-looking floor? Or a gleaming toilet seat?
Disinfection is the act of destroying viruses, bacteria, and other microbes on a given surface, more often than not by way of chemical products such as Lysol, Clorox, etc. These products also leave your surfaces looking clean.
So all disinfectants clean, while not all cleaners disinfect? Exactly.
Until the global pandemic made everyone reconsider their cleaning routines, most folks grabbed whatever was cheapest and smelled best. However, since all products do not work the same, we have to be a bit more intentional with the way we keep our surroundings clean and free of germs and bacteria.
Myth #2: Safe = Non-Toxic
Similarly, people hear the phrases "safe" and "non-toxic" and think that they are roughly the same. The same logic we used in the first tip can be applied here. Something that is marketed as non-toxic would also be safe for use around people, right?
People are attracted to these types of safe solutions. In the cleaning industry, this is especially true. Should you find yourself in the market for a product that's tough on germs, it would be nice to know that the solution was also perfectly safe for use around your kids and the lazy lapdog.
So, when I'm told a product is "safe for use" does that mean it's non-toxic?
One of these terms is intentionally vague, while the other means something specific and carries much more weight in the science community. Can you guess which is which? Marketers want you to put those two dots together to make you feel better about buying certain products. It makes sense – and drives sales.
However, should you be on the lookout for a truly safe formula, it’s important to understand the difference between the two terms.
Non-toxic products, also called “green cleaners”, are free of harsh chemicals. You won’t have to worry about lung or skin damage because non-toxic formulas have gentler cleansers in them such as hydrogen peroxide or citric acid. Plant-derived solutions are safe and popular choices among green home cleaners, such as these. Most traditional cleaners are less gentle than their non-toxic alternatives. Chlorine bleach is common in many of these products chemicals used to destroy germs, though it’s not uncommon to see other chemicals such as formaldehyde listed as active ingredients
Chemical-heavy solutions could potentially be damaging for you and those around you. Poison control calls have been on the rise during this pandemic due to overexposure from excessive disinfection.
This overexposure could lead to respiratory complications, skin irritations, headaches, allergic reactions, and more!
Certain combinations of chemicals like bleach and ammonia could lead to serious injuries or even death. Be sure not to mix too many store-bought products or home solutions.
Once again, it’s important to read your labels here. If you are looking for a gentle product to use around your home, look for specifically labeled non-toxic formulas.
Myth #3: The Ninety-nine Percent Claim
“Kills over 99.5% of germs!” “Effective on over 99% of bacteria!” “Guaranteed 99.9% effective!”
We’ve all seen these phrases, and while they are pretty straightforward, the meaning underneath is a bit less simple. Of course, disinfectants with claims like these certainly do kill a lot of bacteria. However, in order to really understand what these claims mean, we have to ask another question:
What kinds of germs does this product kill?
Not every product you buy will be effective against the same germs. Some are best for cold and flu viruses, such as common disinfectant wipes. Others work better on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and superbugs that appear more often in healthcare settings.
When disinfectants claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria, this often applies only to the specific pathogens listed on the back label. Imagine that: advertisements on the front label, and explanations on the back in tiny print.
So, those wipes might kill 99.9% of certain viruses, while some other strains remain.
Now, this doesn’t mean that your home disinfection routine is lacking – just know that when you see a brand claiming “99.99% effectiveness against germs”, you’ll want to double check the types of germs it kills so you aren’t misled.
The takeaway here is that cleaning products are all different. Active ingredients and concentrations vary from brand to brand. The same way that certain cleaners work better on glass surfaces vs. wood surfaces or textiles vs. stainless steel, each disinfectant uses chemicals that have limited scopes.
So for whatever area in your home or office you are looking to keep clean, read the back labels for more detailed information so you know that you are making the best decision for yourself.
Looking for a solution that actually does help protect against the vast majority of viruses, bacteria, fungi, mold and more? Give your local Microbial Solutions Unlimited agent a call at (314) 356-9990!
Myth #4: Quick, Convenient Works
One big factor which is used to sell disinfectants is convenience. Nearly everything we need can be purchased or found online in some fashion in just a few minutes. We’ve all gotten used to this sort of instant gratification.
So why should cleaning be any different? After all, it’s such a chore. The reality is that virtually no home cleaning products that work instantly. Well, there might be a few… though we can’t say for sure whether or not they would be totally safe for use around people and pets.
Better safe than sorry – let’s stick to safer, more conventional methods.
Disinfection is not instant. More often than not, a quick wipe with Clorox or spray down with Lysol leaves much of the bacteria unaffected. This is due to a factor called dwell time.
Disinfectants need a chance to dwell on your surfaces - this means soaking your surfaces thoroughly and letting it sit. Be it a countertop, sink, doorknob or otherwise, whatever you want to clean needs to be saturated in the formula.
Then, before wiping dry with a towel the solutions needs to soak for up to ten minutes allowing the disinfectant can work its magic. There are products out there that act more quickly – some can effectively limit certain strains of the flu in as little as 30 seconds!
This required wait-time before wiping your surfaces dry is called dwell time. Proper dwell time guidelines are listed on the back of every cleaning product - follow them closely and you should have no problem keeping your home or office clean as can be.
Myth #5: This May Seem a Little Obvious…
This last tip is less of a myth-buster and more of an observation. But it needs to be said.
Clean and disinfect every day. At home, at the office, wherever people gather.
Gone are the days of old, when a once-a-week swipe through the bathroom on Sunday before the matinee was good enough. We need more consistent routines at home to stay well and protect those around us who we care about most.
No need to go overboard! Just be more intention with our routine. Make a mental note of where you spend most of your time at home or work (such as bathrooms, breakrooms, kitchens, or waiting areas). Take your preferred aerosol, wipe, scrub or spray and hit any place that gets a lot of physical interaction – in the disinfection industry, these are called touch points.
Common touch points include:
· Light switches, thermostats, pull strings on blinds or curtains
· Doorknobs, drawer handles, handrails, and elevator buttons
· Bathroom - sinks, toilets, hand dryers and bath tissue dispensers
· Kitchens – countertops, dining tables, fridge handles, microwave buttons
· Shared workstations, computers, coffee makers
· TV remotes and other similar devices
Viruses can survive for days at a time on these surfaces. Don’t give them that chance.
It takes only a few minutes out of our days to clean touchpoints once or twice. For heavy traffic areas, those few extra minutes could make all the difference in protecting those around us, especially those with compromised immune systems and other related health risks.
A Smarter, Safer, Healthier Tomorrow
Thank you for taking time to read. Share these tips or these blogs with anyone you think could use them! Arming ourselves with information is the easiest thing we can do to combat the virus and promote a safer future.
By spreading knowledge and acting quickly, we slow the spread of the virus.
Stay safe out there!