Why Disinfectants Aren't Effective

Updated: May 5

Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, it's more important than ever to develop a habit of practicing proper personal hygiene and maintaining a clean environment. Although it's still unclear if COVID-19, which is caused by the new coronavirus that is called SARS-CoV-2, 

can survive on soft surfaces such as fabric, health officials believe the virus can survive for several days on hard surfaces such as countertops and door handles.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all surfaces be disinfected on a routine basis. But disinfectant by itself will have little or no effect. The surfaces have to be thoroughly cleaned before a disinfectant is used. And this also goes for your hands. Simply using a disinfectant spray is not enough. You need to wash your hands often, especially if you believe you have touched a contaminated surface. Hand sanitizers don't remove dirt and this will allow germs to hide and remain on your hands.


And this brings us to why it's important to clean surfaces before using a disinfectant.


By cleaning, you are using agents and tools to remove particles such as dirt, food, feces, blood, saliva, animal dander, dead skins and other body secretions, from various surfaces, according to Quality Compliance Systems. With the right amount of friction and fluids, you're reducing and, in some cases, removing the organic matter that contributes to the growth of bacteria and viruses.


And, "By cleaning you will remove particles of dirt that could shelter the viruses and prevent them from being killed by the disinfectant," according to Cindy Weinbaum with the

CDC.


So if soil is left to dry onto a material or surface, the disinfecting or sanitizing process will be weakened or ineffective.

Therefore, it's only after the surface or material has been cleaned by rubbing or scrubbing, wiping or mopping with the appropriate solution, that it's time to bring out the disinfectant.


Through the process of disinfection, you can destroy or remove most pathogenic microorganisms on surfaces. Disinfectants, which are chosen for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, are used to kill these microorganisms by destroying their cell walls or interfering with their metabolism. So, in cases where you can't readily get to soap and water to wash your hands, the CDC recommends using a sanitizer that contains more than sixty percent alcohol.


Still, not all disinfectants are created equal and some won't necessarily kill all microorganisms, especially resistant bacterial spores. In those cases, sterilization may be required.


Through sterilization, which is often accomplished with various methods such as chemicals, high pressure or heat, you can destroy all forms of life, including transmissible agents such as viruses, spores, bacteria and fungi.


So while, health officials agree that the most popular way the virus spread is from person to person, they admit it can also be spread by someone touching an affected object or surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Therefore, frequently touched surfaces such as bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. The CDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest using a disinfectant with at least seventy percent alcohol. But be warned, they also suggest using other products that can be damaging to your health.


In a comprehensive study published by the EPA on green cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, health officials and educators looked at how commercial cleaning products and disinfectants were harmful to people's health and the environment.


"Many people mistakenly think that if a cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting product is sold to the public it has been reviewed and proven safe by government agencies," according to the study published in 2013. But while the EPA requires that the products do what their labels state, the registration review does not evaluate all possible health risks to consumers.


As a result, many consumers are using cleaning and disinfecting products that contain chemicals that affect the air quality in their home and can cause or trigger health problems such as asthma. For example, 11 percent of people with work-related asthma in California connected their asthma to cleaning and disinfecting products, according to the study. Most of them never had asthma before inhaling the chemicals in these products. And some were simply bystanders who were not working directly with these chemicals.


To find natural alternatives to cleaning and disinfecting your home, visit Nature Kleen's website where we provide easy to use recipes to develop your own disinfectants or choose from the products we have available in our store.


In an upcoming blog, we will look at the areas, objects and surfaces that should be routinely cleaned and disinfected in each room of your home.





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