How Does Disinfectant Work?

How Does Disinfectant Work?

Since the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the way that we clean has drastically changed and it’s likely that our cleaning routines will be affected going forward too. Most people are used to using cleaning chemicals in their day to day lives, whether it’s bleach, multi-surface cleaner or something else.

The need to clean is arguably greater than it has been in recent memory, especially in commercial settings, so it’s important to know about how cleaning chemicals work and what you should look for in cleaning equipment.

Did you know that disinfectant works by killing bacteria or rendering bacteria inactive? And that sanitisers simultaneously clean and disinfect? You may also be surprised to know that disinfectants are more effective than sanitisers. Learn everything you need to know about disinfectant and hand sanitiser here.

What is bacteria?

Bacteria are single celled microbes that can be both good and bad – good bacteria can help balance digestion, and bad bacteria can cause illness. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, falls into the bad bacteria category along with other viruses.

Bacteria and viruses can be very contagious depending on the strain. So, when you look for a cleaning fluid, you should look for effective kill rate.

What is effective kill rate?

Effective kill rate is a standard used by companies to prove the efficacy of products against bacteria and viruses.

To prevent infection, the cleaning fluid should reduce the contaminated area below 10 particles to ensure protection against the virus or bacteria. To ensure that contaminated particles are disinfected thoroughly, a minimum of 5 log is required.

3 logReduces 10,000 particles to 10
4 logReduces 100,000 particles to 10
5 logReduces 1,000,000 particles to 10
6 logReduces 10,000,000 particles to 10

Typically, a minimum of 5 log is required to ensure that contaminated areas can be disinfected. Speed of effectiveness and conditions are less important than the kill rate itself as these can be dealt with on site. Nothing is more important than the effective kill rate.

Biocidal resistance

There is also the more general question of microbial resistance or tolerance. Exposure to sub-lethal concentrations of biocide can allow some species of bacteria to develop a degree of resistance or tolerance and, as biocides and antibiotics share some mechanisms of action and resistance, it is not surprising that such biocide-tolerant organisms have shown cross-resistance to antibiotics under laboratory conditions.

Although there are few, if any, cases of clinical biocide failure or significant antibiotic resistance caused by industrial biocide use, the fundamental mechanisms are the same and there have been further scientific papers recently published which reflect this concern. The over-use of biocides or microbial exposure to sub-lethal levels of same is not sensible practice and should be actively discouraged.

That’s part of the reason why effective kill rate is so important, as using sub-optimal disinfectant will not only be ineffective in the short term, it could also lead to bacteria developing biocidal resistance.

What is the best way to clean to reduce spread of bacteria?

To kill viruses and reduce the spread of bacteria, you should use safe but highly effective cleaning solutions and sanitisers, like those offered by BioHygiene. They offer some of the safest cleaning options available on the market, with products carrying a lower hazard classification than competitor equivalents.

BioHygiene replace undesirable ingredients wherever possible with eco-solvents, plant and fermentation extracts, naturally derived sustainable surfactants, and naturally occurring non-hazardous bacteria and enzymes. Their cleaning products are not only safer for the environment but for the end user as well.

When you’ve got the right disinfecting products, you can move on to the cleaning process. In terms of technique, always make sure to clean from the least infected area to the most infected area, in order to reduce the risk of wiping the bacteria around.

It’s also essential that suitable PPE, like a mask, gloves, and apron, are worn during cleaning and you should always wash your hands and arms after cleaning an infected surface. Along with washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser is the best way of making sure that you’re not harbouring bacteria on your hands after cleaning a contaminated surface.

How do hand sanitisers work?

Hand sanitiser is an alcohol-based cleaning fluid, made from either ethanol or isopropanol. It works by killing viruses and bacteria with the denaturing power of high alcohol content; however, hand sanitiser isn’t effective at killing all germs.

Healthcare professionals recommend washing hands with soap and water over hand sanitiser gel, but when running water isn’t available, hand sanitiser is a good alternative.