Cleaning is all the rage now. For those who have been at home for months on end, spring cleaning has taken on a new meaning. But cleaning for a healthy environment to remove potentially harmful pathogens is a bit more detailed. And maybe you aren’t doing as well as you think on that forefront. Take some time to sit a spell and read about dwell times below.
What is a dwell time? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines dwell time as, “the amount of time that a sanitizer or disinfectant must be in contact with the surface, and remain wet, in order to achieve the product’s advertised kill rate.” Different disinfectants target a wide array of different pathogens. The surfaces these pathogens inhabit also vary greatly. For best results, professional cleaners must know the target pathogens and the corresponding dwell times. Some products may have dwell times of only seconds, while others may require up to 10 minutes or more before they achieve the desired pathogenic control.
The days of spray on, wipe off and walk away that we are all to familiar with are gone. If we think about how we have done that on our own kitchen counter or watched the bus boy at our favorite restaurant spray and wipe our booth in record time, we might be surprised why no one mentioned this before. How do we know how long to leave our spray on the surface and why isn’t this public knowledge before now?
If you are using an EPA-registered disinfectant, the product label will contain the dilution and dwell-time information along with other critical safety information. For example, reading the label on that container of Clorox wipes you were able to find recently is probably not something you have ever done. But take a moment to see what information is given.
First, it tells you that using this product in a manner that it was not intended for is a violation.
Second, it tells you to wipe the surface clean and let it air dry.
Finally, for those stubborn or extra dirty areas, it tells you to use enough of the product to make the surface visibly wet for 4 minutes and let the surface air dry.
4 minutes for a wet wipe—who knew! This information will certainly make dinner time clean up look differently. An now expand that to the cleaning we need to do to help prevent pathogens like coronavirus.
In reality, the best cleaning process includes a bit more diligence. You should first clean and remove unwanted soils from the surface(s) using a cleaning solution with a microfiber cloth. This will help to remove potential microbial harborage areas. Then, you apply a disinfecting solution to the surface(s) while adhering to the manufacturer recommendations for dilution, safety, and dwell time. In the event your surface is still wet after the recommended dwell time, you can remove the solution with a wet/dry vacuum or microfiber.
But there is something else to consider also. If you need to clean something more than a table top or kitchen counter and you want to disinfect your entire dining room or bathroom, you should work from top to bottom using the cleaning process described above for maximum efficacy. Using the dry to wet cleaning process from the top of the room or environment to the floors will ensure you are not contaminating an area just cleaned by mistake. It’s a simple process really—it will take more time that you are used to, but it is not complicated:
- dry to wet
- cleaner and disinfectant
- top to bottom
Finally, the tools you use to clean are just as important as the cleaning solution and the methodology to cleaning.
A pressure sprayer is an excellent tool for applying chemical disinfectants. These allow cleaning solutions to be applied to small and large areas faster. There are also sprayers made specifically for foaming solutions, which can be very effective for use with vertical surfaces that require dwell time.
Wear reusable or disposable gloves for routine cleaning and disinfection. This will not only protect your hands from the chemicals used but also keep your skin free contamination. Consider eye protection to avoid splash hazards.
If you are using wiping cloths or scrub brushes, be sure to either properly dispose of or clean and disinfect those items when you are done so they will be ready for the next time.
Ensure adequate ventilation. Inhaling the fumes from these various chemicals can cause great harm.
Do not use more than the recommended amount on the label. This goes back to the first direction on the package about using the product in a manner it was not intended for. Just because you think your surface is ‘extra dirty’ doesn’t mean you should use twice the amount recommended.
Along those same lines, avoid mixing chemical products. There is no reason that one should use something like bleach and Clorox wipes together. The potential chemical reaction from 2 different products could be deadly.
Finally, make sure your chemical products are labeled appropriately and stored out of the reach of children and pets and in an appropriate climate.
Not cleaning surfaces correctly only puts you, your family and your guests/clients at risk. And, not allowing for the appropriate dwell time will affect the results, reducing the number of bacteria that are killed. This extra time can be a challenge, but the results are what should drive the behaviour.