I am known to brag about my super immune system to my friends and family, because I hardly ever get sick! Perhaps it’s because my company’s products prevent infections and I am constantly disinfecting my work space and washing my hands. My husband on the other hand seems to catch a bug every other month and he never fails to do the famous “Google” search of his symptoms to diagnose what it is exactly that he has instead of making a trip to the doctor’s office (which happens to be only 5 minutes away!). When doing his Google search, he is asked to check off the listed symptoms that he is experiencing and is then directed to a plethora of possible illnesses he may have from the common cold to a collapsed lung. Today I hope to act as your Google search and help you identify if your disinfectant has symptoms of Disinfection Dysfunction. However, instead of giving you an abundance of possible dysfunctions that just leave you more confused and concerned, we will narrow your disinfectant’s symptoms down to 4 possible dysfunctions: 1) Safety Indifference Syndrome, 2) Dwell Time Disease, 3) Label Deficit Disorder and 4) Cross Contamination Conundrum.
Question 1: Is your disinfectant safe for users and the environment?
If it isn’t, then your disinfectant is suffering from Safety Indifference Syndrome. Some disinfectants may pose a health risk to users, patients and the environment. When looking into the safety profile of disinfectants I always refer to the Safety Data Sheet to identify if the product will cause any possible harm or injury to me or the environment. Consider chemistries that don’t compromise safety for germicidal efficacy such as Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® (AHP®). AHP® is non-toxic and non-irritating at the in-use concentration. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water and leaves no toxic residues behind making it environmentally preferred. Using a disinfectant with a preferred safety profile will increase user compliance as users won’t be afraid to use the product!
Question 2: Does your disinfectant dry before it’s time?
If your disinfectant can’t stay wet long enough on the surface to reach it’s required contact time, then your disinfectant has symptoms of Dwell Time Disease. Unfortunately, many disinfectants evaporate before achieving disinfection, leaving surface vulnerable to harmful pathogens. Avoid chemistries that are known to evaporate quickly such as alcohols or chemistries that have unrealistically long contact times such as QUATs. Instead, consider chemistries that are fast acting and have superior wettability such as AHP®. A 2010 study by Omidbakhsh compared the efficacy of 7 different disinfectant chemistries at their drying time (length of time the surface took to dry after an application) versus the approved label contact time and associated product efficacy. The study revealed that AHP® was the only chemistry that not only reached its required contact time and achieved the efficacy noted on the label but its wet dwell time exceeded the contact time listed on the label! Using disinfectants that stay wet for the required contact time will increase product compliance.
Question 3: Does your disinfectant’s label have misleading claims?
If you answered yes, or are unsure if your disinfectant can do what it says, your disinfectant has symptoms of Label Deficit Disorder. Some disinfectants have labels that are ambiguous, and you might be asking yourself “how can I tell if my disinfectant’s label is misleading”? Due diligence is required to effectively select disinfectants to meet regulatory compliance. Therefore, look for products whose claims can be verified by third party testing and validation. For example, many disinfectants claim to be “green” however are not backed by third party certifications such as EcoLogo, DfE, Green Seal and/or Green Guard.
Question 4: Does your disinfectant contribute to cross contamination?
This might be the hardest symptom to diagnose, but it’s possible that your disinfectant has Cross Contamination Conundrum. Some disinfectants or the cleaning substrates used to clean can transfer pathogens from surface to surface during the cleaning and disinfection process. Disinfectants that inhibit cross contamination prevent outbreaks and aid in protocol compliance. In a recent study by Sattar and Kibbee et al, several commercially available disinfectant wipes were tested to see if they transferred pathogens to clean surfaces. AHP® was the only technology that was able to prevent cross contamination.
The truth is, finding the perfect disinfectant is not easy. However, using criteria such as I’ve discussed above as part of your investigation when selecting a disinfectant will help you to make a more holistic decision. Disinfectants should be safe for users and the environment, should not have misleading or ambiguous labels or claims, should have realistic contact times and superior wettability and finally, should not cross contaminate. How would you diagnose your disinfectant? Are you willing to join me in preventing Disinfection Dysfunction?