Disinfectant Spray Cleaning

Effective disinfectant spray cleaning is not as simple as 'spray and wipe' - no matter what the advertising images seem to communicate. If you are a user of commercial disinfectants, please read the following information:

Disinfecting is the use of products in order to eliminate as many pathogens from the cleaning surface as possible. This is primarily accomplished through the use of chemicals, although they are no longer the only option.

If you watch any TV commercial you get the idea that disinfecting a surface effectively is as easy as a little spray or wet-wipe, that you just wipe across the surface and you're done. Not so. In fact, most TV commercials will tell you the truth in small print across the bottom of the screen, but it's often hard to read.

Disinfectant Cleaning - The Truth

The truth of disinfectant spray cleaning is this: all chemicals that claim to disinfect or to be antibacterial have a 'contact period' - that means that they need to stay wet on the surface for a specific amount of time in order to kill pathogens effectively. For chemical products, the contact period can range from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the product.

The other things that you are not told is that most chemical disinfectants are both environmentally toxic and bad for human health. Don't forget, they are designed to kill living organisms, and can't tell the difference between 'good' ones and 'bad' ones. Because of this - it is imperative that you follow the instructions on the label carefully. If it says that the vapors can hurt you - wear an N95 mask, and airtight goggles if you have sensitive eyes. If it says wear rubber gloves - do it - toxins can pass through your skin.

Disinfectant Chemical Contact Periods

Chlorine Bleach, - diluted according to label directions

Needs 5 minutes contact timeEffective against bacteria and viruses, acts as a deodorizerRapidly inactivated by organic material (use on a pre-cleaned surface only)

CAUTION: produces carcinogenic by-products

Phenols - normally available in commercial strength cleaners, not what you buy in the grocery store

Needs 10 minutes contact timeEffective against many bacteria, fungi, and some virusesDoes not work well in the presence of organic material (use on a pre-cleaned surface only)

CAUTION: Mildly corrosive to skin and lungs. Long term exposure can cause damage to heart, kidney, liver and nervous system.

Quaternary ammonium compounds - combo cleaner and disinfectant

Needs 10 minute contact timeEffective against many bacteria, some viruses, but not against spores or fungi

CAUTION: Can irritate skin, mucous membranes and lungs


Need 20-30 minutes contact time, but often evaporates before that time has been reached

CAUTION: May cause irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, may cause central nervous system depression if inhaled or ingested

Pine Oil

Needs 30 minutes contact timeNot effective in killing pathogens, but good for cleaning

CAUTION: Can irritate skin, mucous membranes and lungs

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