Housecleaning Cleaners and Disinfectants

If it's 'cleaned' it's disinfected - right?

That depends...

I am not an advocate of 100% disinfection of all hard surfaces in the home. I believe that our homes can be so clean that we are never exposed to enough pathogens to strengthen our immune systems. There is also mounting evidence that disinfecting with chemicals is the major contributor to the development of super bugs. bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, such as MRSA and c-Difficile.

When you read housecleaning product labels you will see that some call themselves 'cleaners', some say they 'clean and disinfect', and some just 'disinfect'. It's important to know the difference and to read any product warning label


Cleaners can be relied on to do one thing - and that's remove dirt. Although a portion of pathogens may get picked up along with the dirt, they don't kill germs, and so they cannot claim to disinfect. If you want to disinfect your surface using chemicals, you need to follow a cleaner with a straight disinfectant product.

Cleaners that disinfect too This is your one-step housecleaning chemical cleaner and disinfectant. These are a bit trickier to use than single purpose products, because we assume that the disinfecting gets taken care of as we wipe the surface clean. In fact, these products need to remain wet on the surface for a period of time so that the disinfectant is able to do it's job.

Read the labels carefully to find out how long the product must remain wet on the surface to disinfect thoroughly. For many products, including those disinfecting wipes that are so popular today, the surface needs to stay wet for 10-15 minutes. (the question I have with wipes is - since they leave only a small amount of liquid behind - is it even possible for the surface to stay sufficiently wet the required amount of time?) Check out Disinfectant Cleaning for more information on the contact time required for different chemicals.

Straight Disinfectants Straight disinfectants, bleach is a commonly used one, are to be used on hard surfaces that have already been cleaned. They do not work well if the surface is still dirty. Therefore they are always step two; clean, then disinfect.

Read the labels carefully for safety instructions, and follow them! Chemical disinfectants are classified as 'pesticides' and are generally among the most toxic of the products found in the average household cleaning arsenal. For the sake of your own health, if you feel you must use them, treat with respect.

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