The Illusion of Killing Germs
“I am going to need a case of (spray disinfectant) to avoid the flu germs!” I recently saw this comment from a friend that was faced with a case of the flu spreading through the house. I always cringe when I hear people say this out of desperation.
Avoiding and fighting the spread of germs is a subject that, as many of you know, puts me on edge. While many blindly have faith in the brand name products to protect the health of their families and employee’s, they don’t realize how under-informed they are about how their use. Just like any type of “bug” killer or medication, if not used correctly, can have counter productive and dangerous results.
As I talk about in “Do You Read Chemical Labels?” the correct information is right there on the bottle or can. These are often overlooked because of the evasive marketing message that makes users believe these products can kill germs with a quick spritz or wipe down, while the directions tell a much different story.
The False Hope From Germ Killing Products
Since the E.P.A. sets the process for any product that claims to kill germs, the correct methods are kind of set in stone. There really isn’t any way around this for the product manufactures. Disinfecting and Sanitizing are absolutes. Either you killed the germs or you didn’t.
Although killing germs should be a part of the process, the real goal should be to remove the food sources for the bacteria, or clean surfaces. A single bacterium can reproduce than a million bacteria in less than an hour.
The killing properties of disinfectant and sanitizer products are only a few minutes once they are applied to surfaces.
Germs need a food source which can be any organic matter such as soil, dust, body oils, and yes, dead bacteria. So when you kill them, but don’t remove them by cleaning, you are opening up the flood gates for the germs to feast on the buffet of their dead predecessors.
This is compounded by the sticky film left behind by these germ killing products.
When soils and other organic matter comes in contact with them, they trap and hold them.
There they sit waiting for the bacteria (germs) to arrive and start the whole process over again.
How To Actually Fight Germs and Disinfect Surfaces
The best practice for avoiding the spread of germs is to focus on cleaning. By removing soils and films from hard surfaces, you will be preventing the bacteria from multiplying.
Remove the food source, no germs. They simply cannot survive.
Cleaning properly will dramatically reduce the spread of illnesses such as influenza and other surface and air borne illnesses.
The steps for properly disinfecting hard surfaces are as follows:
- Follow the directions on the disinfectant.
- Clean surfaces to remove any soils, preferably with a microfiber cloth and general purpose cleaning solution.
- Apply disinfectant to the surface in the manor and dilution recommended on the disinfectant label. (This includes bleach!
- Allow the surface to air dry. In most cases a disinfectant will require a 10 minute dwell time, but again, follow the directions on the product label.
Make Sure You Aren’t Wasting Valuable Time
Any time there is an outbreak of the flu, local news does a story on how schools are “disinfecting the entire school.” This always makes me cringe because in the short 10 second clip they show the custodian spraying and wiping down desks and walls.
In that short time, I can already tell they are really wasting time.
Simply spraying and wiping a desk may work for removing pencil marks and dried glue, but in most cases they are not killing germs in the most effective way possible.
As stated above, the label will give you step-by-step directions to kill the germs on surfaces. But it has to be followed. Doing any different will just leave the surface potentially more unhealthy that before.
READ THE LABEL.