Clean Before You Disinfect
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend a simple but critical process: Clean before you Disinfect. Cleaning is often overlooked in most press coverage but it is critically important for two primary reasons:
- Cleaning eliminates organic matter, soil, molds, body fluids and skin oils, that reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants and sanitizers.
- Cleaning reduces the number of viral particles, speeding the disinfecting process.
Disinfectants & Sanitizers are ineffective on dirty hands & surfaces
Prior Studies have shown that disinfectants and sanitizers are ineffective in the presence of organic matter, such as dirt, skin oils and more. “The efficacy of all disinfectants is affected, to different degrees, by organic material. Thus, it is essential to clean surfaces with a detergent and water before applying a disinfectant.” (World Health Organization)
During the 2011 Norovirus pandemic, healthcare workers who relied solely upon hand sanitizers were 6 times as likely to get the norovirus than those you used soap and water. In the follow-up study to that pandemic, the CDC found that even though hand sanitizers killed the virus, they did not clean hands. Virus particles remained on the hand protected by dirt and skin oil that hand sanitizer was not able to breakdown.
What is clear to people in the cleaning chemical business is that disinfectants are not a magic potion.
Improve Your Understanding
Disinfectants and sanitizing agents are not magic wands. You cannot simply spray them on and wipe them off. Disinfectant chemicals are tested and registered for their ability to destroy a bacteria and virus when a sample virus or bacteria is submerged in a contain of disinfectant. The submersion is tested in various durations up to 20 minutes. In fact, over-the-counter disinfectants direct to leave the disinfectant on the surface for 10 minutes before rinsing.
In the illustration at the right we see a magnified view of a surface. Commonly touched surfaces like doors and door knob, hand rails, cell phones, computer keyboards, steering wheel, for example would have a combination of dirt, skin oils, bacteria, pollen and in some cases viruses. Importantly, had this images been to scale, 10,000 virus particles would fit at the end of one of the pointers.
Disinfectants and sanitizers can only reach the bacteria and viruses on the top. Many bacteria, viruses and allergens become imbedded in mucus, skin oils, dirt, even blood. These embedded virus particles create a continuing infection risk even after using a disinfectant.
What to do? The recommendations are clear to use soap and water before sanitizing whether its your hands or surfaces around your home. Understand that “Soap” is not necessarily hand soap or dish soap. The word “Soap” comes from a chemical reaction saponification, that “Soap” products have on fats. But contaminants that can harbor virus particles and bacteria, as we see above, are frequently not fats, including organic matter, like dirt and mold, or protein matter, like food spills, blood, insect and animal waste. As you’ve probably experienced soap can clean some of these substances but not all. To effectively clean a surface, you should use a cleaner that can both saponify and emulsify oils. One that can denature protein chains. And one that can breakdown organic matter.
Every product in the CWP ProSeries line of products have a proprietary blend of cleaners that remove fats and oil, all types of organic and protein matter. For more information. visit our Science Page.