Understanding Disinfection Terminology

Wise Cleaning OwlDisinfectants play a major role in the professional cleaning industry. They are not only used in healthcare settings, but in schools, offices as well as large and small public facilities. However, unlike other cleaning products, disinfectants have their own terms and terminology. Here we sort through the jargon and list some common disinfectant-related terms and what they mean.Disinfection efficacy: Lists the pathogens that are killed properly by using the disinfectant. This is approved by Health Canada (DIN), or in the U.S., Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If a pathogen is not stated on the label the product cannot claim to kill it, nor should anyone assume kill claims. The more claims on the label, the better the disinfectant as it has a more broad ability to disinfect. If you require a disinfectant with a specific kill claim make sure it is stated on the label.

Contact time required: Sometimes referred to as dwell time, this means the amount of time the product must remain wet on a surface for the active ingredients to be effective.

Parts per million (ppm): Disinfectants are considered to be effective if the ppm is above 300-350. More effective disinfectant concentrates are designed to yield almost twice that amount. The easiest way to calculate ppm is by taking the total percentage of all active disinfectant agents multiplied by the number of ounces needed per gallon. This number is then divided by 128 and then multiplied by 10,000. As soils and pathogens are introduced to the solution the ppm decreases. For rooms, a rule of thumb is 0.5 ppm per square foot cleaned with a mop and bucket. The greater the ppm, the better the disinfectant.

Cleaning efficacy: The cleaning efficacy of a disinfectant refers to its ability to clean. Some disinfectants are not designed to clean (be used as a cleaner or to be used to first pre-clean the surface prior to applying it or another disinfectant). To determine the product’s cleaning efficacy, it is important to carefully read product labels. In general, the greater the cleaning efficacy of a disinfectant, the better.

Cost in use: This refers to the actual costs associated with using a product and is determined by analyzing the cost of using the solution after dilution. The proper disinfectant to implement should be matched to the required protocols to keep costs minimized. At times a product may have different dilution rates for different kill claims or for cleaning, so it is important to calculate the cost in use for all the different applications.

Common Disinfectants in Use

Chlorine: A very useful germicide when used on clean surfaces. It is quickly inhibited by any dirt or extraneous material and has therefore, been used more often for the sanitation of glasses and dishware in kitchens than as a general disinfectant throughout a hospital or institution.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds: Generally referred to as “quats,” these disinfectants have a broad spectrum of biocidal activity, strong detergent action and relatively low level of toxicity. Quats have broad spectrum biocidal activity against A and B groups of organisms, with the exception of tuberculosis.

Phenolics: These are germicides for floors, walls and furniture. They are effective against A and B groups of organisms. Phenol compounds used as disinfectants are caustic and irritating and have a distinctive odour.

Pine Oil Compounds: Are widely used because of their heavy pine odour. They are good disinfectants, but have the great disadvantage of being ineffective against staphylococcus.

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