Disinfecting Surfaces? If You Don't Let the Cleaner Sit, You're Doing It Wrong

someone wearing green rubber gloves spraying a cleaner on a surface and rubbing it with a sponge
gorillaimages / Shutterstock

Disinfect the kitchen counter or the bathtub? Just spray Lysol or bleach – and the boom is done, right? Not so fast. In terms of disinfection, “contact time” is a critical element.

The compounds that disinfect – like alcohol, bleach and other disinfectants – all kill X biological substances on a surface for a period of time Y. The time it takes to kill microorganisms to the extent where the surface or material is considered to be disinfected or disinfected by standards bodies like the EPA and the CDC publishes is called “contact time”.

The majority of those affected by contact time are people working in restaurants, food production facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and other places where strict control of pathogens is essential. People who clean their homes should also be aware of this.

If you are trying to disinfect your home after a bad food poisoning or a stubborn skin infection (like your kids brought ringworm home from summer camp), it is essential to understand the contact time for the disinfectant you are using .

How do you know how long to leave it on the surface? If in doubt, as long as the product does not indicate that it should be removed, you can let it dry completely in place without wiping it.

If the product is labeled as a disinfectant, it must also indicate the contact time. Contact time is an essential part of the claims you see on products such as “Kill 99.9% of fungi, viruses and bacteria.” * »The asterisk always indicates the fine print that says. “When used as directed.”

If you don’t follow the contact time rules for the cleaner you use, you can’t be sure to disinfect or disinfect the surface.

For example, if you read the label on the back of the nearly ubiquitous Lysol disinfectant spray or visit the company’s website, you will notice that they do not use the term “contact time”, but they do expressly indicate how many time you should leave it on:

Surfaces should remain wet for 3 minutes and then allow to air dry. For Norovirus, surfaces must remain moist for 10 minutes and then allow to air dry.

This kind of instruction is not a suggestion. They specify under what conditions their product is considered to be disinfectant or disinfectant in accordance with EPA / CDC guidelines to meet the “99.9%” or similar claim on the container.

So the next time you’re on a cleaning bender, focused on removing your last stubborn traces of the disease that took your family out of a commission for a week (or just trying to prevent an illness do), be sure to check the instructions on the cleaner you are using and leave the cleaner in place for the suggested time.

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