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Friday, October 7, 2011

“Wax On...Wax Off. Spray On...Wipe Off.” Mr. Miyagi’s Guide to Cleaning and Disinfection.

I think we all remember the scene from Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel-san the basics of karate/kung-fu by using the principles of waxing a car or painting a fence. Wax On...Wax Off! However, when was the last time your cleaning staff were educated on the appropriate method for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces? I bet if you surveyed your hospital or long term care home’s cleaning staff, each individual would have their own preferred method. Spray On...Air Dry! Spray On...Wipe Off! Wipe On...Wipe Off! Most likely, some prefer to spray the disinfectant or cleaner on the surface while others prefer to wipe it on the surface. So what are the potential advantages or deficiencies in spraying vs. wiping a disinfectant on a surface?

While applying a disinfectant or cleaner via spritzing or spraying onto a surface may be convenient and something we’ve all witnessed on a television commercial advertising the latest consumer cleaning product, it may not be the best way to effectively clean and disinfect a surface. It is widely recognized that cleaning – the removal of organic and inorganic soils from a surface or device – is an integral part of the disinfection process. By removing surface contaminants we allow the disinfectant to more effectively address the microbial pathogens that may inhabit the surface. Unfortunately, surfaces or devices cannot be cleaned without mechanical friction which assists in the removal of soil and contaminants. Simply spraying a cleaner or disinfectant onto a surface does not assist in this removal, but rather deposits the solution on top of the soil. Likewise, spraying does not ensure thorough, even coverage of the solution on the surface. As a result, pockets of the applied surface may NOT come into contact with the disinfectant at all. Clearly, the end result is a surface that has been incompletely disinfected and may harbour pathogens that can be transmitted to the next person that comes into contact with it.


If we apply the disinfectant or cleaning solution with a wipe or saturated cloth, we are combining the much needed mechanical friction with the detergency attributes of the chemical to achieve optimal results. The process of wiping the surface with the cleaning or disinfectant solution not only assists in removing surface contaminants – allowing the disinfectant to address any pathogens left behind – but it also ensures that the surface has been more thoroughly covered with the solution. The end-result is a surface that one can confidently state has been appropriately disinfected.


Aside from direct product performance, spraying of a disinfectant or cleaning solution also has a couple of other negative side effects. First and foremost, the spraying of cleaning and disinfectant products has been linked to occupational asthma and other respiratory disorders. Spraying of the chemical atomizes the chemistry making it much easier to breathe deeply into the lungs. Regardless of the safety of the cleaner or disinfectant in use, this can cause irritation and potential long term effects. Several best practice guidelines including PIDAC’s Best Practices for Environmental Cleaning for the Prevention of Infections strongly recommend that cleaning and disinfectant products are NOT to be applied via spraying for these reasons. Lastly, it is very difficult to control precisely where the disinfectant or cleaning solution is being applied when sprayed onto a surface. Hence, neighbouring surfaces that should not come into contact with the solution may be exposed inadvertently and collateral damage may occur.


So in summary, the application of disinfectants or cleaning solutions via a wipe or cloth is likely to provide the best results while mitigating or eliminating some of the negative side effects of spraying disinfectant or cleaning chemicals.


How do your cleaning staff apply their products? Has anyone ever trained them on this most basic of practices?


Hasta la vista!


Lee – The Germinator

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