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5 Common Disinfectant Practices That May Put Your Business At Risks

We all know that we need to use disinfectants more than ever right now because of COVID-19. However, it also means that as we increase the use of disinfectants we may also be increasing the mis-use of them too.

Over the years we have seen A LOT of good intentions gone wrong when it comes to using disinfectants... Here are a few.

1. Don't Forget to Read the Label

This is by far one of the most important steps that is often missed. It's important to always read the label because not all disinfectants are created equal. Some have been designed with safety in mind, some have been designed to be more environmentally friendly, and some have been designed specifically to target specific pathogens (like a sporicidal disinfectant).

Like business, understanding your objective or goal will help you to pick the right product for the right application. And when it comes to choosing the right disinfectant, it is important to first read the label.

Now, you may be thinking, "yeah that is great, but I don't pick the products, someone else does and they just expect me to use it". Very fair point, however, it also means that reading the label is even more important.

Here's why:

  • If you don't read the label you may not know if you are required to pre-clean a surface. Some disinfectants will not work unless you have a pre-cleaned surface with a detergent (soap) cleaner first. Whereas others can be used to both clean and disinfect.

  • If you don't read the label you may not know what the contact time is. Contact time refers to how long the disinfectant needs to remain wet on a surface. Most disinfectants today range between 1 and 5 minutes, but some are as long as 10. If it isn't wet, it won't disinfect!

  • If you don't read the label you may not know if you need to wear PPE to handle the product. Remember, not all disinfectants are made equal - and that goes for their safety profile. Some you can handle with bare hands, and other require gloves (sometime goggles and other protective equipment as well). However, it is important that we also note best practice from an infection prevention and control perspective recommends to always wear PPE when using disinfectants to protect you from the potential pathogens that may be on the surface.

  • If you don't read the label you may not know if the product will kill the germs you need it to. Some pathogens likes norovirus are way harder to kill than others like influenza. If you aren't sure, reach out to your sales rep, the manufacture, or us and ask the question. You are better to be sure than risk the product not working the way you need it too. Your rep can answer any questions you may have and help you pick the right product for your specific needs.

2. Using a single bucket of disinfectant with the same cloth(s) or rag(s) all day long.

In healthcare we call this double dipping. No one wants to be the guy at the party that stands next to the chips and double dips... No one likes it and the risk of spreading germs increases each time he goes in for another double dip.

The same is true with disinfectants and reusing the same cloth, wipe, or rag in a single bucket of disinfectant solution.

We completely understand the logic behind this practice - it seems intuitive that when you are using the same bucket of disinfectant that when you place the dirty rag or cloth back into the bucket that the disinfectant will kill anything that may have been picked up along the way from cleaning the previous surfaces... however, that is not the case.

When you wipe a surface, you are depositing the disinfectant to the surface, essentially killing the germs you want on the surface. That same action will also help you remove soils, organic matter, and germs from that surface. When you put the wipe or the cloth back into the bucket you are essentially depositing those soils, dirt, dust, and germs into the bucket.

If this happens once - MAYBE twice - it's not the end of the world, but if done repeatedly, the solution is now being diluted with these "stowaways" and diluting the potency of the disinfectant.

Not only is the bucket being contaminated, but the disinfectant efficacy is being reduced, resulting in the disinfectants ability to kill the germ on the surface or in the bucket. When that happens the soils and germs may be re-deposited on the surfaces being wiped.

This may increase the risk of cross contamination, infection, and just overall dirtiness.

Please avoid the double dip. Best practice is to change your cloths and change your solution daily or when visibly soiled. An even better option? Switch to ready to use wipes that ensure you are getting a clean wipe each time.

Speaking of disinfectant wipes... This next one is a real pet peeve of mine...

3. Using one wipe for all surfaces

When using a disinfectant wipe to clean and disinfect surfaces, please pay attention to how large of an area is being disinfected and if the wipe is still wetting the surface.

Why is this important? Well, if you take away nothing else from me today, please remember contact time is important.

So how does contact time and using one wipe relate?

Because when using a wipe, the wipe can only release so much liquid onto the surface before it starts to "dry out".

Go ahead - give it a little test... I'll wait. :)

See what I mean?

The surface at the start is much wetter than where you ended, especially true if you tried to wipe down a large surface. For the best results, try wiping a chalk board - you will be able to see the wet marks on the the black surface the best.

Basically when you use a wipe you are going to be able to cover anywhere from a 2' x 2' space to a 3' x 3' space depending on the size of the wipe (in the case of surface coverage, bigger is better) and the saturation of the wipe (how much solution is in the wipe).

Now when it comes to disinfectants we know now that not all are created equally. This is true for surface coverage and this is also true for wipes.

If your disinfectant wipe has alcohol in it - it will dry faster on a surface. So that may mean the 1 or 2 minute disinfectant wipe will not stay wet for the entire 1 or 2 minutes.

We have seen disinfectant wipes that contain alcohol dry in as little as 30 seconds. Which means in order to achieve disinfection you have to go back with a new wipe and reapply to the surface to reach your contact time.

The other consideration is how wet your wipe is to start with (wetter = better) and how the wipe releases disinfectant onto the surface.

Some wipes release all the liquid when you start wiping which means you end up with a heavily saturated surface when you start wiping and an increasingly dry surface as you continue to wipe.

And some wipes have a metered release which means you are able to evenly release the disinfectant on the surface so the disinfectant is evenly coating the surface and you are able to achieve a more consistent wet contact time.

Remember - You gotta be wet to disinfect!

Don't try to extend the life of a wipe further than it was meant to. That will lead to cross contamination and not achieving contact time which means the surface is not being disinfecting. And that can lead to an increased risk of infection - especially on high touch surfaces.

4. Dry wipes? Do not add water.

After working with hospitals for over 20 years, we understand that dry wipes happen. Even the best intentioned people forget to close the lid on a wipes canister from time to time... but please DO NOT add water to re-hydrate your wipes.

Adding water will improve the wetness of a wipe, and if the resaturated wipe will be used to clean, that might (and I stress the might) be ok.

BUT if you are hoping to still achieve disinfection with rehydrated wipes? Please just say no.


Diluting the active ingredient(s) of the disinfectant (the key ingredients that are responsible for killing the germs) will reduce the efficacy of the product. There is NO guarantee the disinfectant will be able to effectively kill anything.

Sometimes the top few wipes may dry out but the rest are ok. Pull a few wipes out - pick up the canister - and see what the saturation situation is. It may be that you need to discard a few wipes before reaching the wet ones. Or you may need a new canister.

Check to see how wet the wipe is and check for contact time. It needs to be wet to disinfect.

5. DO NOT spray and wipe

We have all been there. We watch the commercials. We have seen our moms, dads, grandparents, all do the same thing. You spray a surface and your first instinct is to wipe it and magically it is not only clean but disinfected.

Unfortunately, the reality is that is NOT how it works in real life. We need to achieve contact time to achieve disinfection. So if the disinfectant is sprayed and wiped, the surface may be cleaned, but it will not be disinfected.

When applying the disinfectant, look at the label. Read the contact time. Fully saturate the surface and then wait for the contact time to be achieved - 1 minute, 3 minutes, etc.

Once contact time has been achieved, if the surface needs a wipe dry, proceed with a with a CLEAN cloth. Go ahead at this point to give it a bit of a polish to make it sparkle. A beautiful disinfected and sparkling surface. Feeling good.

BUT please remember - DO NOT WIPE the surface until the disinfectant has ACHIEVED THE CONTACT TIME as per the label.

I cannot stress this enough... there is no such thing as instant kill with disinfectants so it is important to make sure the surface remains wet long enough for the disinfectant to do it's job.


If you are looking for help to design a program or source essential products like disinfectants, masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, reach out to our team and let us know how we can help.


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