Last year, folks around the world were stocking up on cleaning materials to protect themselves and others from a scary, unknown virus. Back then, it was better to be safe than sorry, which meant disinfecting everything — counters, floors, even supermarket — that could possibly harbor the coronavirus.
The pandemic isn’t over, but we’ve learned a lot since then, for example, that surface transmission isn’t that big a threat like we thought. And according to Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., an associate professor of Science at Simmons University and co-director and founder of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community, now’s a great time to hone our disinfecting customs.
“Hygiene theatre,” or overusing and misusing disinfecting products to create an illusion of security, may actually pose higher dangers to one’s health and the environment. For one thing, she says, overuse of substances in the home can pose health risks to individuals with asthma or respiratory ailments. “To a degree, all disinfecting compounds are poisonous, and you want to kill germs,” she states.
“But overusing and misusing these substances could pose an ecological threat.” Further, disinfecting too much can actually make certain bacteria — like staph — more powerful and resistant to disinfectants, which includes clear health dangers. The solution? Scott, together with the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, indicates a concentrated hygiene strategy.
“That means we promote the targeted use of disinfectants at the time and place where they could be of some benefit,” she says. And for the rest of the time? Your routine (non-disinfecting) soap or cleaning solution does a good enough job. “Routine cleaning performed efficiently with soap or detergent, at least one time every day, can considerably reduce virus levels on surfaces,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, through a White House Briefing in April.
What, exactly, does that mean to you and your disinfecting routine? Here Is What you Want to understand:
Use the right product for the Right job
Pretty much every cleaner includes a disinfectant these days, but that’s not quite as useful as you might think — largely because, as we have already covered, not every surface really needs disinfecting. To prevent the long-term damage brought on by over-disinfecting — and to save money and time — pinpoint when you actually need to disinfect and if you are likely to wash, then choose your product accordingly.
If your target is to banish fingerprints and temptations from a counter, then you’re cleansing it. In that situation, you can use water and soap, a moist microfiber cloth, or an all-purpose spray. If you prepared food on such a counter or someone ill-fated straight on it, then it’s time to disinfect. The disinfecting product you select — for instance, bleach-based merchandise or a different EPA-approved disinfectant — finally depends upon the surface. Just make certain that you wash a surface before you disinfect it!
Only Disinfect Surfaces That Need Disinfecting
Targeted hygiene concentrates on disinfecting the surfaces most likely to have potentially harmful germs lingering on them — also known as”high-touch” surfaces — including doorknobs, light switches, bathroom and sink handles, etc. Obviously, the chance of these spots harboring germs goes up when someone in your house is sick, so you’d wind up” targeting” them longer.
On the other hand, some distances do not need disinfecting in any way. Take your chimney, for example. Unless someone is regularly licking or directly sneezing about the glass, then Scott says it is unlikely you’d need to disinfect them. The same is true for your flooring.
“It may look like a germy, filthy place, but the majority of the time, the floor doesn’t pose any danger to us unless we’re crawling around and licking it,” she says. To this end, you may think about disinfecting a floor if you have an infant crawling round — but even then, Scott says she would only think about a floor risky if there had been an”accident” on it.
This also applies to areas that pose a danger of food-borne illness, like cutting boards, dishes, utensils, counters, and sinks. Scott says dish rags and sponges are also germ-ridden so that they require regular disinfecting (particularly when you use them on food prep areas and when you’re dealing with raw meat).
Make Use of Proper Cleaning Techniques
Disinfecting improperly can pose larger dangers than not disinfecting in any way. Scott says it is important to always follow the instructions on the product tag to ensure effective disinfecting and also to avoid harmful missteps. By way of example, some products, such as bleach, require dilution to succeed — and often, disinfectants require live time to destroy germs. Security, of course, is the top priority.
Always ensure the room you’re disinfecting is properly ventilated, and also to protect yourself from chemical burns, wear eye and hand protection. And it may go without saying, but never mix bleach with other compounds, like ammonia — doing so could create potentially lethal gases. The bottom line: There’s nothing more important than keeping you and your nearest and dearest safe. Sometimes — when there’s an actual risk of germ transmission — which may involve disinfecting. But these days,” better safe than sorry” might also mean disinfecting sparingly, or in some instances, not disinfecting at all.