Busted Myths About Disinfecting
The amount of information swirling out there around the most effective cleaning (and sanitising and disinfecting) practices can be dizzying — and often, misleading. What is likely true is that your home and the surfaces in it are not getting the thorough clean you think they are.
While strategies for cleaning are a plenty, one way to take guesswork out of the equation is to stock products that are a one-two punch. But you also need to know how to use them appropriately.
Myth: Sanitising is the same as disinfecting
Though commonly used synonymously, cleaning, sanitising, and disinfecting are three separate things. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cleaning removes any visible dirt, dust, and debris from a surface by washing and rinsing, typically with soap and water, but it does not automatically disinfect.
Sanitising mitigates the risk of illness by reducing some of the bacteria identified on a product’s label.
And if you want to be truly thorough, you will need to disinfect, which kills most of the bacteria and viruses identified on a product’s label.
Myth: All cleaning products disinfect
Check your products. Read the fine print on the label closely. If you are still not sure, look for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on the label. Then, type that number into the agency's database for specifics on what type of bacteria and viruses are in its crosshairs.
Myth: If a sanitizer or disinfectant is effective enough, it can cut through layers of dirt
To adequately sanitize or disinfect a dirty surface, it needs a quick wipe down first. Always check the instructions on the packaging for specifics.
Myth: Plant-based cleaners do not work
When used properly, plant-based disinfectants can be just as effective as chemical cleaners—they just might work more slowly. But, like chemical-based cleaners, not all formulas are created equally. Again, look for ones approved by the EPA and follow package instructions closely.
According to the CDC and NSF (a public health and safety organisation), though vinegar is a suitable cleaner — remember, that means it is adequate for removing anything visible from a surface — vinegar and vinegar-based cleaning products are not registered with the EPA as disinfectants. Furthermore, the effectiveness of these household solutions against germs and viruses has not been proven. To ensure you are properly disinfecting, opt for registered products instead.
Myth: A bleach and water solution can be used for days or weeks to disinfect
So you have whipped up bleach and water solution to tackle all of those dirty spots in your home, but wound up with extra? Toss it. (You can safely dispose of these small amounts of bleach by pouring it down the sink while the water runs.) A fresh solution needs to be made each time you want to use it. Once mixed with water, bleach loses its effectiveness after about a day.
Myth: Disinfecting products work instantaneously
Proper disinfecting takes time. No matter what product you use, it is essential to check the product directions for how long hard, non-porous surfaces must stay wet for the most effective germ killing.
Myth: Soft surfaces, like pillows and upholstery, can be disinfected
Disinfectants work only on hard, non-porous surfaces. Many are safe to use on soft surfaces and do kill germs, but they sanitise, not disinfect. Remember: sanitisers do reduce your risk of exposure, but not as thoroughly as disinfectants do.