Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Bleach vs. Disinfectant: How do I know which one to use?
When To Use Bleach
Bleach has been around for more than 50 years and, when it is not being utilized as a weapon, it is both tried and true for many common tasks.
In fact, bleach is an appropriate chemical for removing or "bleaching" stains on many surfaces such as grout, shower curtains and, of course, our laundry whites.
Bleach is recommended for use as a sanitizing agent for direct food contact surfaces such as dishes and utensils prior to putting them into service.
It can also be used to disinfect fabrics and other "soft and porous" surfaces that have been contaminated with harmful germs, a task which ready-to-use disinfectant (RTU) cleaning products are not designed to perform.
Although bleach can be used effectively as a disinfectant for many tasks, it has some attributes that can make it less desirable than a RTU disinfecting product for some applications.
Household bleach is made up of about five percent active sodium hypochlorite.
At this concentration, bleach can be damaging to and/or cause discoloration of surfaces, clothing and other materials with which it comes in contact.
It also emits a strong odor that can become unpleasant or irritating in areas that do not provide sufficient ventilation.
Bleach must be diluted according to the label instructions to prepare the appropriate solution strength for the various cleaning and disinfecting tasks it can perform.
The contact time required for bleach to disinfect a surface is 10 minutes.
In some circumstances, it is recommended that the contaminated surface be pre-cleaned prior to the disinfection step.
Therefore, while it can be used effectively as a disinfectant, bleach has some inherent limitations, and a general purpose RTU disinfectant product may be the more appropriate choice.
When To Choose A Disinfectant
The formula common to most RTU disinfectants on the market today is an aqueous alkaline base with a quaternary ammonium compound (quat) as the active disinfecting ingredient.
In addition to disinfecting, many of these products contain detergents for use in cleaning heavily soiled surfaces prior to the disinfection step.
These disinfectant products will not "bleach" or discolor surfaces when they are used according to the label instructions.
RTU disinfectants are generally not corrosive or damaging to eyes, skin or contact surfaces in their final concentration.
Most of these products have added fragrances to impart a pleasant scent when they are used.
As RTU products, they do not require any diluting and, in fact, they must be maintained in their original concentration to ensure adequate disinfection of treated surfaces.
The required dwell time for many RTU disinfectant products is far less than the 10 minutes required for bleach to disinfect surfaces; it may be under one minute for some common germs.
The main limitation in using RTU disinfectant products is that they are designed to kill germs on hard and non-porous surfaces, and they are not proven to be sufficiently effective in killing germs on fabrics and porous surfaces such as concrete.
But, for cleaning staffs and facilities maintenance personnel, the ability to apply a disinfectant product in a RTU spray applicator to most hard, non-porous surfaces to both clean and disinfect them can be a major benefit compared to the time and effort required to dilute and apply an appropriate solution of bleach.
With a RTU disinfectant product, as long as you do not dilute or contaminate the contents inside the bottle, you are ready to go.
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