Regarding cleaning and disinfecting, not all products are created equal. It is essential to choose a product that has been tested and is effective against dangerous pathogens such as C difficile endospores, SARS-CoV-2, MRSA, Hepatitis, and Norovirus.
Additionally, it is imperative to choose a disinfectant that can be applied effectively, is diluted easily, and is safe for staff and guests.
Know the Pathogens
When selecting an EPA-registered disinfectant for your facility, consider its effectiveness against the specific pathogens you need to kill or control. Some pathogens resist many disinfectants and require a high concentration or lengthy contact time for adequate disinfection.
Other pathogens, like the coronavirus that caused COVID-19, are more common and easier to kill with a lower concentration or shorter contact time. Additionally, more than 80% of bacteria live in biofilm, an extracellular polymeric coating that protects the pathogens from environmental stressors and makes them less sensitive to disinfectants. Choose a disinfectant with a broad-spectrum kill claim for C. auris and other dangerous organisms.
Additionally, if you need to disinfect food-contact surfaces, ensure the disinfectant is listed for use on these surfaces or with food and has directions on the product label. Lastly, consider the disinfectant’s corrosivity; some are more corrosive than others and can damage surfaces if not rinsed properly.
All EPA-registered disinfectants have an EPA registration number on the product label. Look for the first two sets of numbers to identify the registrant and product number, then enter those into EPA’s List N tool to view a searchable, sortable list of products registered for use against SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging viral pathogens. This list is updated regularly as more disinfectants meet the criteria to be added.
Identify the Surfaces
EPA-registered disinfectants are chemical products that clean and kill pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or mildew) on nonliving objects. The active ingredients in a disinfectant formula reduce the number of pathogens on surfaces by disrupting or damaging their cells. Other chemicals in disinfectant formulations help the product penetrate, remain wet and dry on surfaces, and help prevent a surface from being re-contaminated.
Disinfectants may also have surfactants to provide consistent wetting on surfaces and aid in cleaning. EPA-registered disinfectants are available on hard and soft surfaces and in wipes.
A key consideration when selecting an EPA-registered disinfectant for your needs is the types of surfaces on which you will be using it. Some surfaces require special care, like food-contact surfaces, so select an EPA-registered disinfectant with directions for these surfaces on the label. Look for a disinfectant with a special EPA kill claim rating indicating tuberculocide on the front main label. These are stronger disinfectants than those without this claim.
It would help if you also considered whether your clinical contact surfaces are likely to be contaminated with blood. If so, you must barrier-protect these surfaces between patients and clean them with a hospital disinfectant or low-level disinfectant with HIV and HBV claims. If the surfaces are not visibly contaminated with blood, you can use an intermediate disinfectant or high-level disinfectant.
Read the Labels
All EPA-registered disinfectants must submit extensive data and information about their chemical ingredients, application rates, and directions for use to the EPA to be approved. This data is reflected on the product label and should be read thoroughly. Disinfectants that claim to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi must have a contact time listed on the product label, which is how long it takes for the microorganisms to be inactivated when the product is used properly.
If you’re disinfecting food contact surfaces, look for a product with a contact time of one minute or less against most viruses and bacteria. Regarding tuberculocidal disinfectants, look for the special “Tuberculocide” designation on the front main label. These have a higher kill claim than products that don’t have the designation and are considered the strongest of all EPA-registered disinfectants.
Many facilities have invested in equipment like foggers and electrostatic sprayers for applying chemicals to large areas. However, unless the product label specifically includes disinfection directions for this method, the EPA does not recommend using it to control COVID-19.
The best EPA-registered disinfectants will have an EPA registration number on the label, usually preceded by “EPA Registration Number.” It should also list the company that submitted the disinfectant for approval and the sequence in which it was registered.
EPA-registered disinfectants can help you keep your facility safe and clean. But not all disinfectants are the same. EPA disinfectants must undergo rigorous scientific assessments to ensure that they are effective and safe when applied according to the instructions on the product label.
Some disinfectants contain chemical ingredients that are harmful to your staff or occupants. These chemicals can trigger asthma and allergies, aggravate respiratory conditions, or even cause chemical burns. You should avoid these chemicals whenever possible, and choose products with safer chemical ingredients.
It would help if you also considered the environmental impact of your chosen disinfectant. Many ready-to-use (RTU) disinfectants are 99% water, which leads to higher shipping and storage costs and a larger carbon footprint. Choose concentrated, safer disinfectants to reduce your facility’s environmental impact.
Finally, it would help if you chose a disinfectant that kills pathogens in biofilm. More than 80% of bacteria live in biofilm, forming an extracellular polymeric coating to protect themselves from environmental stressors. This coating makes them resistant to many disinfectants. Choose a disinfectant that eliminates biofilm to stop the spread of C difficile, Candida auris, SARS-CoV-2, and other dangerous pathogens.
Reviewing the EPA lists, you can find out which disinfectants have been tested against specific pathogens. Look for a product with a “List N” designation, indicating that it was effective against SARS-CoV-2.