PREVENTION: CLEANING, DISINFECTING & SANITIZING

If we cultured your kitchen or bathroom, what would we find?  Reduce your risk by learning what products to use and how often to use them.
 
How long can the influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)?

Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.

What kills the influenza virus?

Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against the influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time.  For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in can be used to clean hands.  The gels should be rubbed into hands for about 20 seconds or until your hands feel dry, whichever is longest.

How should waste disposal be handled to prevent the spread of the influenza virus?

To prevent the spread of the influenza virus, it is recommended that tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person be thrown in the trash.  Additionally, persons should wash their hands with soap and water after touching used tissues and similar waste.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?

Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.  Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air.  Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk, for example, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

What common surfaces should I disinfect and what should I use?

In addition to good hand-washing and personal hygiene practices, surfaces commonly contacted by hands should also be disinfected periodically or whenever they become contaminated due to coughing, sneezing, dirty hands, etc.  Surfaces that should be disinfected include, but are not limited to: telephones, computer keyboards and mice, door knobs, drinking fountains, sink faucet handles, paper towel dispensers, and tables and desktops. 

Effective disinfection includes the use of antimicrobial chemicals.  Those effective against Hepatitis B also work against other viruses, including flu viruses.  A 10% bleach water solution is also effective on most surfaces. The Environmental Protection Agency web site at http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/chemregindex.htm lists approved antimicrobial chemicals. 

When disinfecting surfaces, it is important to:
• Follow chemical label directions and read safety precautions.
• Clean surfaces with soap and water or another type of cleaner to remove dirt and debris prior to disinfecting.
• Apply disinfectant to the surface and let stand for at least a few minutes (follow the label) to allow it to work.
• Use disinfecting wipes or specially designed products on electronics.
• Check the expiration date.

What household cleaning should be done to prevent the spread of the influenza virus?

To prevent the spread of the influenza virus it is important to keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.

How should linens, eating utensils and dishes of persons infected with the influenza virus be handled?

Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.  Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap
Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting.  Individuals should avoid "hugging" laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub immediately after handling dirty laundry.

What is the difference between a disinfectant, an antimicrobial, and a sanitizing product?

Disinfectants and antimicrobials destroy pathogenic microorganisms.  These two terms are used interchangeably.  Sanitizers reduce the number of microorganisms to a safe level by killing them; typically, sanitizers kill 99.9% of these germs.  Any product that claims to kill bacteria or viruses must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, so look for products that have an EPA registration number on the product label.

How do I know which product is best for my surface?

The best course of action is to read the product label carefully and purchase and use products as intended.  Also, use common sense when considering the type of surface on which the product will be used.  For example, do not spray products on electronics, as they could cause damage to the component or cause an electrical short.

Are cleaning products safe?

Companies evaluate the safety of existing cleaning products by talking with consumers, reviewing scientific developments, and monitoring product use data that may affect the safety assessment process.  Safety also lies in the hands of the consumer.  In the real-world use of cleaning products, problems generally arise when they are improperly handled, used or stored.  Consumers should read the product label, use cleaning products only as directed and store products properly and securely.

When a surface looks clean, does that mean it is probably germ-free, too?

According to the CDC, disinfecting and cleaning are not the same.  The tricky thing about germs is that they cannot be seen with the eye. While soap and hot water remove some germs from surfaces when you clean, they cannot kill all germs.  To ensure that a surface is germ-free, use a disinfectant or sanitizing product.  Be sure to follow the label directions, as many products need to stand on a surface for a period of time in order to kill germs.  For more on germ prevention, visit the CDC's Ounce of Prevention website: www.cdc.gov/ounceofprevention.

How do I dispose of cleaning products safely?

Use the entire product.  If the product has been sitting in storage area for awhile, check the expiration date or call the manufacturer to see if the product is still effective.  Always check the label for product disposal instructions, or contact the manufacturer.  When your container is empty, you could check your local recycling facility to see if it's recyclable in your community.
 

The Soap and Detergent Association. SDA Product fact sheet: hard surface hygiene. http://www.cleaning101.com, viewed on August 5th, 2009.
 

Content used with permission of Florida State University