We Should Clean First Before Disinfecting

A reader writes: “You were wrong in your suggested steps for disinfecting a surface. First of all, it has to be free of soils before it can be properly disinfected. Your response?”

I am amazed at the response I got to this article and apologize for not being clear. I totally agree with all of you that stressed the importance of cleaning a surface with an all-purpose detergent before applying the appropriate disinfectant to the surface for the prescribed period of time. This is where the purist and the generalist may disagree.

Some take the position that the surface must be cleaned first regardless of apparent soiling; whereas others take the position that a surface that “appears” to be relatively clean does not require the application of a detergent cleaner before the disinfectant citing time factors. My position is that both parties can be right at the same time with the suggestion that you err on the side of caution.

What surface are you cleaning and disinfecting? Is it a touch point that may not evidence apparent soils, yet need to be cleaned first? Is the disinfectant a “cleaner/disinfectant” that is designed to perform both functions in one application? What is the recommended dwell time for the product to be effective? What does the label direct the worker to do? Does the disinfectant need to be removed after prescribed dwell time (example: toilet seat)? Is there a way of testing for contamination after the area has been cleaned/disinfected to verify efficacy? How was the worker trained and is he/she supervised closely enough to verify they are following prescribed guidance?

I was taught early on that one of the most hostile environments for a pathogen is a clean, dry surface exposed to light and air. Of course, it only takes one contact with a contaminant for the surface to be dangerous.

What do you think? I hope we can continue this conversation since we have a very important role in protecting our clients and their customers from contagion.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean…