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Cleaning and Disinfecting

Today we will go over two important steps for creating environments for happy/healthy pets and people.

There is a lot of misinformation about how to clean and disinfect and we are going to help you make sure what you are spending time, money, and energy doing actually works!

Step 1: Cleaning

Cleaning is the step where you remove any dirt, debris, soil and organic matter (like poop) and make surfaces look spotless. This step prepares the surface for disinfecting and is usually done by sweeping, wiping, or vacuuming and then scrubbing with a soap or detergent and water.

Soaps and detergents have long molecules with a head and a tail. The head is attracted to water and the tail is attracted to grease and dirt.

By manually scrubbing areas with either of these the tails of the molecules can bind to the grease and dirt and then be rinsed off as the heads bind to water and the molecules are pulled down the drain.

Although soap and detergents don’t destroy microbes like a disinfectant, they do a great job of removing the actual particles, especially when combined with manual scrubbing and rinsing.

Step 2: Disinfecting

In the disinfecting step we are trying to destroy any microscopic pathogens that may have been left after cleaning.

To disinfect, you apply chemicals to an already clean surface to destroy pathogenic microorganisms, like viruses and bacteria, that may still be on the surface. Even though you can’t see them, they could pass from the object to a dog or human and cause disease.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a registration process where they perform testing to ensure that the labels on disinfecting chemicals are accurate. So you want to make sure any disinfectant you use is registered with the EPA and read the label carefully. More on that in a moment.

Different chemicals work to destroy microbes in different ways and some common ones are:

  • destroying their cell wall

  • interfering with their metabolism

If you spray a disinfectant onto a dirty surface, all of that disinfecting power will be used up by the debris on top of the surface without allowing the chemicals an opportunity to get to the germs lurking underneath.

There are some ready made cleaner disinfectants that combine detergents with microbe killing properties together to save time. They are definitely convenient but are also more costly.

There are 3 REALLY IMPORTANT concepts, besides cleaning first, to make sure your disinfection step is effective.

  1. Type of Surface appropriate for that disinfectant

  2. Dilution Ratio

  3. Contact Time

Surface Type: This information is on the label of each EPA registered disinfectant so it’s important to read carefully. If you are using something that has been tested on hard, non-porous surfaces to try to disinfect bedding or fabric, it will not be effective.

Dilution Ratio:

If you are using a pre-mixed product you do not need to worry about this step.

If you are diluting a product, like bleach or a concentrated disinfectant, the ratio is extremely important. Some labels will say “use 1 ounce per gallon for general cleaning, or 5 ounces per gallon for disinfecting.” That is a big difference that you need to be aware of. Always add the disinfectant to the water and not the other way around.

Contact Time:

In order for the product to deliver on the kill claims on the label, it has to sit wet on the surface for the amount of contact time listed.

For many products this will be 10 minutes, including most bleach based detergents, but can be much lower. If the product is going to dry before the contact time is up, you need to re-wet the surface again.

Virox Animal Health lists these as some the most common mistakes when using disinfectants

  1. Eyeballing disinfectant solution mixtures

  2. Failing to reach designated contact time

  3. Topping off diluted bottles instead of starting with a clean, fresh batch

  4. Mixing cleaning chemicals

  5. Spraying a surface and then wiping with a dry cloth (surface needs to remain wet)

Thank you for reading and if you have found this article helpful please let us know! Your feedback shapes what we will create next. :-)

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