Many people are not aware of the differences between products with antibacterial properties and those that are disinfectants. It is an important distinction as the use of wet wipes, gels and sanitizing hand wipes has exploded in recent years. The EPA and Center for Disease Control have both recommended the use of these products to control the spread of viruses and reduce the rate of bacterial infections. However, it is important to know the distinctions.
Generally, antibacterial wipes are used on hands to kill bacteria and prevent its transmission. Liquid hand sanitizers will kill these germs as well, but will not remove traces of food, dirt and grime. Gels still have their place as these small bottles can be placed just about anywhere and they are a very cost-effective method of controlling the transmission of disease. The preponderance of nut allergies today demands that schools rely upon antibacterial wipes after meals and snacks. It is preferred that hand wipes are rated “Non Hazardous” and contain a hand protecting oil.
It is a common misconception that dishwashing liquids also claiming to be antibacterial hand soaps will be effective on household surfaces such as cutting boards, appliance handles, and counter tops. The cleaning process for hands versus equipment differs significantly. With hands, we tend to scrub and rub our hands together, which greatly aids the cleaning process. With equipment, we tend to simply wipe it off. Hence, a more effective method is to use disinfectant wipes on surfaces.
Disinfecting wipes by contrast are generally used on shared office machines, chairs, gymnasium equipment, shopping carts or in the kitchen and bathrooms. They are effective on many viruses as well as bacteria. Often alcohol is the active ingredient in disinfectants. However, alcohol is highly flammable and evaporates quickly. You must virtually immerse the object to obtain effective disinfection. Chlorine bleach is another option, but it is quite caustic to the skin, lungs and eyes. And, mistakenly combining it with ammonia or any other acid such as vinegar results in the production of a noxious gas. Since there is ammonia in urine, use around pets and in bathrooms can be dangerous. Not to mention that both are quite malodorous. Hence, water-based synthetic phenolic compounds are greatly preferred.
Many wonder whether or not homemade concoctions are effective. Studies have demonstrated that most of these have little or no disinfectant properties. When dealing with serious contagions such as hepatitis, influenza, salmonella, etc, you must use the most effective yet safe substance and methods available. Thoroughly washing and drying hands and surfaces along with the use of antibacterial wipes and disinfecting wipes is the most effective prevention you will find.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also advises that since about 20% of the U.S. population either attends school or works in one, like any other facility with many people in close contact they are prime places for the transmission of disease. Some viruses and bacteria will remain alive on doorknobs, cafeteria tables and desks for two hours or longer. Since hand washing sinks are impractical to locate everywhere they might be used, the obvious solution is to locate hand wipes and disinfectant wipes throughout schools, hospitals, prisons, or anywhere else where large numbers of people gather.