Did you know that the oldest reference for chemical disinfection dates back to 800 BC? According to researchers, this reference is in the sixth book of Homer's Odyssey.
In hospital settings, some say that the first use of antiseptic took place in 1865. The British surgeon Joseph Lister used phenol to perform the first-ever sterile surgery.
Regardless of who used or made these chemicals first, we have to thank them for saving lives. After all, hospital-grade and household disinfectant products do kill many types of germs.
The thing is, the current pandemic has led to many brands making claims about their products. As such, you may now be wondering which ones you should shell out money on. What exactly should you even look for in these household disinfecting solutions?
We'll get to the bottom of these questions below, so be sure to read on.
Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: A Quick Refresher
Before we start this list of the top household disinfectants, let's go over a few reminders first.
For starters, the use of disinfectants doesn't necessarily get rid of dirt on surfaces. They are chemicals designed to kill microorganisms, like germs and bacteria, on surfaces. However, it's still possible for them not to eradicate all pathogens.
Cleaning, on the other hand, refers to the process of getting rid of dirt and contaminants. When you clean surfaces, your goal is to remove debris, impurities, and germs off of them. Still, this doesn't mean that cleaning surfaces automatically kill pathogens.
However, by cleaning surfaces before disinfection, you can lower bacterial counts. This, in turn, may help reduce the risks of infections.
According to scientists, improper cleaning of a surface can compromise the disinfection process. Dust, dirt, and other organic stuff can reduce the effectiveness of a disinfectant. For example, contaminants may interfere with the active ingredient of the chemical.
Therefore, the ideal practice is to clean surfaces first, which can lower the number of germs on them. You can then disinfect the cleaned surfaces, which may help kill remaining pathogens.
It may also help have a bucket filled with a cleaning and disinfectant solution for the stuff you used. For example, if you used a microfiber towel to wipe your counters, soak it in this mixture right after. This may help prevent germs in the used cloth from escaping and surviving.
As always, don't forget to wear gloves and a facial mask when cleaning and disinfecting your home. This way, you can protect yourself from both contaminants and chemicals.
With all that said, let's now take a look at some of the top disinfectant products you should always have at home.
Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a known germicide that can disinfect surfaces. It's also the same type of alcohol you can find in alcoholic beverages.
So, if you've ever wondered why folks in movies pour whiskey over their wounds, that's why.
Moreover, ethyl alcohol is effective against the influenza virus. However, this depends on the alcohol concentration of the product. At a 70% concentration, ethyl alcohol is much more effective than isopropyl alcohol.
As such, when buying alcohol (as a surface disinfectant), be sure it contains at least 70% of ethyl alcohol.
Hand washing with soap and water can remove many germs. However, it won't hurt to also use hand sanitizers. This is even more important if you can't wash your hands, such as if you're outside doing so grocery shopping.
Hand sanitizers are available at lower alcohol concentrations, such as 60%. However, you'll still find some that contain up to 95% alcohol. Either way, a range of 60% to 95% can kill most germs.
One thing to note is that all types of alcohol, whether ethyl or isopropyl, can cause skin dryness. The higher the concentration, the greater their ability to dissolve lipids. However, scientists say that ethanol is less irritating than isopropanol.
If you have very sensitive skin, you may want to choose a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. This may be able to help reduce your risks of overdrying your skin.
Also, note that alcohol can sting really bad if used on a wounded area of the skin. Adults may be able to tolerate it, but be careful when using such products in children.
You may also want to use gentle moisturizers after the alcohol or sanitizer has set on your skin. These hydrating products may help counter the drying effects of hand disinfectants.
The main active ingredient in household bleaches is sodium hypochlorite. This compound, as well as hydrogen peroxide, are effective killers of various germs. Scientific studies also confirm that they are adept in eliminating pathogens like Staph.
CloroxPro Germicidal Bleach and Clorox Bleach are two examples of EPA-registered household bleaches. There are several other brands approved by the EPA for household use, so be sure to check their label.
Keep in mind that when using household bleach, you have to let them stay on a surface for some time. This depends on the product, but in general, their contact time runs between 10 and 60 minutes. Be sure to follow this; otherwise, the chemical may be unable to kill pathogens as intended.
Be careful as well when diluting bleach, as adding too much water can inactivate the chemical. Also, too much organic material, like dust and debris, can affect its effectiveness. This again raises the importance of cleaning surfaces prior to disinfecting them.
Hydrogen peroxide is another effective chemical found in household disinfectant products. It works by destroying essential parts of germicidal cells. In this way, it can deactivate pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and even fungi.
Hydrogen peroxide has also proven to be effective in inactivating influenza viruses.
You can find hydrogen peroxide in various EPA-registered household disinfectant wipes. One of these is the Sani-HyPerCide Germicidal Disposable Wipe. You can also go with Oxiclean Laundry and Home Sanitizer, which you can find in supermarkets.
Household Cleaners With Quaternary Ammonium
You may have heard of "quaternary ammonium compounds" referred to simply as "quats." They're among the most common disinfectants around, and many Lysol products use them. Speaking of which, Lysol's all-purpose cleaner and antibacterial cleaner are EPA-registered.
Anyway, quats can destroy pathogens like some types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, most of these products need to stay on the surface for at least 10 minutes. Lysol's products may require less a shorter contact time, but be sure to check the label to ensure proper use.
Quats work against microorganisms by dissolving their cell walls. They have a positive charge that reacts with the negative charge of bacterial cell walls. It's kind of like how magnets work, but in this case, quats break down the walls of bacterial cells.
Good Old Soap and Water
There's no proof that antibacterial soaps are better than the plain ones for at-home use. Meaning, you don't always have to use antibacterial soaps when you wash your hands at home. The only exception is if your doctor instructed you to use antibacterial soaps.
What's more important is to wash your hands the "scientific way." This involves at least 20 seconds of scrubbing your hands with soap.
Also, health experts recommend using liquid soap for hand washing over bar soaps. Germs, after all, may settle on the surfaces of the bar soap itself. You may also want to use liquid soap for showering and bathing.
DIY Household Disinfectant
You can make your own household surface disinfectant with plain bleach and water. You can buy unscented bleach that contains between 2% and 10% sodium hypochlorite. You can then dilute this with tap water to clean and disinfect surfaces at home.
When you dilute plain bleach, your goal is to have a solution of at least 0.12%. The amount of water you need to add depends on the % of the actual sodium hypochlorite content of the bleach. So long as the product is EPA-registered, it should have this info on the label. `
Michigan State University has a complete list of "recipes" for diluting bleach. Check their guide out if you want to make homemade disinfectant. Be sure to stick to the instructions so you can keep your DIY solution effective.
Stay Safe and Sane by Sanitizing Your Home
There you have it, your guide on the top (and EPA-approved) disinfectant products to use at home. Just remember to clean surfaces first before you apply these disinfecting solutions. Also, as an extra safety measure, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least once a day. While you are at it, keep up to date with the latest ideas by learning Oven Cleaning hacks.
So, make it a daily habit to sanitize your home, especially doorknobs, switches, and handles. This way, you can reduce the risks of pathogens from wreaking havoc to your and your loved ones' health.
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