It has always been considered easier and more convenient simply to clean with a disinfectant cleaner. People have also felt that cleaning with a disinfectant gives added security that surfaces cleaned are safe from microbial contamination. But in fact, neither may be true. Cleaning with a disinfectant can create a false sense of security. There are a number of reasons why we have to rethink these old views:
Not following instructions
Cleaning with a disinfectant and not following manufacturer’s instruction for its use can create problems. A cleaner would have a great deal of difficulty determining whether the level of soil on a surface is within the range that the disinfectant can handle. It is also hard to determine during normal cleaning whether the disinfectant has been left wet on the surface long enough for the surface to be considered disinfected. Typically some surfaces will dry before the full dwell time recommended by the manufacturer.
Cleaning with disinfectants has the potential to create super-bugs, especially in hospitals where we have bacteria exposed to both antibiotics and disinfectants. We all know that over-prescribing antibiotics can create super-bugs, especially when they are used in a way that makes them ineffective (e.g. not taking the full prescription as recommended, or when we take antibiotics for viruses like a cold or flu, which they have no effect on.). Like antibiotics in the body, disinfectants are used to treat or kill infectious bacteria on surfaces. Their overuse or misuse cannot insure surfaces are in fact safe to use and handle. Even with our best efforts some bacteria survive on environmental surfaces in our health care facilities. We know there are many antibiotic resistant bacteria in health care facilities but we have been inadvertently contributing to their evolution and expansion with our cleaning.
Occupational Health Exposures
Cleaning with safer cleaning products reduces occupational health exposures to toxic disinfectants. We know, for example, that if you are a female in the cleaning profession, you are at a much greater risk of having children with birth defects than most other occupations. Likewise, use of disinfectants has been associated with acquiring work-related asthma.