Commercial Disinfectant - Three Things to Know

Three Things You Need to Know About Choosing a Commercial Disinfectant

In Air Travel, Construction, Environment, Government, Industrial Facilities, Parks & Recreation, Power, Rail, Rail & Mass Transit, Safety by Bob Vitale

Disinfect. Everything. It’s the order of the day. Especially as the country is beginning to reopen. From industrial facilities, to construction or mining equipment, to office buildings and everything in-between, choosing the right commercial disinfectant is one of the most important decisions you can make to protect employees, customers and visitors. 

But with all of the competing claims in the market, how do you pick one that efficiently kills the coronavirus while being easy to apply? There are a few important considerations that should play a role in helping you make that decision. 

1. Understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilizing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines the differences between these in the following way: 

Cleaning is the act of reducing germs, dirt and impurities by removing them from a surface, using a soap or detergent. While this doesn’t exterminate any bacteria or viruses, it is a necessary first step before a surface can be sanitized or disinfected. Without removing the physical residue first, any sanitizing or disinfecting efforts will be ineffective. 

Sanitizing uses chemicals to reduce bacteria on a surface down to a level considered safe by public health standards. Usually, this means removing at least 99.99% of all germs on a surface. 

Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill 99.999% of bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew and fungi on hard, non-porous surfaces. The CDC recommends a cleaning and disinfecting regimen be followed to kill coronavirus.[1] Additionally, commercial disinfectants are the only products approved by the U.S. EPA to kill coronavirus in industrial applications.[2]

Finally, sterilization is used to kill all bacteria, viruses, etc., regardless of whether they are good or bad. (This is predominantly only used in certain medical situations, where there is a strong risk of HAI (healthcare-associated infections), such as any equipment being used at an open wound site.)

Both sanitizers and disinfectants are regulated as pesticides by the EPA, and as such should only be used when and where necessary to minimize side effects to public health and the environment.[3]

2. Beware of commercial disinfectants that produce DBPs (disinfectant by-products).

Two of the most common active ingredients in disinfectants approved by the EPA are quaternary ammonium and sodium hypochlorite (bleach). There is growing concern over both of these, especially concerning by-products produced during disinfecting. 

Studies show that chlorine-based commercial disinfectants leave behind trace elements, including trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. The former, especially, is used as an indicator chemical for all potentially harmful compounds formed when adding chlorine to water.[4]

One of the leading trihalomethanes, chloroform, at high levels can contribute to abnormalities in the central nervous system, heart, kidneys and liver. Studies of human populations using drinking water that has been chlorinated in which chloroform is the leading trihalomethane have found small increases in the number of rectal, colon and bladder cancers (with the latter having the most evidence behind it). Finally, chloroform has also been linked to reproductive challenges in animal tests.[5]

Now, it’s important to realize that levels of trihalomethanes (and other by-products) are low enough in, for example, water supplies to not be a significant threat; certainly not enough to justify not disinfecting in the first place.[6]

However, the EPA has tested an alternative to chlorine in water treatment (one that Europe has been using for years) and found similar disinfecting benefits to chlorine, but with zero by-products.[7] That’s right – it’s completely natural and safe as a commercial disinfectant. But more on this later. 

Meanwhile, there is evidence linking quaternary ammonium, the other main type of active ingredient, to respiratory problems, including asthma in some cases. And like chloroform, there is evidence in animal studies of a connection between quaternary levels and reproductive problems in mice. Finally, there is concern that quaternary residue actually enables some microbes to become resistant, creating a residual effect over time where quaternary disinfectants become increasingly less effective while creating microbes that may have resistance to some antibiotics as well.[8]    

A healthier option – one with no by-products. 

When choosing a commercial disinfectant, picking one that poses the least threat to employees and customers or other visitors simply makes the most sense. And based on the EPA report mentioned above, there is such an option – one that is natural and leaves behind no by-product to impact health, safety or the environment. 

That option is peracetic acid (or, similarly, a mix of peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide). 

When the combined peracetic acid/hydrogen peroxide mix breaks down, all that remains is vinegar,  water and extra oxygen. 

Those extra oxygen molecules are what kills the virus. When these molecules engage, they attack the outer protein shell that protects the virus, thereby eliminating it. 

And not only is a peracetic acid/hydrogen peroxide mix safer as a commercial disinfectant, it turns out it is also more effective (in many instances). 

In an article on the importance of fighting HAIs (healthcare-associated infections) in hospital settings, healthcare news and data website Hospitalmanagement.net lists out the top ten disinfectants based on their effectiveness.[9] They are divided up into sterilants and high level disinfectants, intermediate-level disinfectants and low-level disinfectants.  

The first three in the list are aldehydes, such as formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde. These can have significant exposure risks, however, so despite their potency, they are, in many cases, being replaced by the next set on the list. 

Both chlorine and quaternary ammonium are ranked low on the list, in seventh and tenth place, respectively (equating to intermediate to low-level disinfectants, respectively). 

It turns out that the spots held just below the aldehydes, and above chlorine and quaternary ammonium, are held by hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid and the combination of the two (all high level disinfectants).

Here’s that list:

Sterilants and High-level Commercial Disinfectants:

  1. Formaldehyde
  2. Glutaraldehyde
  3. Ortho-phthalaldehyde
  4. Hydrogen peroxide
  5. Peracetic acid
  6. Hydrogen peroxide/Peracetic acid combination

Intermediate-level Commercial Disinfectants: 

  1. Sodium hypochlorite (chlorine-based)
  2. Indophors (iodine-based)

Low-level Commercial Disinfectants:

  1. Phenols
  2. Quaternary ammonium

So for a solution that gets the job done effectively while leaving no by-products that could harm people or the environment, you want to choose a disinfectant for industrial applications that has peracetic acid or a mix of peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. 

3. Realize that application is as much, if not more, important than the product itself.

How you apply a disinfectant product for industrial applications is even more important than exactly which product you choose. Part of this, of course, is following the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, most disinfectants require at least ten minutes of sitting wet on a surface, followed by air drying, to be effective. 

However, another aspect to this is ensuring you have the right tool to apply the product. A sprayer suited to your specific facility will provide a thorough application – keeping viral matter from hiding out in otherwise hard-to-reach places. 

Finally, an important component in successfully applying any disinfectant is efficacy testing to ensure your disinfecting efforts are working and are meeting any regulatory standards required for your facility. 

Introducing the New Midwest Disinfecting System

If you’ve worked with Midwest before, you know how committed we are to always going beyond just a product – to offering an entire system, from product installation and application equipment to testing, that ensures your project gets exactly the results you are looking for. 

With our brand new Midwest Disinfecting System, it’s no different. 

The impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic in ways none of us could ever have imagined. Now, as the economy begins to reopen, it is imperative that we work together to protect our employees and communities from any possible new outbreak that might occur. That’s why Midwest has decided to launch this system – to help our clients face this beast and beat it once and for all.

Here’s what comes in your Midwest Disinfecting System:

  • Proxitane® AHC – This commercial disinfectant product is designed for industrial applications. Its active ingredients are hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid – the same ingredients described above that work effectively to eradicate bacteria, viruses, fungi and more, all while being safe for people and the environment after application. It is approved by the EPA for use against coronavirus. 
  • A DEMA® metered injection pump – This quick-install, wall-mounted unit provides an easy, metered — and therefore accurate — dilution of the concentrate. It uses only water pressure to operate, meaning you won’t even need electricity. It’s as easy as turning on your water source and filling your reservoir.
  • The Graco® HP™ line of sprayers – This line of sprayers was selected to provide coverage from small spaces — offices, locker rooms and other smaller spaces — to large areas such as stadiums, gymnasiums, playgrounds and manufacturing plants. The sprayers we utilize in our system are unique in that they are specifically designed for sanitizing/disinfectant chemicals. They provide greater speed and productivity, while creating more consistent coverage (which eliminates gaps or untreated areas, while meeting chemical dwell time requirements). 

This system is perfect for educational facilities, office/recreation buildings, metro/transit authorities, industrial and manufacturing facilities, retail and wholesale establishments, farms and other animal care facilities and food service and prep facilities. 

To learn more or to request a quote, visit MidwestDS.com


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html

[2] https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

[3] https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/ece_curriculumfinal.pdf

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/safewater/chlorination-byproducts.html

[5] https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-ehp-13.pdf

[6] https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/S04.pdf

[7] https://www.solvay.us/en/binaries/EPA_Fact_Sheet-236719.pdf

[8] https://www.womensvoices.org/safe-cleaning-products/disinfectant-overkill-focus-on-quats/

[9] https://www.hospitalmanagement.net/features/featureppc-disinfectants-hai-globaldata/

Bob is founder and CEO of Midwest Industrial Supply.

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