Who can forget the feeling of complete confusion and total helplessness of not knowing how COVID-19 spreads? We took cleaning to a whole new level at the onset of the pandemic. We had to -- top health officials around the globe were scrambling to make sense of a world turned upside down by this novel virus. So. Many. Questions. Can I catch it from the air? The counter? My groceries? Should I bleach my counters? (Sure) My body? (No!)
We’ve gone to extreme lengths to keep this virus at bay, and keep ourselves and homes coronavirus-free during the process. We took a long, hard look at our old cleaning and sanitizing habits and kicked into overdrive.
But truth is, pandemic or not, we should be cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting our homes, vehicles, and workspaces on a regular basis. If everyone were washing their hands, cleaning, and sanitizing on a regular basis, can you imagine the impact that would have on decreasing risk of almost all illnesses globally?
So… that being said, what is sanitizing, really?
If you’re feeling lost, we can help. Our team at Sanitizer.com are experts at all things sanitization. We’ll guide you through what sanitization means, and how you can keep your home and workspace sanitized efficiently and effectively.
What is Sanitization?
Sanitizing is different from cleaning and disinfecting. All three modes are important for keeping you, your family, and the surfaces and objects you regularly touch germ-free. An excellent cleaning regimen includes all three. So here’s what you need to know about the differences of each:
- Cleaning. Cleaning refers to sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, wiping, and scrubbing, with the main purpose of cleaning being to remove dirt, oil, and residue. Basically, if you don’t see it, it’s “clean”. Cleaning is more about upkeep than eliminating germs.
While cleaning can reduce the amount of germs and bacteria on a surface, it doesn’t necessarily do so every time. You can wipe down a counter with a damp rag to “clean it” -- that won’t necessarily remove germs, but it will get rid of any visible dirt and debris. But wiping the counter with a sanitizing solution will clean and remove germs.
- Sanitizing. Sanitizing reduces the numbers of bacteria on an object or surface to an amount deemed safe by public health officials or governmental agencies. So though sanitizing doesn’t kill all germs, it will reduce the amount of germs to a safe level.
The label of the product should tell you what kind of viruses and/or bacteria and germs the product is capable of removing, and how much it will remove. Generally speaking, a sanitizer with a concentration of at least 60% isopropyl alcohol by volume removes 99.9% of bacteria, germs, and spores from your hands. If the sanitizer has at least 70%, it can sanitize non-porous surfaces like countertops and smartphones, too.
- Disinfecting. Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill and destroy bacteria, germs, and spores. Disinfectants are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and most sanitizers are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”).
While both disinfectants and sanitizers are considered antimicrobial pesticides, the easiest way to determine which one is which is by the agency that governs their production. The FDA regulates anything that can be used on or in humans, and the EPA regulates products that are used on surfaces.
With this all in mind, it’s not rocket science that the best cleaning routine includes cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.
It might be tempting to skip the cleaning part and head straight to sanitizing and disinfecting, but the problem is that it is almost impossible to properly sanitize or disinfect a dirty surface that has not been properly cleaned. Here are two reasons why:
- If you attempt to sanitize or disinfect a dirty surface, the product you use will not be able to penetrate past the build up of dirt or dust to effectively clean the underlying surface. Even if you agitate the disinfectant or sanitizer onto the surface, you are essentially still mopping up dust and product at the same time. The product will cling to the dust you wipe up, leaving you with an un-sanitized surface.
- There could be substances on the surface you are attempting to sanitize or disinfect that would negatively interact with the sanitizer or disinfectant you are using. Many cleaning products, for instance, should never come into contact with one another because of harmful interactions that can cause toxic fumes. Mixing bleach and vinegar is a common mistake that creates chlorine gas, a dangerous vapor that can really mess up your lungs to say the least.
To summarize, proper sanitizing:
- Reduces the number of germs on the object or surface being sanitized
- Is generally safe for skin (provided that the FDA has approved the ingredients in the sanitizer for human use)
- Kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, and spores from fungi when used properly
Is a vital and important part of proper hygiene that can help keep us healthier
Okay, So… What About Hand Sanitizing?
Hand sanitizer is a fluid typically manufactured in gel or spray form that contains at least 60% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol by volume to be effective in removing bacteria from your hands in between soap and water washes.
Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of hand sanitizer:
- Convenience. Hand sanitizer is a practical and effective way to keep your hands germ free in between regular soap and water washes. In fact, many hand sanitizers are available in small bottles that can be kept in easy-access locations like your car, purse, pocket, or desk drawer, for quick retrieval.
- Powerful. In order for a hand sanitizer to be effective on your hands, it must contain at least 60% isopropyl alcohol. If it contains 10 percent more at 70% or higher, it can even be used to clean non-porous surfaces, like tablets and smartphones. Hand sanitizer kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, and spores, so you can feel confident about the cleanliness of your hands.
- Safe. The ingredients in a high-quality hand sanitizer should be safe to use. Steer clear of hand sanitizers that contain wood alcohol (methanol), as this is unsafe and has not been approved by the FDA for use in hand sanitizer formulas.
Because we experienced a hand sanitizer shortage earlier this year, the sanitizer market is flooded with new manufacturers and products so we have to be more diligent than ever about the products we buy.
Don’t Forget! For hand sanitizer to work properly, you must use it correctly. It turns out, there is a correct way to sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer, just as there is a correct method for washing your hands with soap and water. Follow these steps and you’re golden:
- Spray a generous amount of hand sanitizer spray onto both hands. Don’t be stingy -- one of the biggest mistakes we make when using hand sanitizer spray is not using enough. Be sure to spray enough to cover your hands completely.
- Rub your hands together vigorously, ensuring you are rubbing over fingernails and nail beds, and the front and back sides of both hands -- don’t forget between your fingers.
- Allow the product to dry completely. Once your hands are dry they are officially sanitized!
In general, soap and water is the best defense against common bugs like colds and flus.
But there may be multiple times during the day when you simply cannot do not have access to a sink, or do not have time to do it:
- In the car
- At your desk or passing work items between colleagues
- At the store handling products, unclean surfaces, and shopping carts
- At a sporting event
- Traveling (in a car, airplane, or bus)
There are numerous times when you simply cannot wash your hands with soap and water, that’s the best time to reach for your sanitizer.