Disinfecting In Your Home Fairfax VA, Alexandria VA, and the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Area
If you are a parent, germs entering your home is probably not a new concept. Kids have a way of picking up every bug known to man and bringing it home with them from school, from the playground or from daycare. At one time or another, every parent has found themselves dealing with pinkeye or fighting a cold that was nothing more than a sniffle in their little one a few days before.
The same thing happens to those of us who work in office buildings, or frequently fly on planes. Somehow, despite our best efforts, viruses and bacteria find their way into our lives. For the most part, these are minor bumps in the road for us. It is the rise of something new and more unpredictable, like COVID-19, that can compel you to take a pause.
Sanitizing your home is probably something that you take part in on some level on a daily or weekly basis. Most of us sanitize our kitchen counters, tables, and sinks because we know that raw food has touched those surfaces. You regularly disinfect the bathroom and change linens because let’s face it, we’re all a little gross and there are just some things you don’t want to get out of control. During the pandemic, however, you might have suddenly become aware of how often an unwashed hand touches certain surfaces as you come home from work. When was the last time you washed your remote control? How about the handrail on your staircase?
Disinfecting vs. Sanitizing – What is the difference?
While both are important, there is a distinct difference between disinfecting in your home and sanitizing your home. Disinfecting is the use of chemicals to kill germs. Sanitizing is reducing and removing the number of germs on a surface to a safe level based on public health guidance.
Cleaning and sanitizing are pretty routine for us. The normal process of picking up clutter, running the vacuum, wiping down common surfaces and controlling dust is enough to keep your home clean and healthy for your family. When it comes to caring for a family member that is sick or immune-compromised, the act of disinfecting and actually killing the germs can help lower the spread of infection.
Disinfecting Products vs. Sanitizing Products
Products that sanitize and products that disinfect have a few things in common.
- They are considered antimicrobial pesticides
- They are both registered with the EPA
- They are both held to a standard of effectiveness
The main difference between them is the level of EPA requirements that each must meet. Surface disinfectants are held to a higher standard and are subject to more intensive EPA testing than sanitizing products. Lots of products on the market and cleaning services offered for the home will clear both bars for sanitizing and disinfecting, but when choosing a product to use in the home, it’s important to know the difference based on your unique needs.
Sometimes the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting can be in how a product is used. There are some surface cleaners that will do both quite effectively, but the length of time a cleaner remains on a surface can mean the difference between being sanitary and being disinfected. To effectively disinfect a common surface, it might actually be necessary to leave the surface wet with the cleaner for several minutes before wiping it away.
Are Surfaces the Only Thing To Worry About?
When thinking about disinfecting in your home, common surfaces are only one angle to approach. Many pathogens are airborne, meaning that a sick person can pass along their illness through the air we breathe. There are also soft surfaces to consider, such as rugs and carpeting, that might hold on to bacteria and can’t be cleaned with standard surface disinfectants.
When it comes to controlling the spread of viruses and bacteria through the air, ventilation is key. Changing your home’s air filters regularly and keeping fresh air moving through your home is a good strategy for this. Some hospitals use an aerosol disinfectant delivery system in the form of fog. While they do use surface disinfectants regularly, they also use fog to clean the air in patient rooms and common areas for an added layer of protection.
When it comes to soft surfaces, there is no EPA standard for disinfecting vs. sanitizing. The CDC recommends washing soft surfaces with soap and water, laundering anything that can be laundered (blankets, throws, sheets, etc.) and vacuuming as normal. These processes should keep pathogens at bay enough to lower the risk of infection or transmission in your household. Best practices also include maintaining good hand hygiene, laundering routinely, and using EPA-approved products.
Easily Overlooked Surfaces
As the scientific community learned about COVID-19, the information about how it spread and what it could live on changed over time. As that data was being collected, it started to bring to light surfaces and objects that we use on a daily basis that are actually common carriers for pathogens we may not typically think about. You may have been in the early days of the pandemic and been suddenly aware that as you are pumping gas, hundreds of other hands must have touched the pump handle. Anything on that handle is then suddenly on your gas cap, the car door handle and the steering wheel. It became a rabbit-hole thinking about every touch surface that could carry something undesirable.
In reality, however, the dirtiest objects we come in regular contact with that don’t get cleaned regularly are things like our phones, TV remotes, sponges and dishcloths, computer keyboards and purses. Taking a step back and thinking about all of the things you touch as you go from point A to point B in your home can illuminate a number of objects that need attention for truly ridding your home of germs.
The bright side of navigating these uncertain times is the opportunity to learn and get better at protecting yourself from the invisible invaders that make you sick. We have been forced to re-examine how we keep our homes healthy, and in the long run, we will be better informed and prepared to protect our most vulnerable. Choosing the route of sanitizing vs. disinfecting is all about your family’s individual needs and knowing the difference between them. Using common sense, following the guidelines of the experts and reading those cleaning labels carefully will go a very long way!