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FAQs: Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection

FAQs: Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection

1. Why is it important to clean the environment?
Microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses) are present throughout the environment and can cause infection. The environment can serve as a breeding ground for these organisms. Cleaning and disinfecting housekeeping surfaces and medical equipment, especially those that are frequently touched, is important to decrease and prevent the spread of these organisms to people.

2. Does environmental cleaning and disinfection really work in preventing the spread of harmful microorganisms?
Yes. But how well it works depends on many things, including the nature of the object, the type, number, and location of microorganisms, how well the organisms resist the physical processes or disinfectants, the presence of organic and inorganic matter, the concentration and potency of the disinfectant, other physical and chemical properties (i.e., temperature, pH), the duration of exposure, and the contact time. Remember that environmental cleaning and disinfection is just one of several steps needed to prevent the spread of germs.

3. Which disinfectant should I use when disinfecting environmental surfaces?
Only use disinfectants registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See www.epa.gov/oppad001/active-hospital-disinf.pdf. Remember to always follow the instructions on the product label. Pay close attention to the purposes indicated on the product label, the proper dilution rates (if provided), the contact time required, the product shelf-life, and all safety instructions for handling and use. Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the product label says that it is safe to do so.

4. Can I use the same disinfectant for all situations?
No. There are special instructions for blood spills or when certain microorganisms (e.g., Clostridium difficile and norovirus) are known to be present.

5. What other microorganisms require special disinfectants?
When an outbreak of Clostridium difficile is suspected or confirmed, special instructions for cleaning and disinfection need to be followed. This is because the organism produces spores that can live in the environment for many months and these spores are highly resistant to cleaning and disinfection. During a suspected outbreak, first clean the area or objects (i.e., wash and scrub using a detergent). Then disinfect the area or objects using a diluted bleach solution (1:10 dilution or 1 part bleach to 9 parts water that is prepared daily). A diluted bleach solution is recommended because no EPA-registered disinfectant is specific for inactivating Clostridium difficile spores. Allow a contact time of one minute by thoroughly wetting the surface with the diluted bleach solution and then allowing it to air dry. When norovirus is suspected or confirmed, diluted bleach with a minimum concentration of 1:50 and a contact time of one minute is recommended. However, bleach is substantially and quickly inactivated in the presence of organic matter. In areas with high levels of soiling and resistant surfaces, a 1:10 diluted bleach solution and a contact time of up to 10 minutes may be necessary. Because these concentrations are much higher than is allowed for a no-rinse food contact surface sanitizer according to the FDA Food Code, if the area is a food contact area, this disinfection procedure must be followed by a clear-water rinse and a final wipe down with a sanitizing bleach solution of 1:200 to remove residual high levels of bleach.

Source: State Department of Health