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Surface Cleaning: Definition of Terms

Surface Cleaning: Definition of Terms

A form of decontamination that renders the environmental surface safe to handle or use by removing organic matter, salts, and visible soils, all of which interfere with microbial inactivation

Source: Health Facilities Management

Cleaning solution.
Any combination of soap (or detergent) and water, with or without a chemical disinfectant, used to wash or wipe down environmental surfaces such as floors, chairs, bench tops, walls and ceilings.

Chemical that destroys or inactivates microorganisms. Disinfectants are classified as low-, intermediate- or high-level depending on their ability to kill or immobilize some (low- or intermediate-level) or all (high-level) microorganisms (but not all spores). Phenols, chlorine or chlorine-containing compounds and QUATs are classes of disinfectants frequently used to clean noncritical surfaces such as floors, walls and furniture.

Disinfectant cleaning solution.
Products that are a combination of a detergent (soap) and a chemical disinfectant. Not all detergents and disinfectants are compatible. Several combinations are available commercially or can be prepared, such as alkaline detergents with chlorine compounds, alkaline detergents with quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATs), or other nonionic surfactants, and acid detergents with iodophors.

Environmental controls.
Standards specifying procedures to be followed for the routine care, cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, beds, bedrails, bedside equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.

Environmental hygiene.
Process of maintaining a clean, healthy and pleasing patient and work environment.

Chemical that reduces the number of bacterial contaminants to safe levels on inanimate objects based on public health requirements (i.e., a chemical that kills 99.999% of the specific test bacteria in 30 seconds under the conditions of the test).

Soaps and detergents (terms used interchangeably).
Cleaning products (bar, liquid, leaflet or powder) that lower surface tension, thereby helping remove dirt, debris and transient microorganisms from hands. Plain soaps require friction (scrubbing) to mechanically remove microorganisms; antiseptic (antimicrobial) soaps kill or inhibit the growth of most microorganisms.

Chemicals used to destroy all forms of microorganisms, including endospores. Most sterilants are also high-level disinfectants when used for a shorter period of time. Sterilants are used only on inanimate objects (e.g., surgical instruments) that are used in semicritical and critical areas (e.g., surgery). Sterilants are not meant to be used for cleaning environmental surfaces.

Agent that reduces the surface tension of water or the tension at the interface between water and another liquid; a wetting agent found in many sterilants and disinfectants.

Type of detergent:
Commercial cleaning product (liquid or powder) that are composed of a hydrophilic (water-seeking) component and a lipophilic (fat-seeking) component and can be divided into four types: anionic, cationic, amphoteric and nonionic detergents.