We’re all being told how important it is to wash our hands and wipe surfaces to protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. We all saw the shelves empty of hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes. It’s clear that the message is being heard, but are we really understanding it?
In my role at Ultrawave, I’ve come across government announcements, scientific papers, social media posts, product advertising and so much more. With so much information out there, I want to cut through the jargon and find out what it all means.
‘Clean, Sanitise, Sterilise, Disinfect, Decontaminate’
We’ve all heard these words and probably assume they all mean roughly the same thing right? Well, there’s a bit more to it:
- Clean – Essentially meaning to remove unwanted substances. Cleaning helps to remove or significantly reduce pathogens on contaminated surfaces. The World Heath Organisation says “Cleaning with water, soap and some form of mechanical action (brushing or scrubbing) removes and reduces dirt, debris and other organic matter such as blood, secretions and excretions, but does not kill microorganisms.”
- Sanitise – In medical terminology, this means to ‘make sanitary’, to be free of dirt and germs (much the same as ‘clean’).
- Decontaminate – To neutralise or remove dangerous substances.
- Disinfect – Refers to the killing of most microbial life, specifically those that can infect humans.
- Sterilise – Is usually used in healthcare and requires specific processes. The outcome of such processes is to kill all microbial life.
What does this mean for you?
Ideally of course we would all love to sterilise or decontaminate everything as this is the most effective way to neutralise infectious substances. However, logistically it’s just not possible to do this.
The next best option? Disinfection. Which raises the question, what and how can you disinfect? We can’t submerge everything in disinfectant, so surfaces should be cleaned using a cloth or soaked wipe. Pay close attention to the contact time listed on your chosen product, this will have a significant effect on the disinfection process!
“A chemical disinfectant, such as chlorine or alcohol, should be applied after cleaning to kill any remaining microorganisms”
– World Health Organisation
It is important to note that the disinfection should be done after an initial clean. Your disinfecting products should state this. The clean prior to disinfection removes materials that may impede the disinfection process.
Wash Your Hands
This is still very important. Coronavirus is very effective at sticking to you, and with our hands as our main contact point, this is where the molecules are most likely to be. Can soap and water really help? Well, the science says yes…
“Because the soap molecules are so similar to the ones making up the outer layer of the virus, the molecules in the lipid bilayer are as strongly attracted to soap molecules as they are to each other. This disrupts the neatly-ordered shell around the virus, dissolving it in the running water and killing the virus.”
– Sara Rigby, Science Focus
Soap dissolves the virus under running water? Sounds good to me! I’m off to wash my hands again, so I’ll leave you with these:
- Stock your premises with disinfection products
- Know how to use them
- Clean (a.k.a Sanistise) first
- Unless you are in a healthcare setting, you are unlikely to be able to sterilise (and probably don’t need to!)
- Wash Your Hands!
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- World Health Organisation – 16 May 2020 COVID-19: Infection prevention and control
- Science Focus – Coronavirus: Is hand-washing really the best thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19?
- Barbicide – FAQ’s
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Cleaning: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities (2008)
Article by Nichola Watkins, Managing Director at Ultrawave Ltd and Minerva Hearing Ltd.