Wipes used for disinfecting purposes have unique properties – sometimes different than standard cleanroom wipes. Beyond use within a controlled environment, applications for disinfecting wipes include hospitals, medical device manufacturing, janitorial services, food production, and sterile processing.
Several different criteria help determine the efficacy of various disinfecting wiping methods. That includes the type of disinfectant used, application, wiping strategy, and the wipe material itself.
Different Types of Disinfectants
Advantages: The most common of the three popular disinfectants, isopropyl alcohol is inexpensive and offers a rapid and broad bactericidal effect without bacteriostatic action and relevant toxicity issues
Disadvantages: It can be corrosive to metals (especially at higher concentrations) and is highly inflammable. It is not sporicidal and has low effectiveness in the inactivation of certain viruses.
Advantages: Hypochlorite is another low-cost disinfectant that offers a fast method of neutralizing activity. It’s not affected by water hardness and has a wide range of bactericidal spectrum with no toxic residues.
Disadvantages: This chemical can be corrosive to metals (> 500 ppm), easily neutralized by organic matter, and irritating to skin and eyes. Additionally, it can generate dangerous toxic gas if mixed with certain chemicals including ammonia or acid.
Advantages: Hydrogen peroxide presents wide-ranging germicidal action including bacterial spores (with longer contact time). It is relatively environmentally friendly due to its fast degradation. It is very effective even when contact is made with organic matter, without producing residues.
Disadvantages: When diluted, hydrogen peroxide is inconsistent and can be ineffective. It can be corrosive to metals including brass, copper, steel, galvanized iron, and bronze.
Disinfecting Wiping Methods
Spray and Wipe Method
This method starts by spraying the solution directly onto the surface followed by wiping the surface. A typical disinfectant application tool is a trigger sprayer or aerosol can. Advantages of this method include direct contact with the surface application area and control over the amount of solution dispensed. Several drawbacks are present, however. This includes inconsistent dispensing of solution / overspray (particularly troublesome for applications with stringent requirements), difficulty reaching and covering complex or non-flat surfaces (such as the underside of equipment and hand railing – a cleanroom sponge can provide better coverage for applications like this), and the generation of VOCs (Volatile organic compounds) that can be harmful to humans.
Dip and Wipe Method
Using this method, the user dips a dry wiper into the solution for approximately 5-10 seconds while the wipe is saturated. The excess solution is then rung out. Advantages of this are greater control over solution applied and reduced likelihood the disinfectant solution degrades the wiping material. Disadvantages include possible reduced effectiveness of disinfectant because of the short contact time with the wiper. Insufficient disinfectant saturation may also later become potential agent of pathogen transmission. Another drawback is re-dipping the used wipe can promote cross-contamination.
Soak and Wipe Method
Also referred to as the “bucket method”, this is commonly used in hospitals for various disinfecting activities. With this method, the wiper is soaked in the disinfectant solution for longer durations – any time from 10 min up to several hours. The wipe is then wrung out and applied directly to the surface. One advantage of this method includes longer contact time ensuring enough active ingredient saturation in wipe before use. On the contrary, some studies claim possible reduced antimicrobial activity of disinfectants due to interactions between wipes and disinfectant from longer soaking time [source]. Like the dip and wipe method, improper reuse of the wipe can result in cross-transmission.
Ready-to-Use Wipes (Presaturated Wipes)
Ready-to-use wipes are pre-saturated with the desired solvent. The wipes can be wetted with a variety of disinfectants or antiseptics. They come in resealable containers such as tubs, peel-and-reseal bags, and canisters. This disinfecting wiping method is cost-effective and virtually eliminates preparation time, as needed for the above-mentioned methods. Cross-contamination is also not an issue with this method since each wipe is dispensed one at a time. Several disadvantages include limited storage time, thus leading to the potential of decreased antimicrobial activity. This wiping method also may not be as effective or efficient for larger surface areas since the wiping contains a limited amount of solvent.
Among the discussed wiping methods, the most widely accepted is using presaturated disinfecting wipes. Using this wiping method is versatile and convenient. There is also less probability of disinfection failure with this method. It is not a one size fits all solution though. Shelf life is limited with presaturated wipes and they may not be ideal for larger areas.
If you need assistance choosing a wipe or disinfectant, please contact one of our knowledgeable sales representatives.