When we clean our homes, is it best to use antibacterial, disinfectant or sanitizing cleaners? What’s the difference between those labels? Is it better to use one in the kitchen and another in the bathroom? Well here’s an easy guide to knowing what these designations mean and where they are best put to use.
First, know that it’s the EPA that defines and regulates these claims. Manufacturers must meet the standards below in order to label their products accurately.
As its name suggests, “antibacterial” products must kill or suppress the growth of bacteria on non-living surfaces. They do not kill all germs or get rid of viruses or fungi; their target is bacteria. Antibacterials, such as rubbing alcohol are short-acting and appropriate for home use. Long-acting antibacterials, such as triclosan, may be more effective in settings such as hospitals, where the risk of infection is greater.
Sanitizers reduce the amount of micro-organisms, like fungi, bacteria, and viruses on a surface to a level public health codes or regulations deem safe, usually destroying 99.9 percent of disease-causing micro-organisms. They can fail to destroy some pathogenic bacteria, and should not be used to thoroughly clean surfaces that have been exposed to meat, poultry, fish or eggs. When properly applied, sanitizers generally work within 30 seconds.
With respect to hand sanitizers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using soap and water first (the length of time we should wash our hands is the length of two rounds of “Happy Birthday”.) If soap and water are not available the use of hand sanitizers is recommended.
Disinfectants destroy and inhibit the growth of microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and viruses on non-living surfaces. To be labeled as a disinfectant, a product must kill 99.9999 percent of micro-organisms. They should be used to clean surfaces that have been in contact with foods such as eggs, meat, poultry and fish. It takes between five and ten minutes for disinfectants to destroy germs.
It is recommended to remove grease and dirt from surfaces with basic soap and water prior to proper disinfecting and sanitizing.
By using green living product lines such as Seventh Generation or a DIY cleaner which uses effective ingredients such as vinegar or essential oils, you can minimize the risk of suffering the effects of exposure to the harsh chemicals used in most commercial cleaners.