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Use COVID-19 Disinfectant Solutions with Care

Infection and illness prevention specialists should know that technologies are available to add to their toolboxes of best cleaning and disinfection practices, but they should also be aware of the caveats of their use.

As the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues, the consumer market for “shiny objects and gadgets” to keep people from touching doorknobs and buttons, along with contraptions to disinfect phones, packages, groceries, glasses, shoes - and the air people breath… is mind-boggling.

There are also lots of new and old technologies being marketed, that promise to clean and disinfect all kinds of surfaces. Before COVID-19 this type of disinfection was predominantly aimed at the healthcare sector.

If a company, school, hotel or any other business desires to kill as many pathogens as possible (bacteria, viruses, germs, etc.), over the longest period of time, which in reality is forever - some changes definitely need to occur.

The first goal was to have some type of chemical/s to use that would kill the COVID-19 virus, or at least a close look alike. Many companies simply purchased whatever was available at the time.

Now, the goal is to ensure that the solutions being sprayed, fogged, etc., into the air and onto every surface, are not doing more harm to people and the surfaces we are trying to protect. The cure cannot be more harmful than the problem (i.e. long term negative health side effects).

In addition to a barrage of new and old products, in this era of social and digital media advertising there is a lot of misinformation being circulated. There are claims being made that sound good, but often when some research is done you may find out that there’s more sizzle than steak, and that “some things are too good to be true.”

The verbiage used is often tilted positively toward the product that someone is trying to sell, and negatively towards any competition, whether it’s true or not - just to make a sale.

This could be about dwell time, residual kill time, negative health effects on people, pets and the planet.


  • UV light marketing may say how much better UV is than using liquids, or that UV light with ozone works better than UV without ozone.

  • Some products manipulate words or meanings,. This can make something sound like a “legitimate claim,” such as this disinfectant will kill the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens for a week or even for months. However, with some research or by reading the full label and SDS, one can see how a cursory read about a product (liquid, UV, or air purifier), is not enough. Making the best purchasing decision requires a deeper dive, and you will always need a liquid disinfectant. Just read an ad on UV light disinfection.

  • You will more than likely think that you don’t have to touch or clean surfaces anymore and that UV works in just a few seconds - like magic.

Every Company has to Best their Competition

In the “everyone has to beat their competition” category, many people believe that the liquid they are using works in just a few seconds, just ask them, they will gladly tell you.

Many times when someone reads the full label/use instructions, some of the fastest dwell times may kill one or more pathogens, however if you want to kill other bacteria or viruses, or simply kill the most pathogens as possible, the process usually requires that the complete surface stays wet for up to 10 minutes.

Many of the Quats-based products being used today require 10 minutes to be effective, and Quats are not healthy for people or the planet. I am sure you have seen a wait person clean/disinfect a table and chairs in a restaurant. It probably looks like a quick spray or two, followed by an immediate and half-hearted wipe. If you look closely, you may also see that the towel or cloth is being used on more than one table.

Employees think that they do not have time to do things the right way, just ask them.

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)

UVGI is a type of ultraviolet (UV) light that is composed of 3 types of light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is the most effective of all germicidal light. It was first used as a method to disinfect air in the early 19th century. Despite early successes in applying UVGI, its use fell out of favor. In the 1980s an increase in infections from tuberculosis led to renewed interest in UVGI. It was found to be safe and effective in disinfecting the air and preventing transmission of a variety of airborne infections.

When it comes to disinfecting the air, electrostatic spraying (misting/fogging) works to some degree, just like UV works to some degree. They both have their pros and cons.

The degree of efficacy depends on the quality of the product used, the process being utilized and the person/s treating the room or surface. Notice that no one ever says 100% effective.

There are several methods of applying UVC light against infectious agents in the air or on surfaces: upper-air, HVAC coil irradiation and HVAC airstream disinfection.

Upper-air systems are typically installed in room spaces, such as above patient beds, in waiting rooms, corridors, break areas, etc., where they kill airborne microorganisms that inherently circulate into the path of the UVC light. However the space must be unoccupied when the light/s are on.

Coil irradiation and airstream disinfection systems are installed within air handling units or duct runs within HVAC systems, downstream of cooling coils, to keep coils clean and to provide supplemental kill ratios in airstreams and on filter surfaces. Other UV light products, such as UV light carts and robots are discussed below.

In healthcare, we hear a lot about UVC being used to disinfect surfaces more often than air or water. It relies on a short wavelength of light to break down microorganisms by damaging their DNA and RNA, rendering them unable to replicate. Since viruses are not considered microorganisms, UVC does not actually “kill” viruses it inactivates viruses.

Using UVC radiation to disinfect is not simple and requires a number of health and safety protocols.

  • Radiation must be contained in a device of some kind, be it a light box, robot, cart or tower (see photos below).

  • When UVC light is used to disinfect a room, people must be cleared from the room before the device is turned on. UV light can be harmful to the eyes and skin.

  • UV light travels in a straight line, so UV lights may need to be repositioned to eliminate “shadowing,” which blocks the UV light from touching the surface intended for disinfection. This means adding more lights and/or repositioning them, which takes more time.

  • Installing UVC lights to irradiate a room or determining the placement of mobile devices is a complicated process and must be appropriately validated to work effectively.

  • UVC dosimeter cards are designed to be used to measure and verify ultraviolet exposure on a surface. The dosimeter cards use a special ink that changes color as it is exposed to ultraviolet UVC light.

  • The efficacy of UV disinfection depends on the size of the area, the wattage of the light, the distance from the light to the targeted surface/s, and the duration of time the UV light is on.

  • Some UV systems and programmable robots are costly, at $10,000 - $70,000 ea.

  • UV light can only be used in areas where no people, pets or plants are present.

  • UV lights and air purifiers that create ozone work on air particles, but they require the treated area be ventilated for 30 minutes before reentry (see actual manufacturer’s instructions).

  • UV robots can cost $25-$75,000 each, or more.

  • Finally, UV lights do not replace cleaning.

  • All surfaces need to be free of any soil or bioburden in order for the UV light to reach surfaces and for disinfection to occur.

Bottom line, UV is a good disinfectant tool to have in your toolbox, especially in certain circumstances. However, UV should be used as an adjunct to a thorough and routine cleaning and disinfection process (i.e. spray and wipe, then mist/fog, then UV), not as a replacement for liquid/chemical treatment.

Circumstances where UV light may be the primary or secondary disinfection: areas or rooms where people do not work or visit, rooms or areas where people rotate in and out of the area, with a natural break in between: classrooms, meetings, treatment rooms, hotel rooms, public transportation, rooms that contain sensitive electronics/technology, and critical areas known to contain dangerous pathogens, such as hospitals, surgical rooms, etc.

Misters, foggers and electrostatic sprayers are technologies used to apply disinfectants to surfaces or entire rooms, such as waiting rooms, classrooms, restrooms, operating rooms, hotel rooms, patient care spaces, offices, break/lunch rooms, busses, trains, and many more.

Electrostatic sprayers work by charging liquids as they pass through a sprayer nozzle. Many chemicals used when spraying or fogging, also require the room or space to be unoccupied when treated, and to ventilate the space prior to occupancy. Some for 1-2 hours or longer. Xtreme offers a zero reentry time (immediate occupation).

Electrostatic devices charge droplets that repel one another. When applied to surfaces they stick to and even “wrap around” surfaces and objects so as to coat/disinfect all sides. This “whole room” approach to disinfection can help eliminate some of the human error that may occur from the repetitive and tedious task of cleaning surfaces by hand only, or by placing light in the center of the average room.

Whole room spraying with a ULV (Ultra Low Volume) unit also reduces the amount of liquid used, which both reduces costs and benefits humans and the environment; employees, guests, customers, students and staff who are exposed to cleaning products on a regular basis.

Xtreme Treatment Compound

Xtreme Treatment Compound (available through Xtreme Prevention) is a non-toxic, antimicrobial, multi-surface cleaner & disinfectant (all in 1).

Because it is non-toxic, there is zero reentry time when spraying/misting. Clean surfaces, then mist and allow a couple of minutes for surfaces to dry. People may then reenter versus having to air out a room for 30 minutes, an hour or longer in some cases (Applies to most chemicals & UVC lights that create ozone treatments, and to some air purifiers that generate ozone).

The CDC recommends cleaning contaminated surfaces with liquid disinfectant products to prevent the spread of disease.

If powering off and/or covering sensitive equipment is not an option, UV disinfection should be considered as an alternative or additional method to liquid treatments, although there will still be a need to clean and wipe or disinfect surfaces to do the best job possible.

Air Purifiers

If you are considering adding air purifiers, look for our blog post or newsletter that contains air purifiers in the title to learn more about this technology and where it stands in the hierarchy of control measures.

Contact Xtreme Prevention to learn more about all 3 of these technologies or to make an informed purchase.


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