Chemicals, Cleaning containers

A reader writes: "I am still confused. Which works better: plain old detergent or bleach to disinfect hard surfaces?"

Great question. There is a continuing discussion as to what works in dealing with pathogens (viruses and bacteria that can kill or sicken). We need to be aware of dealing with germs especially during flu season. I was taught that the most hostile environment for pathogen is a clean, dry surface exposed to light and air since pathogens need food, moisture and low light to multiply.

Many people make the mistake of simply using a disinfectant (such as bleach mixed with water) to "clean and disinfect" a surface, forgetting that most pure disinfectants are NOT cleaners. If there is a soil load on surface, the disinfectant can be neutralized and not completely kill all the germs. Another mistake is using the wrong type cloth or sponge (either soiled or not effective in removing the soils) when wiping a surface thereby leaving germs (both dead and alive) to multiply and come back even stronger than before. Realize that dead germs can actually be food for living germs so removal is important. Of course, you might consider a blended detergent/disinfectant product and encourage you to closely follow label directions.

What is the application? I am glad you asked. My suggestion is that you use a detergent-based cleaner to first remove the soils/contaminants on the surface, then apply a disinfectant product (liquid spray or wipes) following the guidance as to "dwell/contact" time for it to be effective. Then recognize that one sneeze, soiled hand, the HVAC kicking on or other transmission can reapply enough germs to start the process over since they can duplicate themselves every 20 minutes resulting in an estimated 60,000,000 critters in 24 hours.

Sorry for such a long response, but I encourage everyone to be aware of disease transmission during this time of year. When you are cleaning a break room, I encourage you to use a soapy cloth (flipped and rinsed once or twice) to clean all the touch points (such as microwave handles, faucet handles, drawer pulls, coffee pot handles, and anything else you see fit). Then use the disinfectant wipes if you have the time to help reduce the germ count. The link follows and there are other good points to consider. As I like to say quoting Susie Baumunk: "Be safe and keep it clean..."

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or