I have a “scorecard” or criteria for the selection of disinfectant wipes. The following list of “what to look for in a disinfectant wipe” is in no wise exhaustive. If you have other criteria you think is important, please weigh in on the topic. Here are my suggested criteria and then a little disclaimer at the bottom.

I am a proponent of providing easy-to-use disinfectant wipes for use by every person who touches the patient, their bed, bedrails or items within the patient zone (3-foot radius around the bed). The use of disinfectant wipes by non-housekeeping staff is intended to maintain the patient’s safe, clean and disinfected environment during the other 23 hours and 45 minutes out of the day until the custodian returns 24 hours later.

That being said, wipes are a good choice. Those using the wipes need to be in-serviced to use one wipe on one surface; don’t try to wipe several pieces of equipment with a single wipe. Using one wipe to “save money” is inviting the spread of organisms rather than removing/killing them.

Some considerations when looking at disinfectant wipes:

1.  Dry time — How wet are the wipes? Does the surface stay wet for 60-90 seconds (that’s what the CDC recommends)? What are your target organisms determined by a risk assessment? Make sure the wipe you choose has a kill-claim for those organisms important to your patient population.

2.  What are the surfaces/materials you will be cleaning and disinfecting? Will the disinfectant damage or destroy them? We have an expensive problem at our hospital. We use a well-known bleach wipe on our C-diff isolated patient’s bed mattress. During our terminal cleaning process, we have damaged roughly 100 out of 360 new mattresses we purchased just one year ago. They have been bleached out and now it’s been discovered that we have voided the warranty. Another touchy piece of equipment is glucometers. We were using a hydrogen peroxide based wipe on those only to find out that the disinfectant damages the optics. We had to find a different wipe (an alcohol prep pad).

3.  What do the wipes smell like? It can be a very good wipe but if the smell is offensive to workers, patients and their visitors, you’ll regret your purchase.

4.  What is the composition of the wiping material? Is it cellulose? Steer clear of materials that may deplete the active ingredients of the disinfectant they are supposed to be delivering. This might happen if you use a tub of disposable wiping materials that allow you to add your facility’s disinfectant to the bucket of dry wipes.

5. What is the design of the flip-top on the canister? A well-designed canister will have a well under the flip-top to conceal the top of the next wipe when the lid is closed. Otherwise, the next wipe tends to dry out before it is used.

I will be the first to admit, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a disposable wipe that meets all MY criteria. But there’s hope. I believe that in the next 6 to 12 months there will be new formulations (non-bleach) for wipes approved by the EPA that will be better (AND have a C-diff claim). 

Lastly, I would urge you to ask your vendor rep for a half-dozen references of hospitals that are using the manufacturer’s wipe. That reference list should include IPC professionals as well as housekeeping directors. I don’t know if the vendor rep will give them to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for one or two hospitals that have switched wipes away from what the rep is trying to sell to your hospital.

That’s my advice; take it and develop your own criteria.


J. Darrel Hicks, REH, CHESP, is the author of "Infection Control For Dummies" and has over 30 years of experience in the jan/san industry. For a free 30-minute phone consultation, contact him at darrel@darrelhicks.com or through his website at www.darrelhicks.com.