In yesterday's tip I outlined some techniques to "Read Disinfect Labels Like A Boss." Today, I'd like to expand on some best practices to proper disinfecting, specifically application.

Apply the disinfectant like a Boss. 

Have you considered the manner in which your disinfectant is being delivered to the surface by the custodial staff? Have you investigated how long the disinfectant remains wet on the surface once it is applied? Which disinfectant delivery is best practice — sprayer, flip top or open bucket?

Using a sprayer (spray-maker) on a bottle of disinfectant is akin to “spray and pray;” the end-user has to “spray and pray that the surface remains wet enough to remove the soil burden and the pathogens that dwell there.”  

Using a spray-maker is wrong on two levels. First, the surface is not made and kept sufficiently wet for a label’s prescribed amount of time to kill organisms. And second, spraying disinfectants and other cleaning chemicals may cause chronic asthma and upper respiratory problems for cleaners who suffer the long-term effects (see my blog titled “A ‘Breathtaking Experience’” on 

Disinfectants are registered as pesticides by the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). When that pesticide (disinfectant) is atomized by a custodial worker that sprays it on practically every surface in a patient’s room, that worker breathes the chemical into his/her lungs. 

If you want to keep your facility out of the cross-hairs of OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration), find a better way to deliver disinfectants; your staff will thank you. The elimination of atomized cleaners and disinfectants is covered in OSHA’s General Duty Clause which basically asks, “What would the prudent man (woman) do?”  

One exception to “no spray-maker” rule is when the sprayer actually produces a clinging foam cleaner/disinfectant, which clings to vertical surfaces. 

When applying disinfectants, consider a flip-top spout on a bottle, which will deliver a more consistent stream of disinfectant to a surface or a microfiber cloth. Flip top bottles steer clear of the problem of atomizing disinfectants and causing chronic respiratory problems for custodial workers applying them. Thus, the flip top keeps you and your organization out of OSHA’s cross-hairs.

The best practice for applying disinfectants is by the open bucket method with the qualification that a soiled/used cloth never goes back in the bucket. In this technique, the clean bucket is filed with properly diluted disinfectant and then clean microfiber cloths are added to the bucket. Workers wring the excess disinfectant from the cloth, fold it in half, then half again. This practice provides eight cleaning/disinfecting surfaces.  Workers use one cloth for the patient’s room and a second cloth for the restroom. 

The guiding principle is that the soiled cloth goes into a laundry bag when finished; not in the bucket. And the surface is kept wet enough to do a proper job of cleaning and remain wet for 4 to 6 minutes. The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that if a disinfectant is applied to a surface and that surface remains wet for 3 minutes, that should be sufficient “kill time” or “dwell time” to kill the pathogens. 


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 or through his website at