Cleaning To Combat Enveloped Viruses
Contributed by Patrick Collins.
We’re just coming out of the height of the cold and flu season and, of course, we are all still paying close attention to COVID-19. As such, we thought we would share some helpful information regarding disinfectants, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) while using disinfectants, and areas of focus for disinfecting that are applicable for home offices, businesses, or even mobile offices for those of you who work on-the-go.
According to the Spaulding Classification, enveloped viruses such as Influenza A and B (the common flu) or COVID-19, are the easiest classification of microorganisms to kill. Think of enveloped viruses like a letter inside an envelope. These viruses are coated with protein or fat, just like a letter sits inside an envelope. When we puncture the envelope, we puncture the letter, and the message can’t be transmitted. This is what we want to happen with enveloped viruses. We want to puncture the outer layer of the enveloped viruses so the contents — the virus — cannot be transmitted.
This outer layer made up of protein or fat is easily punctured by general-purpose spray-and-wipe cleaning. In particular, using a disinfectant that carries a claim against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), will greatly reduce the risk of passing on viruses that remain on surfaces.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a list (List N) of disinfectants approved in use against SARS-CoV-2. More than half of the approved disinfectants on this list contain the active ingredient quaternary ammonium**. Quaternary ammonium, or quats for short, have been around and used for a variety of purposes for the last 85 years, primarily for sterilization and disinfection. Different quats are used in items from antibacterial hand soaps to eye drops to mouthwash to disinfectant cleaners.
It’s important to note that when using quat-based disinfectants, the chemicals should only be used as prescribed on the label and in conjunction with the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). Aerosolized quat particles are known to irritate the skin, eyes and lungs. As such, it is recommended workers wear PPE when using quat-based disinfectants.
Once appropriate products have been identified and PPE applied, your focus for the use of disinfectants should be on high-touch points. These high-touch points should include, but are certainly not limited to, handles, light switches, door knobs, steering wheel in your mobile office, and most importantly, telephones. Surveys have routinely pointed out that the most overlooked surfaces for cleaning are our cellular telephones.
No matter what surface you’re cleaning, if you decide to purchase EPA-registered disinfectants for the use against SARS-CoV-2, remember to wear the prescribed PPE, read and follow the instructions on the label, and disinfect those high-touch points!
Patrick Collins is the vice president of sales at Coast Brothers, a jan/san distributor based in Ocala, Florida.
**There are products on List N that do not include quaternary ammonium and might be better suited for green cleaning programs.