Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required producers of commercially prepared pre-moistened wipes (towelettes) to modify label use-instructions to accurately reflect the appropriate steps necessary to assure complete disinfection of inanimate patient care surfaces.

According to Becker's ASC Review, the EPA has directed producers to specifically state "the surface must remain 'visibly wet' for the prescribed contact time in order to produce disinfection." In other words, if the disinfection time listed on the label is 10 minutes, the surface must remain visibly wet for the entire 10 minutes. The key phrase in this new directive is "visibly wet."

Some health care workers have interpreted advertised claims to imply that simply swiping surfaces then walking away is sufficient. This puts patients and staff at risk of exposure to environmentally transmitted infectious microorganisms.

EPA requirements are very specific as to the manner in which a disinfectant is to be used and applied. Furthermore, EPA requirements are very specific as to the minimum amount of time, in minutes, a particular disinfectant must remain visibly wet in order to allow the solution enough time to penetrate microbial cell walls and kill all target microorganisms listed on the label.

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