Proper disinfection has always been a crucial piece of the cleaning puzzle, particularly in healthcare facilities. With antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and illnesses — also known as superbugs — on the rise and making headlines as a major threat to global public health, jan/san distributors are reminded of the important role disinfection plays in keeping people safe and healthy. 

“Drug-resistant organisms are emerging, and once they’re out there, the only way to control and prevent them is through better cleaning and disinfection,” says Darrel Hicks, author of “Infection Prevention for Dummies.”

As a result, distributors have the distinct opportunity to help to save lives by preventing infections from spreading.

“We’re really leading the charge on how to reduce healthcare-acquired infections and saving lives, which is exciting for a company like ours,” says Steve Attman, vice president of Acme Paper & Supply Co., Inc. in Baltimore, which services a number of acute care and long-term care facilities. “Anybody can ship product, but what makes a distributor stand out is the ability to bring value. We do that by providing education, training and the expertise to set up quality cleaning protocols for our customers.”

And when it comes to education, helping customers understand dwell times and kill claims is one of the most important things a distributor can do, Attman adds. 

What Is Dwell Time?

Dwell time, also called contact time, is the amount of time the product needs to kill the pathogens or microbes as determined by its label. For years, the standard dwell time for disinfectants was 10 minutes. But that dwell time is unrealistic for certain applications, for a few reasons, Hicks says.
Scientific studies have shown that 5-log reduction (reduction of 99.99 percent of microbes on a surface) plateaus after 60 seconds, says Hicks. Also, it’s nearly impossible to wet a surface — particularly a vertical surface — enough to keep it wet for 10 minutes.

“The real quandary is the difference between science and the real world,” Hicks says. “We all have to live and work in the real world, yet we have to deal with the science and labeling requirements on disinfectants.”

However, the reign of the 10-minute dwell time is coming to a close for many applications. Time is of the essence when it comes to cleaning in healthcare settings; operating and hospital rooms need to be turned over quickly, so disinfection needs to be easy and effective. Chemical manufacturers are responding to today’s efficacy and labor productivity needs with disinfectants that can do the job in five minutes or less — in some cases, way less. 

Chemical formulations are more fast-acting than ever, with shorter dwell times and faster kill claims, says John Thomas, sales manager and HealthRite specialist at Philip Rosenau Co., in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

“Some of these kill claims are down to 60 or 30 seconds,” he says. “Hospitals in particular are interested in these shorter dwell time disinfectants because they help them be in compliance with the product’s label during inspections.”

Even in situations where a 10-minute dwell time isn’t realistic because the product dries too quickly, customers should be encouraged to get as close to the labeled dwell time as possible, Thomas says. The longer the product is left on a surface, the more effective it will be.

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Types of Disinfectants Used in Healthcare Facilities