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Archive October 2017 XVIII, No. 10

A Deep Dive Into Surface Disinfection

Our infection control consultant has 10 questions for your cleaning crew.

Phenelle Segal

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC


surface disinfection BY THE BOOK Following manufacturer's instructions for use is key to effective and efficient surface disinfection practices.

I'm an infection control consultant. During my onsite visits to surgical facilities, one of the areas I delve into deeply is surface disinfection, especially during room turnover, where I'm able to interact directly with staff members responsible for cleaning between patients. My method of figuring out how well you're disinfecting the environment is to begin a dialogue by asking a few questions of any employee in the facility who's responsible for room turnover, regardless of the location. I chat with staff in the operating rooms or procedure rooms, hallways, pre-op and PACU. Here are 10 questions I like to ask.

1 What is the dwell/wet/kill time of the product you're using to disinfect surfaces?
Answers vary depending on the facility and which staff members are chatting with me. Disinfectant products include manufacturer's instructions for use, or IFUs. Most, if not all, cleaning agents (particularly the disinfectant wipes) have the IFUs written on the outside of the container. While the print may be small, they're usually clear about the dwell times for surface disinfection. Liquid products may have the label imprinted on the bottle or a separate written IFU attached to the bottle when shipped to the facility. Many disinfectant wipes today have a "cheat code" on the outside of the container that includes a number contained within a circle. That number indicates the length of time that the product needs to remain wet on the surface. Given that there are many different products with different color containers and lids, always look at the labels on the containers. These products won't work effectively unless surfaces are allowed to remain wet for the required time.

2 How do you know that the surface has remained wet for the correct amount of time?
Once again, various answers are given, including "I don't know," "I wait until it looks dry" and "I estimate the time." I'll look around the room for a clock or look at my watch and that will usually elicit the response, "we need to time it." The introduction of disinfecting agents that require less of a dwell time helps staff achieve faster room turnover. For example, products that have a 1-minute dwell time are widely used and just as effective as the 3-minute products. I encourage facilities to simplify their processes by considering products with a shorter dwell time if possible, while ensuring that they're not compromising best practices.

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