Tuesday, October 20, 2009

H1N1 Prevention Series #2: Disinfectants

This is part two of our series on the prevention of flu and colds in your home. Of course there are never any guarantees you or your family will not get sick, but if you can prevent a cold or worse then why not?

My heart sank as I heard the mounting worry of the swine flu. It wasn't so much the flu but the fear of what comes with this news - wild and aggressive disinfecting. It has been our experience most disinfectants are over used and not used correctly. Don't get me wrong in certain situations disinfecting and killing germs is important but here is what usually happens.

1- Disinfectants are often used incorrectly, which means they don't do what you are expecting them to do - kill viruses and germs.
2- Disinfectants are overused. Disinfectants are meant to kill living organisms. In case you forgot: you, your kids and pets are also living organisms. Spraying in the air,over your head and on every surface can be detrimental to you and your home's health.
3- The directions and labels are often not read or followed carefully.

Disinfectants can be detrimental to your health if not used safely and correctly.

How to best use disinfectants:
1. Make sure the disinfectant you are using kills what you are trying to kill. In the case of H1N1-swine flu strain "the EPA believes, bases on available scientific information, that the currently registered influenza A virus products will be effective against the 2009-H1N1 and other influenza A virus strains on hard, not-porous surfaces".
2. Read the labels and follow the directions. Please use caution when working with disinfectants. Mix and use according to the labels directions- more is not better!
3. Use in targeted locations. Keeping a clean house a good practice for a healthy home. You don't need to disinfect every surface. Focus on areas where your hands touch most frequently. This would be door knobs, light switches, handles, faucets, areas around toilets. Also, use only on non-porous surfaces - not in the air or on surfaces like fabric.
4. Use your disinfectants correctly. Disinfectants work better on clean surfaces. They usually need to sit on the surface for approximately 10 minutes. Spraying and wiping are not usually effective means of disinfecting. There are some disinfectants that are both a cleaner and disinfectant together but still they work better on clean surfaces and if you read the label most still need that 10 minutes of dwell time.
5. For those of you with natural stone and sensitive surfaces check the pH of the disinfectant you are using. You don't want to damage your surfaces in the process of disinfecting.

Just like most cleaning, less is usually more. Please use carefully, follow direction and use only where needed. Think of disinfectants like you would antibiotics, use only as necessary not for everything. Sometimes thorough cleaning is all that is needed. Each disinfectant is different so read the label carefully but if possible, after the recommended dwell time rinse and dry leaving your surfaces residue free.

Sources: Antimicrobial products registered for use against the H1N1 Flu and other influenza A viruses on hard surfaces. Environmental Protection Agency

Germ Reduction and Pesticide Exposure Prevention Checklist. Healthy Schools Network

Preparing Your Organization for H1N1 Pandemic Influenza (Swine Flu): Planning and prevention.

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