To successfully sanitize your home or work environment a product known as a sanitizer needs to be used. Sanitizers work by reducing the number of microbes to a level that complies with public health codes and regulations. The general rule of thumb is that sanitization has been successful if the microbial numbers have been reduced by 99.99%.
Sanitizing an Environment is Different from Cleaning or Disinfecting it!
It is a common misconception that cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing all refer to the same thing. However, each process is different and is used for different reasons:
Cleaning: Removes visible dirt and grime from surfaces. Through the use of a detergent such as soap, warm water, and manual labor, visual traces of contaminants are removed, it can also lower the numbers of microbes on the object in question, but will not eradicate them.
Disinfecting: Utilizes chemicals to kill off the microbes on the object. It won’t remove dirt or grime but will reduce numbers of microbes by killing them or rendering them inactive.
Sanitizing: Sanitizing doesn’t fully eradicate microbes from a surface (sterilization can remove 100% of microbial activity) but instead aims to reduce numbers by up to 99.99% making them safe enough to eat or prepare food on.
Tools for Sanitizing your Home Environment
Sanitization should be practiced inside the home alongside cleaning and disinfecting. Unless you have a baby or bottle-fed child, it is unlikely that you’ll need to sterilize on the day-to-day. The following tools are great options for sanitizing your home:
Microfiber Cloths: So long as they have been washed at a high temperature, microfiber cloths are great for applying sanitizers to the surfaces of your home.
Dishwashers: Because they wash your dishes at a high temperature, dishwashers are ideal for ensuring your plates and cutlery are safe to eat from.
Steam Cleaners: Fabrics are notoriously hard to thoroughly sanitize. Steam cleaners can be a good solution because of the high heat which is used to reduce microbial numbers.
Sanitizing the Workplace Environment
While non-chemical or minimal chemical sanitization is perfect for use in the home, high traffic areas or industrial areas need to be sanitized with more heavy-duty chemical sanitizers. There are three types of sanitizers which are commonly used in commercial settings; chlorine-based cleaners, quaternary ammonium, and iodine sanitizers.
Chlorine-based sanitizers are most commonly used in the workplace due to their affordability and effectiveness. Commonly a business will use one of four chlorine products; liquid chlorine, hypochlorite, or inorganic, or organic chloramines. Chlorine-based products are known as ‘broad-spectrum germicides’ and can attack microbes in a variety of ways such as destroying membranes, oxidizing protein, and inhibiting enzyme production.
These are sometimes called called Quats or QACs and are attracted to bacterial proteins and therefore work as an effective bactericide. Quaternary ammonium doesn’t irritate the skin and is also able to clean low-level soiling.
Iodine is usually used as a medical sanitizer. It can eradicate bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans. However iodophors are expensive and will stain surfaces like plastics.