Disinfecting wipes like those from Lysol, Clorox, and generic brands are convenient, easy to use, and can be an effective way to disinfect hard surfaces in your home if you are using them the right way.
Are you guilty of any of these habits?
- Believing that all wipes are created equal
- Not reading the directions on the product label
- Using one wipe to clean every kitchen counter
- Wiping down a surface and then using it immediately
- Using a paper towel to dry the freshly-cleaned surface
- Using one wipe to clean an entire bathroom
If so, you probably have a false sense of security and aren't completely disinfecting the surfaces. By not checking that the wipes are a disinfecting wipe and not just an all-purpose cleaning wipe, and by using the wipes improperly, you've just wasted time and money and still left your family exposed to potentially harmful microbes.
How to Use Disinfecting Wipes
Take a minute to read the label on the disinfecting wipes and follow the recommendations on the product label. The amount of time necessary for the disinfectant to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi is dependent upon the type of disinfectant used during the manufacturing of the product.
Remove Heavy Soil and Grease From Surfaces
If the kitchen counter is covered with spilled food or a coating of grease splatters or the bathroom counter has globs of toothpaste, it should be cleaned first using an all-purpose cleaner, warm water, and a microfiber cloth. The gentle abrasion of the microfiber will help lift away any dried-on particles. The disinfectant on the wipes will not penetrate through or remove solid matter on the counters.
Check the Wipe for Compatibility With the Type of Surface
Once again, read the label. While most wipes are safe to use on hard, non-porous surfaces like laminate, sealed granite, vinyl, and fiberglass, they are not safe to use on unfinished wood or extremely worn surfaces. Always test in a small area to make sure there is no etching or discoloration.
Check the Moisture Level of the Wipe
To be effective, the wipe must contain disinfectant. If the container has been left open and the wipes are dry to the touch, they will not offer the disinfecting level promised.
If disinfecting wipes have dried out, they can be revived by adding 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to the canister or package. Pour in the alcohol and close the container tightly. Allow the wipes to absorb the alcohol completely before using.
Wipe Down Surfaces
Using one wipe at a time, start at the top of a vertical surface and wipe down. Start at one end of a horizontal surface and move slowly to the opposite end. The hard surface should be visibly wet and shiny.
Use multiple wipes to cover large areas. One wipe can only provide adequate disinfection to an area of around three-square-feet or less.
Let the Disinfectant Work
For both Lysol and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, the hard surface must remain wet for at least four minutes—10 minutes is best—for all bacteria to be killed.
Allow the Surface to Air-Dry
Drying times are affected by room temperature and humidity. Allow the surface to air-dry. Do not wipe away the disinfectant.
Rinse Food Preparation and Eating Surfaces
Once the disinfectant is dry, if the area is to be used for food preparation or eating, the surface should be rinsed with fresh water and dried with a clean towel.
The same steps should be followed if the disinfected item is a toy or surface that might end up in a child's mouth.
Dispose of the Wipe Properly
While Clorox has just announced a wipe that can be composted, most wipes have a non-woven substrate that must be disposed of in a trash can. Disinfecting wipes should not be flushed down a toilet because they can cause clogs in pipes and septic systems.
Wash Your Hands
Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using any cleaning product.
Do You Really Need a Disinfecting Wipe?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly during a virus outbreak is essential to prevent the spread of the illness. While a disinfecting wipe is convenient, it may not be the best or most economical choice for every area of the home.
Disinfecting wipes are a perfect go-to for disinfecting small areas like doorknobs, cabinet pulls, appliance handles and touchpads. Check the manufacturer's guidelines but most keyboards, remotes, game controllers, and phone cases can be safely disinfected with a wipe. Some cell phones have a protective coating on the screen that can be harmed by certain chemicals so check before you clean.
For larger areas in your home, disinfecting can also be done with diluted chlorine bleach solutions, 70 percent alcohol solutions, and other EPA-registered household disinfectants like pine oil and phenolic solutions. Follow product directions carefully and clean surfaces at least twice daily. If someone in your home is ill, surfaces should be cleaned immediately after being touched by the infected person.