While most types of germs are harmless to humans, disease-causing pathogens can be extremely dangerous. As a healthcare facility manager, using the right types of disinfectants is crucial to preventing the spread of infection in your facility. Keep your patients and staff safe by learning how to choose the right disinfectants for tackling specific pathogens with these tips from ServiceMaster Clean®.
DIFFERENT DISINFECTANTS ARE REQUIRED TO FIGHT OFF SPECIFIC PATHOGENS
Disinfectants are chemical agents used to eliminate pathogens like viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi or mildew on non-living surfaces. The active ingredient in disinfectants is made to kill pathogens by damaging their cells.
A variety of disinfectants are used in healthcare facility cleaning to break the chain of infection. While this is not a comprehensive list, the following types of disinfectants are able to kill specific pathogens found within a medical facility.
QUATERNARY AMMONIUM COMPOUNDS
Also referred to as quats, quaternary ammonium compounds are a common choice for disinfecting medical facilities because of their economical cost and fast action against a wide range of pathogens. Many types of quats are formulated to both clean and disinfect. Examples of low-level pathogens that quats may kill include:
Lipid or medium viruses such as HIV
Vegetative bacteria like MRSA and VRE
Certain kinds of fungi such as athlete’s foot
Alcohols may be effective against a diverse array of pathogens when diluted in water. However, higher concentrations of alcohols may be needed to disinfect wet surfaces. Quat and alcohol blends are typically used to combat intermediate-level infections such as:
Nonlipid or small viruses like norovirus
Mycobacteria pathogens like tuberculosis
BLEACH AND HYDROGEN PEROXIDE
Often mixed with bleach to achieve thorough disinfecting of surfaces, hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizer that’s often used in facility disinfection. The combination of bleach and hydrogen peroxide is often used to combat intermediate-level infections like tuberculosis.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE AND PERACETIC ACID
Peracetic acid is produced by a reaction that occurs whenever acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide are mixed together. This combination is typically used for high-level disinfection cleaning to kill pathogens like:
Bacterial spores like Clostridium difficile
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF DISINFECTANTS
Pathogens can quickly spread from one person to another, so it’s particularly important to clean shared spaces and high-touch areas in healthcare settings regularly. Properly cleaning and disinfecting healthcare environments reduces the risk of staff and patients coming into contact with pathogens or developing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Disinfectants offer different levels of effectiveness. The difference between low, intermediate and high-level disinfectants comes down to the pathogens they’re trying to kill.
Low-level disinfectant: Used on noncritical items that come into contact with skin, like bed rails or medical equipment.
Intermediate-level disinfectant: Used on some critical items and some noncritical items that can potentially be on you, like scrubs.
High-level disinfectant: Used on semicritical items that will come into contact with either mucous membrane or broken skin, like surgical equipment.
HOW TO PROPERLY USE CERTAIN DISINFECTANTS
First, it’s crucial to find the right disinfectants to combat certain risks. Use the disinfection and sterilization guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine which ones are best for specific uses.
In order to ensure effectiveness, it’s important to carefully follow all instructions provided for any disinfectant you use. Pay attention to things like dry time and how long it takes for each disinfectant to kill specific pathogens. Keep in mind that pathogens can have many strains, and disinfectants are formulated for specific strains to help ensure your facility stays safe.
The process of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting a healthcare environment can be rigorous. Fortunately, the experts at ServiceMaster Clean understand the importance of adhering to strict guidelines created by organizations like the CDC. We focus on cleaning and disinfecting the environment to help with infection prevention, all while improving your patients’ environment overall. Contact us today to learn how our patient-centered cleaning services can help your healthcare facility.