Prior to the pandemic, cleaning happened behind the scenes and disinfection was low on the list of daily protocols. Today, disinfection has become everyone’s top priority. In hospital environments, the need for frequent and consistent disinfection is now pivotal to maintaining patient and personnel safety. Consequently, environmental service and infection prevention teams are more receptive to employing heretofore unknown technologies, safer chemicals and new approaches to disinfection.
Historically, a diverse set of protocols were used to clean, sanitize and disinfect each aspect of a facility. Implementing separate procedures for every need usually means employing a range of specialized chemicals, from floor cleaners to hard-surface disinfectants, food-safe sanitizers to sporicidal, mold removers, odor eliminators, and more. To complicate matters, each chemical is applied differently and often requires dilution to different concentrations. Managing labels, safety data sheets, usage guidelines, and expiration records for all these products is a full-time job. With the addition of chemical mixing exposure hazards, labor issues, and budget constraints, it’s become clear there’s a need for safer, more streamlined processes.
In recent years, a broad-spectrum chemistry composed of sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC) has shown promise as a streamlined solution. NaDCC is a non-caustic, organic chlorine donor which, when used in tablet concentrate form and mixed with normal tap water, creates hypochlorous acid (HOCI) solutions that are environmentally safe for people, equipment, and floors. NaDCC is a flexible disinfectant that can be diluted at different strengths and used throughout the cleaning process as a sanitizer, hospital-grade disinfectant, sporicidal, or tuberculocidal. This multipurpose solution allows facilities to use one chemical from beginning to end, eliminating a half-dozen other chemicals from individual cleaning protocols, streamlining processes, and improving workflows.
Streamlining cleaning and disinfection processes can also solve many compliance concerns. Levels of compliance are directly proportional to cleaning success. Best practices include: consolidating around a universal disinfectant that achieves maximum safety and efficacy, as well as putting a stop to persistent industry risks like quaternary ammonium (QUAT) chemical binding. Less chemical variation also leads to better tracking and monitoring, and simpler training programs that can be easily replicated and scaled, which is crucial in an industry where multilingual staff and high turnover are prevalent. Ultimately, raising levels of compliance leads to better outcomes.
Switching to NaDCC tablet form also allows facilities to leverage advanced electrostatic technologies, which began transforming the cleaning industry even before the pandemic. Traditional disinfection methods are no longer adequate as they typically leave a large percentage of surfaces untouched. However, when electrostatic sprayers are used in place of, or in addition to, wipes, trigger sprayers, or mops, a single team member can disinfect the same area that normally requires a staff of five. Disinfectant solutions can be applied up to ten times faster and cover three times more surface area due to the magnetic attraction and wraparound effect of positively charged droplets. Not only can disinfection processes be vastly expedited, virtually all infectious fungi, viral particles, and bacteria can be eliminated from every surface. Moreover, because electrostatic application is touchless, there is no risk for cross-contamination, a common concern with microfiber cloths or wipes that can transfer microbes from one surface to another.
The full scope of benefits from electrostatic disinfection are still being realized. Many facilities have reported dramatic drops in labor costs and expenses due to faster disinfection times and triple surface coverage per ounce. Newfound efficiency is now enabling facilities to increase disinfection frequency which, helps mitigate the spread of viral pathogens and proactively prevent infectious outbreaks, thereby improving outcomes.
Though highly efficient electrostatic sprayer application can make it tempting to use more chemicals, when used responsibly, chemicals are applied in a more uniform and controlled manner, thus removing the dangers of overuse. Moreover, electrostatic technologies actually reduce the amount of chemicals needed to clean and disinfect, often by as much as 60% per square foot.
Meanwhile, safer chemistries have emerged that are proving to be more sustainable. For instance, unlike liquid solutions, NaDCC tablet concentrates not only have a longer shelf life but are biodegradable and require less packaging, shipping, and storage, further reducing environmental impact.
Going forward, infection prevention plans should purposefully strive to reduce negative effects on human health and the environment by allowing for more sustainable solutions and healthier alternatives to harsh disinfectants. With standardized guidelines for responsible use of new technologies and science-based data validating the efficacy and safety of less toxic chemicals, greater disinfection outcomes will be achieved.
The pandemic was a defining moment in the healthcare and cleaning industries alike. Both rose to the challenge and learned to be more collaborative, innovative and, most of all, proactively prepared for viral threats in the future.
About the Author
Vice President of Sales, EarthSafe Chemical Alternatives
Richard Prinz is Vice President of Sales at EarthSafe Chemical Alternatives. Rich has over two decades of experience in leadership positions at major industrial supply and healthcare organizations. Highly skilled in partnership management, his ability to build deeper relationships with EarthSafe Distributor partners and Service Providers has been integral to the company’s growth and success. Originally from Chicago, Rich relocated to Massachusetts with his family in 2014. He enjoys traveling, hiking, and running with his two daughters.