The cleaning aisles in supermarkets are brimming with products promising to ‘kill 99.9% of all germs’ – an attractive marketing statistic for the general public, as they seek out ways to guard against bacteria and viruses in the age of COVID-19.
This ‘near perfect’ efficacy leads the innocent shopper to the conclusion that these supermarket products must surely eradicate all bugs and viruses and must offer the greatest level of antibacterial protection – wrong on both counts.
In this blog post, we aim to break down the question ‘what does killing 99.9% of bacteria really mean?’, while offering our thoughts and professional advice on the topic…
What does ‘kills 99.9% of all germs’ actually mean?
There is nothing factually incorrect with the marketing language used, tests have indeed shown that products can eradicate 99.9% of germs listed on the packaging. However, what’s going unsaid is that there is no guarantee whatsoever that the product has any effect against a pathogen not listed, which can be quite the revelation for the unwitting consumer.
Although a 99.9% antibacterial level is compelling, a 99.999% rate is one hundred times more effective. Our medical grade wipes provide protection against a much wider range of the thousands of bacteria and virus strains there are, but there’s the potential for many to be missed by those products advertising a mere 99.9%, so it’s certainly worth going the extra mile for protection.
So, a couple of words to the wise in the current climate:
- Wipes that don’t actively advertise the efficacy of their product against COVID-19 might be best left on the shelf.
- If you’re looking for antibacterial and viral protection, aim for as high a kill percentage as humanly possible.
The importance of thorough cleaning with scientifically proven products
At Uniwipe, we ensure all packs clearly indicate the bacteria, viruses and fungi that each product is designed to attack.
As mentioned, our Midi-Wipe Clinical range ensures that 99.999% bacteria kill rate and is also effective within 30 seconds against some of the most common viruses circulating in society today, including COVID-19, Norovirus, Influenza A, Hepatitis C, and Herpes. As with all our products, the wipes have been rigorously tested to international standards and state as much on the pack – citing some of the highest EN-accreditations available within the field of hygiene.
Without getting too much into the details of biological science, EN-accreditations represent the ‘European Norm’ standards that refer to a product’s ability to eliminate spores, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This paints a hugely reassuring picture when it comes to cleaning the kitchen, workplace, vehicle interior or simply any common touchpoints we unwittingly come into contact with on a daily basis.
But whilst faith in the product has been restored, knowing how to clean effectively is also paramount. Let’s take a quick look at some of those recommended cleaning practice actions, which ensures that the product is actually able to fulfil its inherent efficacy to the max:
1. Remove visible grime, then apply the disinfectant
We’d certainly recommend wiping the area down with a paper towel, prior to applying the antibacterial and antiviral protection with wipes from our range. Whilst some of our wipes do perform that dual action of visual cleaning and disinfecting, you’re likely to work your way through the Uniwipe pack more quickly, replacing wipe after wipe if you’re picking up more visible dirt, crumbs and dust.
However, it needs to be highlighted that it’s not always advisable to use a spray prior to wiping. Mixing two different cleaning products means mixing different carefully constructed chemical compounds – potentially having a detrimental effect on the efficacy of both.
2. Imagine you’re mowing the lawn
With larger surfaces, what we’re looking for here is a regular wiping pattern rather than a haphazard approach, as there is a real risk of leaving sections unwiped whilst covering other areas multiple times.
Incidentally, the same argument applies to the use of sprays: it is almost impossible to guarantee an even distribution of disinfectant across a given surface – see our post on this here.
Retain that classical grass-cutting ‘s’ formation in your head as you approach the work surface: you might not get the same satisfying green stripes, but you can rest assured it is a far more efficient way of applying an even covering of disinfectant than some misguided scrubbing (no matter how fervent).
3. One wipe: one surface
We touched on this in a previous blog post, and the potential dangers of overuse leading to viral transmission. Whilst we’d love to leave it there, you’ll understand it’s a subject very close to our hearts and frankly, it warrants overstating, time and time again:
- Take your wipe.
- Wipe a single surface down.
- Bin the wipe.
Simple, effective and safe
4. Leave the surface visibly wet
Whatever you do, don’t rub down your freshly disinfected surface with a towel! This is essentially destroying all that hard work you put in applying the product, as it doesn’t allow the chemicals sufficient area contact time to be effective.
Depending on the product you’re using, you should allow the surface to air dry from anything around 30 seconds to 5-10 minutes, ensuring the area is fully able to meet the guarantee of viral/antibacterial protection. At Uniwipe, we clearly state the ‘air dry’ time required on the product packaging which we would recommend you to follow.
5. Multiple cleans in a 24 hour period
‘Viral load’ is a term that has been frequently bandied around in recent months and is worth unpicking. This is essentially the extent to which a particular surface has come into contact with the relevant virus: an indicator of how much exposure that surface has had.
As you can imagine, high-frequency touchpoints by multiple people have significant potential for a high viral load. Whilst most products will advertise the length of time their disinfectant remains active against microbes, due consideration should be taken with regard to the surface’s viral load.
Countless hands contaminating the given area will certainly diminish the efficacy of the applied disinfectant – so for those frequently used touchpoints, we’d always recommend 2-3 cleans within a 24 hour period.
The right tools for the job
We’d like to think that this blog post puts to bed one common public misconception – that all disinfectants are ‘exactly the same’.
Mixing and matching antibacterial cleaning products is, at best, inadvisable and at worst, dangerous, given the possible detrimental impact on the product’s powers to attack the stated pathogens.
Whilst a 99.9% germ-killing efficacy seems impressive, given the vast range of bacteria and viruses, these products will still allow strains through. Opting for Uniwipe’s higher kill rate of 99.999% is a much more effective way to eradicate these strains. As we all try to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our lives – always make sure that the virus you’re trying to kill is listed on the packet.