Household Disinfecting: What You Should Know

The emergence of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has brought heightened awareness to household disinfecting practices. Many local service providers, including HVAC, pest control, and carpet cleaning businesses, are now starting to offer a “disinfecting” service in order to capitalize on the current events. This increase in offerings has flooded the market for disinfection services, so it is important for you, the consumer, to understand how disinfection works, along with the most effective way to maintain a safe and healthy home.

The First Step in Effective Disinfection

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), properly disinfecting the home starts with thoroughly cleaning the surface area to be disinfected. Dust, dirt, and debris can harbor harmful germs, viruses, and pathogens. In fact, the dust in your home can contain thousands of potentially harmful pathogens, and dirt and debris can cover up germs and viruses, preventing any kind of disinfectant from making the contact necessary to kill them.

This poses a challenge for companies offering disinfecting fog or sprays in the home without first providing thorough home cleaning: The fog or mist will only rest on top of dust, dirt, and debris, making the disinfectant less effective, or ineffective altogether. Think of it like having muddy hands and just using hand sanitizer to clean them; the only thing you’re sanitizing is the mud—and you’re probably making a bigger mess.

Creating Lasting Results by Breaking the Chain of Infection

Following a thorough cleaning, the next goals are long-term effectiveness and breaking the chain of infection. The International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) ranks sites and surfaces most at risk for transmission of germs, viruses, and infection.

The surfaces with the highest risk of transmission, in order, are:

  1. Hands
  2. High-touch surfaces
  3. Food contact surfaces

The lowest-risk areas include furniture, floors, and walls.

When researching household disinfection services, consider your return on investment—in this case, the long-term efficacy—from the particular service or service provider. While a whole-home spray or fog disinfectant may kill some viruses and germs, this type of service is expensive for a single home and is only effective in the very short term. Remember: The IFH considers hands and high-touch surfaces the greatest risk areas for transmission of germs, viruses, and infection. As soon as you walk into your disinfected home and flip on the light, the home has become contaminated again.

Your Plan for a Safe & Healthy Home

Frequently breaking the chain of infection is the most effective way to maintain a healthy home and minimize the number of harmful pathogens. The CDC suggests routine—and thorough—cleaning of the home to remove dust, dirt, and debris, and frequent disinfecting of high-touch surfaces. By maintaining a regular schedule of cleaning and high-touch disinfecting, you can keep your home safer long-term, as compared to one-time disinfection services.

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