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The Drawbacks of Chemical Disinfection for High-Touch Surfaces

by | Jul 13, 2020

Chemical disinfection of high-touch surfaces, when performed, is the de facto standard in most hospitals.

Various types of chemicals are used to correlate with specific strategies based on the surface, who is doing the disinfection, and the type of pathogens in the environment. There are however, a number of real life challenges for effective use of chemicals on any surface in the hospital environment.

Drawbacks of Chemical Disinfection

1. Hospitals must adhere to the instructions on the label or they are liable for any injuries resulting from the off-label use (Rutula & Weber, 2008).

2. Contact Time. Contact times vary across products ranging anywhere from one to ten minutes. This means that the entire surface area must remain wet for the specified period of time on the label (Garrett, 2011).

3. Contact times are greater than the drying time for most chemicals. A recent study applied various chemical disinfection chemistries and allowed them to evaporate in order to determine the time it takes for them to dry. All of the contact times, with the exception of hydrogen peroxide, were less than the time required as indicated on the label. Thus, to process a surface according to regulations the chemical must be applied more than once, increasing the time required and significantly decreasing the likelihood of adherence to label instructions (Omidbakhsh, n.d.).

4. Wipes are intended to be used once. For some high-touch surfaces, HCWs use chemical wipes to clean and disinfect. Some studies have shown that utilizing a single wipe for more than one area can cause cross-contamination. Appropriate processes need to be in place to avoid this potentially dangerous practice, and this must include proper disposal of the soiled wipe once complete.

5. Some chemical wipes used for disinfecting high-touch surfaces recommend the use of gloves, which are costly, burdensome, and like the wipes themselves, require proper disposal.

6. Frequency of necessary disinfection. The CDC recommends that high-touch surfaces be disinfected “frequently” if it is visibly soiled, and in between patient use if a patient is on precautions (Rutala & Weber, 2008). The time it takes due to contact time, methodical process, and material disposal is simply too burdensome to employ on a regular basis.

For surgical instruments these challenges can be overcome by simply having higher quantities of these tools available, but for high-touch surfaces such as tablets, this luxury is not an option. In the case of these surfaces, it may be easiest for hospitals to seek out an alternative disinfection method.

One alternative to chemical disinfection is ultraviolet light. UV light can be used to achieve general-purpose disinfection on mobile devices. Using sufficiently short wavelengths, UV light is able to render pathogenic microorganisms inert. To learn more about using ultraviolet light as a form of disinfection, check out the free demo of the ReadyDock: UV below!

About the Author

David Engelhardt has over 26 years of experience in software and hardware solutions development in healthcare and manufacturing, with a particular focus on mobile technologies. David is the founder and President of ReadyDock Inc. He is passionate and committed to providing safe, and workflow efficient methods to enable clinicians and patients to enhance care through the use of innovative technologies. In the small window of time when he is not working or spending time with his amazing wife and daughter, he spends his time playing USTA tennis, collecting vinyl records, and shaping music and sound in his recording studio.

Garrett, J. H. (2011, September 20). Making sense of disinfectant labels: A step-by-step approach. Retrieved from http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/articles/2011/09/making-sense-of-disinfectant-labels-a-step-by-step-approach.asp
Omidbakhsh, N. (n.d.). Surface disinfectants and label claims: Realistically can contact times be met to achieve antimicrobial efficacy?. Retrieved from http://www.viroxtech.com/download.aspx?ItemInfoID=341
Rutala, W. A., & Weber, D. J. (2008). Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/Disinfection_Nov_2008.pdf

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