Using Cleaners and Disinfectants Effectively

As an essential business, printing operations have an obligation to ensure they are implementing programs designed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This includes practicing social distancing, instituting frequent hand washing protocols, providing hand sanitizer, and instituting a sanitation program for workstations and frequently touched surfaces such as phones, tables, doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, toilets, etc.

Disinfectants are important products for keeping facilities and the people in them healthy and safe. When used as directed, disinfectants help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as other infectious agents. For them to be effective, they need to be properly applied. When cleaning materials are used incorrectly, the outcome can be dangerous and even fatal. See SGIA’s sanitation guide that is based on CDC guidance regarding cleaning and disinfection for more information, Dangers of Mixing Bleach with Other Cleaners, and Follow CDC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Printing Facility.

Before using any disinfectant, become familiar with the product and wear the proper personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles or safety glasses with splash protection, or overalls. The materials need to be used in areas with proper ventilation. Below are some tips on how to use and apply disinfectants properly, to protect the health of those in your facility.

• Use an Approved Disinfectant – The Centers for Disease Control recommends to only use the materials found on EPA’s list of approved disinfectants EPA-registered household disinfectant. The choice of the material will depend upon the surface being cleaned so use the appropriate one for the surface being disinfected. Some products are appropriate for only hard surfaces like glass, metals, and plastics while others are only for porous surfaces such as carpeting and cloth.

If an EPA approved cleaner cannot be found, unexpired diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface. To make a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

• Obtain and Read the Safety Data Sheet - Every disinfectant or cleaning chemical must have an accompanying safety data sheet (SDS). Read the SDS before using a product or putting it away. Section 7 of an SDS will guide on usage and storage precautions, as well as chemical incompatibility. This is especially important to avoid hazardous combinations of products. Mixing the wrong chemicals such as bleach and ammonia could be fatal.

• Follow the Manufacturer’s Directions - Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution, application, precautions, and dwell time. Some disinfectants come in a concentrate form and must be diluted in exactly the ratio indicated on the label. Not diluting the material properly can result in disinfectant failure. There may also be information on how compatible the material is with hard water. Lastly, it could also have information on what personal protective equipment and necessary ventilation is required when using the product.

• Use the Correct Cleaning Cloth – The recommended material for cloths and mops is synthetic microfiber-based materials. This is because products made from natural materials such as cotton may experience what is termed to be “Quat Binding”. According to in the article What is Quat Binding and Why It Must Be Prevented, quaternary ammonium chloride disinfectants (e.g., Lysol) becomes attracted to and absorbed into natural based fabrics and are not effective.

• First Clean, Then Disinfect - Cleaning and disinfecting are two separate actions. Cleaning is the physical removal of dirt and grime from a surface. This must be done before moving to the disinfecting step in which microscopic germs are deactivated and removed from the surface. You usually need to clean something before disinfecting it, as disinfectants are most effective on grime-free surfaces. Before you can fully disinfect a surface, be sure to remove any dirt and grime that could disrupt the function of your disinfectant.

• Use Sufficient Dwell Time – Many disinfectants do not work instantaneously and must be in contact with the virus or other infectious agent to work. This means simply wiping down a surface and drying it immediately may not be completely effective. All disinfectants have a contact time, which is the minimum amount of time the disinfecting agent needs to work. Contact time varies by product. It could be 30 seconds, a minute, 10 minutes, or longer. The manufacturer’s information will provide the contact time for the product. It is important to make sure the product remains on any surface for at least that long.

• Keep Your Solution Clean – When using a disinfectant that is diluted with water, make sure the solution is frequently changed. This would be important when mopping floors or wiping down surfaces. If the solution is not changed often enough, you may end up simply re-spreading virus or other infectious agent along with any dirt picked up back over floors and other surfaces.

Choosing the correct disinfectant and knowing how to apply it is essential to maintaining a safe workplace for employees and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding how to use the disinfectants properly will help guarantee sanitary success.

For more information please contact the Government Affairs Department at