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Sanitizer Sanity

With many choices in consumer household cleaning agents, people are left with an important decision to make that they might not have previously considered: which cleaning product do I use to protect myself and others from COVID-19?  

Well the short answer is simple: alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. 

The complicated long answer is it depends what surface you are cleaning. Its not only the surface composition (i.e. porous wood fiber, stainless steel, encapsulated styrene foam etc.) but also the intended use of the surface that matters too. Because no one wants a mouthful of bleach on their lunch break.  

To help in the selection of a cleaning product, it is important to ask oneself a few questions about the surface that is to be sanitized. 

  1. Is the surface going to be damaged by the cleaning product?

  2. Is the surface going to encounter food?

  3. Is the surface touched often?

The first question is simple and often people have a story to tell about learning their lesson about material compatibility. The answer the question is often found right on the back of the cleaning products container, it will tell you in plain language what surfaces are suggested for use.  

Surfaces that encounter food are going to usually require a special purchase. Sanitizers such as ethanol, thymol, and quaternary ammonium are the usual suspects for hard food contact surfaces with quaternary ammonium doubling as a porous food contact surface sanitizer.

These can be purchased in several variants off Amazon or from a specialty cleaner supply website such as under the nickname ‘Quat’

If the surface comes in frequent contact with hands, ensuring that you use a product that is safe for human skin will avoid any unforeseen reactions for those with sensitive skin. This is why some cleaning products suggest washing with water as a final step.  Solutions such as: 70% Ethanol, 70% Isopropyl alcohol, and thymol are good choices to avoid any irritation of the skin.  

Finding the right sanitizer for the situation can be tricky, but hopefully these questions will help break it down for you and give some confidence behind your choices. 

And remember, sanitizing is important but cleaning the surface with soap and water is mandatory because as the old adage says, “You can’t sanitize dirt.”.
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