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Contact time—are you disinfecting properly?

What you need to know

An important factor in an effective cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection protocol is the contact time for the products that you use. Contact time varies with different formulations. Do you know what contact time is, how long it is for your disinfectant and where to find this information?

What’s the difference between a cleaner, a sanitizer and a disinfectant?

It’s important to know the difference between these products because they accomplish different things. A cleaner physically removes soil, inorganic and organic material from a surface or object.1 A sanitizer reduces the bacterial population on a surface or object but does not destroy all bacteria.1 A disinfectant is capable of killing or inactivating pathogens on surfaces and objects. Note that disinfectants may not be capable of killing bacterial spores (check the label!).1

Some products fit more than one of these criteria, and if they do, will be labelled Cleaner Disinfectant, Disinfectant Cleaner, Sanitizer-Disinfectant or Sanitizer and Disinfectant.

What is contact time?

Simply put, contact time is the length of time a disinfectant must be in contact with a target surface or device to achieve the desired efficacy result.1 Any bacteria or virus efficacy claims (like “Kills virus X in 2 minutes”) are dependent on the contact time. Contact time will be different for sanitizing a surface vs. disinfecting a surface. For example, a sanitizer and disinfectant product could be capable of sanitizing a surface in 1 minute, but would require 5-10 minutes to disinfect against bacteria and viruses.

How do you ensure that you’re meeting the right contact time?

The most common industry practice is to keep the surface you are disinfecting visibly wet for the full contact time as listed on the label, in order to ensure efficacy.2 For this reason, you may also hear contact time referred to as “wet time”2 Disinfectants may also indicate this on their instructions for use, for example “Allow surface to remain wet for (X) minutes (or seconds)”.1,2

One important thing to note is that if a surface dries before the contact time is up, you will need to reapply the product and ensure the proper contact time is met for the disinfection to be effective.2

How do contact times vary for different products?

Check the label on your disinfectant and you will see that depending on the format of the disinfectant, the contact time can be 15-30 seconds (e.g. disinfectant wipes), 1or 2 minutes, to 4 or even as long as 10 minutes (the maximum time allowed for disinfectant efficacy).2,3 It’s important that when cleaning and disinfecting that we don’t work too fast for the disinfectant to do its job.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends choosing products that clean (physically remove soil and organic material) and disinfect (kill germs) all at once.1,4,5 This includes premixed disinfectant cleaning solutions and/or wipes when available).4

Most disinfectant wipes also have the advantage of short contact times, often 30 seconds, and some as little as 15 seconds. When you are disinfecting high-traffic areas, a short contact time can also be an advantage. For example, with the conveyor belt in a grocery store, or the counter at a retail or hotel checkout, it is important that effective disinfection happens quickly.

Check the label on your disinfectant to find out the contact time

How do contact times vary for different pathogens?

If you check the efficacy data for a disinfectant, you will usually see that the contact time required to kill pathogens can vary. The contact time required to kill the bacteria or virus will depend on the type of pathogen. For example, for bacteria like E coli, contact time could be as short at 1 minute, while C. difficile spores require a contact time of 5 minutes.  

Your disinfectant can’t do its job without the right contact time.

CloroxPro® has you covered

Whether you are disinfecting a grocery store, restaurant, kitchen, school, retail space or office, CloroxPro® has a range of products to meet your disinfection needs, with contact times from as little as 15 seconds.

Learn more about the contact times of the products in the CloroxPro® portfolio.

References

  1. Health Canada. Guidance document: Disinfectant Drugs (2018). https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/drugs-health-products/drug-products/applications-submissions/guidance-documents/disinfectants/disinfectant-drugs/disinfectant-drug-eng.pdf Accessed June 1, 2021.
  2. Lowe R. Strazdas L, Quon J and Srikanth M. The importance of contact time and visible wetness to ensure effective disinfection. Becker’s Clinical Leadership & Infection Control Newsletter February 16, 2018. [Link: https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/the-importance-of-contact-time-and-visible-wetness-to-ensure-effective-disinfection.html]
  3. Parker-Pope T. Have I been cleaning all wrong? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/well/live/coronavirus-cleaning-cleaners-disinfectants-home.html. Accessed June 1, 2021.
  4. Government of Canada. Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during COVID-19. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/cleaning-disinfecting-public-spaces.html. Accessed June 1, 2021.
  5. Public Health Ontario COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) environmental services for healthcare settings. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/event-presentations/pho-webinar-infection-prevention-control-environmental-services.pdf?la=en. Accessed June 11, 2021.

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