Disinfect Like a Boss (Part 2)

Disinfect Like a Boss (Part 2)

While looking around the internet, I keep seeing funny (and some times crude) pictures with a caption “___________ like a Boss!” You can fill in the blank by doing a Google search of “Like a Boss”. From what I can tell, the term is the equivalent of “Numero Uno”, “Top Dog”… Being an older adult who wants to seem cool, hip, off the chain, the bomb, lets talk about “Disinfecting like a BOSS!”
Of course, I am talking about infection prevention or infection control. You, too, can “Disinfect like a BOSS!” So, let’s get started here in Part 2 with some things you need to know if you’re going to be BOSS.

Tackling Biofilm Like a BOSS

Underscoring the need for cleaning in addition to disinfecting, scientists are finding that germs are more tenacious survivors than anyone ever imagined.  Bacteria on damp surfaces don’t remain as isolated and free-floating life forms; they communicate and colonize with other germs to build a tough, protective biofilm  that can withstand even the strongest disinfectants.

Bacteria and other microbes require a damp surface to form a biofilm.  In our mouths, the biofilm is called plaque.  You also are likely to encounter biofilms inside water distribution pipes and under the rims of toilets and urinals.  Wet areas surrounding drains and faucets provide ideal conditions for biofilm formation, and so may frequently splashed areas on counters and floors. Biofilms are everywhere. (The reason you slip on a rock in a stream, for example, is that it’s covered in biofilm.) And, fact be known, you can’t get rid of a biofilm by “zapping” it with disinfectant.

Biofilm protects itself with a tough, thick matrix that makes up two-thirds of the film.  You have to break up the matrix to make germs vulnerable.

One of the best methods of breaking through biofilm’s matrix is agitating, brushing, or scrubbing the surface to which it is attached.  For difficult-to-reach areas like the nooks and crannies around faucets, a stiff toothbrush helps break down the colonies.

A portable steam vapor system (you’ll find the biggest selection online) may also be an effective tool to kill the organisms or microbes that hide within the biofilm.  The heat penetrates the biofilm and the microbes, which otherwise may not be affected by disinfectants.

Understanding Benchmark Microbes like a BOSS!

Worried about a certain “bug”?  If in doubt about whether a proposed disinfectant dispatches the pathogens of concern, check for specific kill claims on the label.  Labels will usually tell you whether the product has been registered by the U.S. EPA to eradicate infamous microbes such as MRSA, Norovirus, and so on.

Benchmark microbes tell you a lot about a product’s potency.  For example, if a germicide kills Pseudomonas (a type of tough bacteria used to test disinfectants, you can assume it will kill all the weaker microbes, too.  A manufacturer therefore doesn’t need to list all the lesser or more delicate organisms on the label

Check labels for specific germ-killing claims to find out which of the following basic categories of disinfectant you are buying:

  • A limited disinfectant is effective for use against a specific major group of microorganisms.  Laboratory tests have demonstrated it efficacy against either Salmonella enterica or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
  • A general disinfectant is effective for use against both Salmonella enterica and Staphylococcus aureus.  A general disinfectant is also referred to as a broad spectrum disinfectant.
  • A healthcare disinfectant is effective for use in hospitals, clinics, dental offices, or any other medical-related facility.  Efficacy is demonstrated against Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria (which can cause bacterial pneumonia).

These categories have become roughly equivalent to “strong”, “stronger” and “strongest” but do keep in mind that with increasing strength often goes increasing toxicity to humans and, possibly, the environment.

What do these terms and disinfectant levels have to do with shopping for a disinfectant?  While it would be nice to get a “microbiologist’s prescription” for a limited, general, or healthcare disinfectant, the reality is that selection is often a judgement call.

That’s it!  Be a BOSS when it comes to providing a safe, clean and disinfected environment where infections are prevented, or at least, controlled.




About Darrel Hicks

J. Darrel Hicks, B.A., is the author of Wiley Publishing's "Infection Prevention For Dummies", and is nationally recognized as one of the top experts in infection control. Darrel Hicks is also the Past President of the IEHA and is an active member in AHE where he holds the designation of CHESP. View all posts by Darrel Hicks

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