A Guide to Safe and Effective Cleaning and Disinfecting

There is a growing belief on the part of the public that all germs (or “microbes”) need to be killed because of infectious-disease outbreaks mainly in public places. This belief and limited time for routine cleaning and hand hygiene leads to the indiscriminate use of sanitizers, disinfectants, and antimicrobial hand products that may actually pose a hazard to the public.

Disinfectants are not cleaners but pesticides designed to kill or inactivate microbes. Thus, they are not products that should be used indiscriminately. The overuse and misuse of these products is a growing public health and environmental concern. Overuse of some disinfectant products can potentially create microbes that are resistant to particular disinfectants or that become “superbugs”.

Bacteria, fungi, and viruses play important positive roles in human health. Microbes have both beneficial uses and negative impacts. Product manufacturers sometimes design media messages about the proliferation of germs and their potential health affects so as to cause public alarm and increase the desire for antimicrobial products.