Disinfecting wipes are widely considered a convenient way to keep your family healthy, especially during the germ-ridden days. But they won't work and can even do more harm than good if not used as intended. So, how to safely and properly apply them? Here are 16 things you must know.
1. Disinfecting And Cleaning Are Two Very Different Things
You may think disinfecting and cleaning are one in the same, but there's actually a big difference between these two things. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces, while disinfecting kills them by using antimicrobial agents. Disinfecting wipes are not necessary for routine cleaning, but do use them when a surface has contact with raw meat, blood or bodily fluids, and when a family member suffers from a contagious disease like flu.
2. Disinfecting Wipes Can't Replace Soap And Water
As the WHO stresses, cleaning with soap and water is the best way to lower the number of germs and reduce the risk of infection. Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician, couldn't agree more, saying, "The first line of defense against germs is always going to be soap and water. This is true even of contaminated surfaces that should be disinfected."
3. You May Just Be Spreading Bacteria With Disinfecting Wipes
While disinfecting wipes can be used on a variety of surfaces, it doesn't mean that you can use a single wipe on multiple surfaces, as you may just end up spreading more germs than you're killing. So, the rule here is "new places, new wipes."
4. You Need To Allow For "Contact Time"
To be effective, disinfecting wipes need to remain on the surface for a certain period of time, which varies by product. For instance, the instructions for Clorox Disinfecting Wipes state that you should keep the treated surface visibly wet for 4 minutes for it to be properly disinfected. Now, you know it pays to read the label first.
5. Disinfecting Wipes Can Lead To Superbugs
While disinfecting wipes make a trusty weapon against germs, overuse of them can lead to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as "superbugs." Studies have found that some superbugs like MRSA are able to spread through disinfecting wipes. So, when you have to use disinfecting wipes, make sure you're following the instructions.
6. No, You Can't Store Disinfecting Wipes In Your Car
Preparing some disinfecting wipes for daily use is necessary, but you should keep them at room temperature. If it's a place in extreme heat or extreme cold, such as your car, you're likely to destroy the preservatives and get “fold mold.” As the name suggests, it's a fungus hiding in the folds of the wipes. Imagine spreading that around your steering wheel. Eek!
7. Disinfecting Wipes Won't Stay Good Forever
Even if you store them in the right place, you shouldn't expect disinfecting wipes to stay fresh forever. The product usually starts to lose some of its effectiveness after 2 years. A representative for Lysol Disinfecting Wipes has revealed that their wipes don't have an expiration date, but they have "a shelf life of two years from the date of manufacture." Well, you don't have to remember the exact date, as the smell will tell all. If the scent gets much weaker, you're advised to replace them.
8. Disinfecting Wipes Are Not Meant For Your Skin
This one may seem obvious, but it's still worth mentioning here: Don't use the wipes as antibacterial wipes or diaper wipes. The chemicals in these wipes are intended to clean hard and soft surfaces, not human skin. Furthermore, they can cause allergic reactions to skin, such as redness, itching, or peeling.
9. Don't Use Disinfecting Wipes On Absorbent Surfaces
Never use disinfecting wipes on absorbent surfaces like rugs, as this will not only damage the object but also lower the disinfecting power. Avoid unfinished, unsealed, unpainted, waxed or oiled surfaces, too. Clorox wipes should also not be used on copper, aluminum, or other polished surfaces. It's best to check the label before you disinfect a surface. And when in doubt, test a small area first.
10. Disinfect It, Rinse It, And Repeat
It's wise to regularly sanitize your kids' toys with disinfecting wipes, especially during epidemics. But never forget to wash the toys with clean water before returning them to your kids, since the little ones tend to put everything in their mouths and may swallow the residual chemicals. This rule also applies to any food-contact surfaces like silverware or dishes.
11. How To Use Disinfecting Wipes During A Pandemic
To keep our family healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends daily disinfecting highly-touched surfaces, including "tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks." One thing to remember, however, is that follow the instructions when you use disinfectants. Otherwise, your efforts may be wasted.
12. Don’t Wipe Granite Countertops With Disinfecting Wipes
It’s not uncommon to use disinfecting wipes in the kitchen to disinfect, pick up crumbs, and remove tough cooking stains. But you really should think twice before using them on granite countertops. Why? Granite is a porous material, which is typically sealed for protection. Disinfecting Wipes can actually eat away the sealant, leaving that pretty granite surface at risk.
13. Avoid Polishing Your Eyeglasses With Disinfecting Wipes
If you run out of lens wipes, don't try to use a disinfecting wipe as a substitute. As we mentioned earlier, the chemicals in disinfecting wipes can cause irritation to our skin. If they come in direct contact with your eyes, you may end up running to your doctor.
14. It’s Not A Good Idea To Clean Leather With Disinfecting Wipes
It’s so easy to use disinfecting wipes to clean and disinfect your leather couch or your car’s leather seats, but stop doing this again, as the alcohol in the wipes can cause the leather to lose its natural oils and become dry.
15. What If Your Disinfecting Wipes Have Dried Out?
If your disinfecting wipes have dried out and the new ones in stores are not available, you can revive them in this way: pour 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol into the canister, close the container tightly, and allow the wipes to absorb the alcohol completely before using.
16. Never Throw Disinfecting Wipes Into The Toilet
Most Disinfecting wipes have a non-woven substrate that must be disposed of in a trash can. They should not be flushed down a toilet because this can cause clogs in pipes and septic systems.