This week for a change of pace I have included a video – I’ve watched it a zillion times and always chuckle and hope you will too. But before you click the play button and start dancing to the catchy tune let me ask you a question. Have you ever stood back after cleaning your bathroom or kitchen and commended yourself on a job well done? I’m sure we’ve all thought “WOW! Look how shiny everything looks! Did I ever out do myself this week!” In that same instance did the thought ever cross your mind..... “I wonder what I have left behind?”
Traditionally cleaning chemicals are designed to break down grease and grime and help lift it off the surface so it can be picked up by a sponge, cloth or mop. The cleaning process generally introduces a cleaner or cleaner disinfectant that can be comprised of a number of different chemical agents including large quantities of water. These now clean but wet surfaces are left to dry, where only the water component of your cleaning solution evaporates leaving residual chemicals to dry on the surface. Just like the shiny little bubbles from the video.
Many of the common cleaning and disinfecting products used at home, in daycares or schools and healthcare facilities are known to leave behind chemical residues. Now – not all residues are equal. If you don’t rinse your dishes after washing them by hand, you may taste the soap residue, but it’s not going to kill you. Other chemicals such as phenols are known to leave a residue that can cause skin irritation, have been identified as known carcinogens and are not to be used around children. Quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) are also known to leave residues on surfaces and while Quats are not considered toxic, the residues they leave behind can harbour dirt and bugs that were not removed from the cleaning process and build up overtime. It is this bioburden that in some cases has been associated with continued facility outbreaks – especially of C. difficile where the C. diff spore can survive on surfaces for months on end.
Another concern that comes with residues being left on surfaces is the potential for development of chemical resistance. These residues are at the sub-lethal dose meaning they are below the effective concentration needed to achieve disinfection and while most studies supporting the development of chemical resistance have been conducted in laboratory settings there are a few documented occurrences from the field (we’ll delve into the development of chemical resistance in a later blog).
As Lee and I have been highlighting, perhaps ad nauseam over the past seven weeks choosing a cleaner, a disinfectant or disinfectant cleaner cannot be based on one criteria alone, but is a decision made after research and review of all the criteria that are of importance to you, your family or the facility for which you are choosing the product for. When it comes to chemical residues, the bottom line is the fewer residuals left behind on the surface the better.