I must first say that I have an inquisitive mind, which I will admit does get me into trouble upon occasion. I am also a Taurus (bull-headed and stubborn...) and when you mix the two together (much to the chagrin of those around me) you end up with someone who may respond to a question with "because that's the way it is," and yet at the same time does not accept that as an answer to a question that they themselves have posed!
My inquisitiveness and stubbornness does come in handy when working with a facility to solve a problem related to the use of disinfectants, particularly if the problem is how to manage an outbreak. I am also very fortunate to have a Research Team who loves to solve problems and conduct research studies so that we can improve the available science to support the correct and effective use of disinfectants.
As noted in some of our previous blogs such as Premature Evaporation and Dirty to Disinfected in 60 Seconds, a key component to achieving disinfection compliance is the consideration of the contact time and dry time - disinfectants do evaporate and the faster they evaporate the less likely disinfection will or can be achieved (unless of course you are applying the product to a surface multiple times). We also highlighted in the Monogamous Relationship blog that in order to minimize transfer from surface to surface, the method of how the disinfectant is being applied needs to be considered.
What we did not realize is that the cloth itself can significantly impact the ability to achieve disinfection compliance - and no, I'm not talking about the well known fact that cotton and quat-based disinfectants do not get along. What I am talking about is the fact that the type of wipe substrate (cotton, microfiber or disposable wipe) can directly impact how the disinfectant is released onto a surface. The less product that is released, the less likely the appropriate contact time will be met, which means disinfection is not likely to occur. Trust me, we did not believe it until we saw it!
We tested 5 different disinfectant chemistries with 3 different wipe substrates and found that there were distinct differences in how the wipe substrates absorbed the disinfectant, but more importantly there were differences in how they released (or didn't release) the disinfectant back onto the surface as well! We found that the amount of disinfectant needed to saturate the wipe substrate differed significantly, which has direct implications in chemical cost, and of course using a cloth that is not properly wetted is not going to help in the disinfection department because....you guessed it - The surface is not going to stay wet!
We also found that the way the disinfectant is released from the wipe substrate varied dramatically. From a disinfection perspective again, this is highly important as a wipe that "dumps" all of its liquid at the start of the cleaning process is not going to provide even distribution of the disinfectant. The ability for a wipe to have an even metered release (meaning the disinfectant is released from the substrate uniformly over a larger surface area) is going to have a very real and positive impact on disinfection. Similarly to the children's fable of the Hair and the Tortoise, slow and steady wins the race! A wipe substrate that deposits enough disinfectant to keep the surface wet over a sizeable surface area is going to be the most effective and cost efficient to use.
You may have picked your disinfectant based on its claims or contact time, but in doing so, did you investigate how your chosen product works with the wipe substrate your environmental services staff are using? Those clusters of VRE or MRSA may have resulted from a mismatch between your disinfectant and your wipe substrate! I've always stated that effective cleaning and disinfection is about marrying product with protocol. I guess I need to change that to marrying product with wipe substrate with protocol!