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In this age of MRSA, C. difficile and other penicillin family resistant organisms, there seems to be a societal trend towards disinfecting everything.  I submit that this may not be a good thing unless you use the proper chemicals properly.

The problem is that incorrect cleaning procedures and use of disinfectants may in fact increase the presence of harmful bacteria on a surface.  Disinfectants are good at what they are made for, that is, killing “bacteria” on a surface given the appropriate procedures, dwell time and concentration ratios.  However, they are not good cleaners.  Using a disinfectant to clean up the spill on the counter and then consider it disinfected is erroneous.  The proper procedure should be to use a general surface cleaner to clean the affected surface first.  This rids the surface of soiling and any build up of film or residue on the surface. 

The appropriate disinfecting agent should be applied and allowed the appropriate wet dwell time for the anti-microbial agents to do their work.  Unfortunately, this isn’t very productive and most of us simply grab the (insert name brand here) towlette and wipe away.  This may give us peace of mind at the time but beware.  This procedure may actually be making the surface more hospitable for bacteria to grow.

The incorrect use of disinfectants leads to the formation of “biofilms” that looks like an organic web of sorts on the surface we are trying to disinfect.  In fact, this web is a breeding ground for more and more bacteria and makes it easier for the growth of these little nasties to occur.

Many current studies have shown that for some of the most resistant strains of bacteria such as those mentioned at the start of this article, the most successful preventative measure has been the simple washing of hands to prevent the spread and transmission of bacteria.  Maybe mom was right; wash your hands because cleanliness is next to godliness.  Well perhaps not godliness but most certainly healthiness.