BROOKINGS, S.D. – Eliminating illness causing germs from reaching our families is a focus during cold and flu season. To accomplish this, the use of chlorine bleach to sanitize surfaces is a common practice in homes, schools, childcare facilities as well as foodservice establishments.
“Chlorine bleach is a very effective sanitizer and disinfectant on disease causing germs, bacteria, parasites and viruses – including the flu virus,” said Joan Hegerfeld-Baker, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting as cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. However this process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
Hegerfeld-Baker reminds the public that chlorine bleach can be ineffective as a sanitizer if not used correctly. She shares the following tips when using chlorine bleach to sanitize:
Never mix bleach with other household cleaners, especially those containing ammonia. A poisonous gas can form which can be deadly.
Clean fist, rinse, then sanitize. Soil, debris and detergent residues will tie up the free chlorine molecules in the bleach/water solution and render it ineffective.
Water should be at room temperature or slightly warmer.
Chlorine bleach can become old and lose its effectiveness.
Make sure that 5.25% sodium hypochlorite is the only active ingredient in the chlorine bleach.
Scented bleach is not recommended to treat drinking water or on any food contact surface (such as dishes, counter tops, dining tables, food preparation equipment, sinks.)
For more information and tips on disinfecting your home or public environment, Hegerfeld-Baker encouraged individuals to visit iGrow.org and search for “sanitizing bleach.”