The Big Mistake You're Making When Disinfecting

Mask wearing, social distancing, washing your hands regularly, and obsessively cleaning and disinfecting all your belongings are all likely a regular part of your current everyday life. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a huge change to the way people all around the world live their lives, including how they routinely clean and disinfect their homes, cars, and more. If your local supermarket or retail stores went months without any disinfecting wipes or sprays, you are not alone. But did you know there's a right and wrong way to disinfect things?

It's important to understand that while we often use these words interchangeably, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting all mean different things. Disinfecting for instance is the use of chemicals to "kill germs on surfaces and objects," but it does not get rid of the dead germs from surfaces (via the National Institutes of Health). In order to get rid of the germs you just killed, you must clean the surface, which physically removes particles, large or microscopic from the surface itself.

It would seem that one of the biggest mistakes people make when disinfecting is wiping away the solution before it has time to do its job. Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious disease at Washington University School of Medicine-St. Louis Children's Hospital, told The New York Times, "The longer you can let it be in contact, the better." If you're looking to effectively kill germs that live on your surfaces, its crucial to read the directions carefully. Some disinfectants require sitting only for a few seconds while others may require several minutes before they should be wiped, in order to work effectively.

Other common disinfecting mistakes

In addition to reading product labels to determine the appropriate time to let your solution sit, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also encourages you to read about and use only the recommended amount of product necessary. They also recommend making sure the area you are working in is properly ventilated and encourage the use of gloves and some form of protective eyewear, to ensure no collateral damage to yourself.

Prematurely wiping disinfectant away is not the only mistake people are making. With shelves being void of cleaners and disinfectants for months, people are turning to DIY solutions. However, many are creating their own disinfectants incorrectly! Jennifer Rodriguez, director of business development for Pro Housekeepers, tells Best Life"As people create their own solutions, they do not keep track of the expiration of certain chemicals or worse, they only top off old solutions with newly bought ingredients." She goes on to encourage DIY-ers to keep meticulous track of expiration dates and avoid mixing new and old solutions together.

So whether you're using a pre-made disinfectant or making your own, it's time you remember what your elementary school teachers taught you and read the instructions first!