Sanitizing Wipes

The Difference between a sanitizing wipe and a disinfecting wipe

There’s no question that disposable wipes have made cleaning convenient. However, have you considered the difference between a sanitizing wipe and a disinfecting wipe? Each has their own time and purpose and this article will help you distinguish between the two.

The popularity of these wipes has skyrocketed in recent years with most families having at least 2 containers of wipes in the home. (According to an Echo Research survey commissioned by Soap and Detergent Association) They are convenient and they are effective. But, are you using them in the way they are intended? Are they performing the way you expect them to?

For both disinfecting wipes and sanitizing wipes, it’s a good idea to clean the surface before using the wipe. Cleaning refers to removing visible soil and debris and this must be done before a wipe can be effective at sanitizing or disinfecting. This is a step that often is skipped when doing a quick clean up. 

Let’s start with disinfecting wipes - like Lysol and Fusion.  They are designed to kill germs (bacteria and some viruses and fungi). However, did you know that the surface needs to remain wet for a specified time for it to be effective? This is called “dwell” time and it refers to the amount of time the product needs to be present to combat the microorganisms listed on the label. If a disinfectant wipe has a dwell time of 4 - 10 minutes, it will require multiple applications to keep the surface wet and for the application to kill bacteria. 

In the same vein, you will most likely need to use more than one wipe. Each new surface will require a fresh wipe so that you are not cross-contaminating. And, if the dwell time requires multiple applications, that will likely mean multiple wipes.

Most people don’t actually read the label and are not using disinfectant wipes properly. One quick pass over does not make for a germ-free surface. In fact, it might actually make things worse. By not following the directions, you could just be spreading the bacteria and germs around. 

Disinfecting wipes should not be used for personal care nor as baby wipes. For quick and easy hand cleaning when soap and water is not an option, hand sanitizing wipes are more appropriate. However, it is important to note that wipes should never take the place of proper hand-washing. If soap and water are available, that is always the best option for cleaning your hands and protecting yourself from viruses and bacteria.

Small packets like these are convenient for keeping at your desk or in your purse but users should be aware of their surroundings. Wipes should remain at room temperature. Extreme heat or extreme cold (for example, in your car) will break down the preservatives and will produce “fold mold” - fungus that develops in the creases of the wipes. Also, after about two years, the wipes will decrease in effectiveness. So, if they’ve been hanging around too long, it’s time to toss them.

The main difference between a sanitizing wipe and a disinfecting wipe is decreasing vs. eliminating. Sanitizing wipes will reduce bacteria to a safe level, killing 99.9% of bacteria, but will not kill viruses, mold, mildew and fungi. A disinfecting wipe typically takes longer to work but will virtually eliminate all pathogens and prevent new bacteria from forming.

Harsher chemicals are required for disinfecting and these can take a toll on your hands and the surface that you're cleaning. Take a moment to consider if the item requires disinfecting or sanitizing.

If you have any further questions or require wipes for your home, classroom or office, reach out to our MCL team. We are available by email or by phone 1-800-430-9555 and are happy to help you make the right choice for your cleaning needs.