Understanding why no disinfectant is truly universal

Categories: Healthcare October 3, 2023

As trusted advisors, we’ve recently taken a bold step by removing the term “Universal” from our alcohol-free “Sani-Cloth® AF” cleaning and disinfectant wipe packaging and training materials. Why? Because this word might have led you to believe that our wipes were a one-size-fits-all solution, effective against all types of pathogens, suitable for every surface, and adaptable to any setting.

In this blog post, we discuss what ‘universal’ actually means – and why no disinfectant can truly claim the title of being universal.

Decoding the term ‘universal’

The universal definition of the word universal is ‘existing everywhere or involving everyone.’[1] Using this simple definition, it’s clear that for something to be universal, it needs to be applicable everywhere.

In the context of cleaning and disinfection, a universal solution would ideally be capable of eliminating a broad spectrum of harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores, while being safe and compatible with different types of materials and surfaces.

However, achieving a truly universal disinfection solution is complex due to the diverse nature of pathogens and surfaces, as well as the specific requirements for different settings. Microorganisms vary in their resistance to disinfectants, and surfaces can have unique properties that influence how well a disinfectant works.

[1] UNIVERSAL | English meaning – Cambridge Dictionary

Is there a Universal solution for cleaning and disinfection?

In reality, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all disinfection product or method that can effectively combat every type of pathogen on all surfaces and in every environment. This is why various disinfectants and cleaning agents are developed, each with their own strengths and limitations. Healthcare facilities, households, and industries often require tailored disinfection solutions based on their specific needs and the potential risks they face.

An example of a kitchen cleaning cupboard

Let’s take a simple analogy, for example, your cleaning cupboard at home, typically found under your kitchen sink! Whilst in an ideal world, we would like to have one product that would effectively do its job in every room; this is simply not the case. Typically, we have at least 3 different products, which may comprise of wipes, sprays, microfibre cloths with water and much more, which are used in different rooms in the house. For example, a bleach solution in the bathroom, a disinfectant wipe in the kitchen and a surface spray in the lounge. We all use a range of different solutions because there is no universal product currently available that could effectively do its job in each room.  The same applies to healthcare.

Whilst some excellent solutions are available, all rigorously tested and suitable for their intended purpose, there is currently no “universal” product that is effective against every pathogen and safe to use on every surface.

Key things to take into consideration

While a truly universal disinfection solution might not exist, the goal is to select the most appropriate disinfectant that can effectively mitigate the risk of infections. Choosing the right disinfectant wipe for healthcare facilities is crucial for maintaining a clean and safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors.

Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a disinfectant wipe:

  1. Efficacy Against Target Pathogens – Investigate the different wipes that may have varying spectrums of activity against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores.
  2. Contact Time – Check the required contact time for the disinfectant to be effective. Some wipes may need longer contact times to ensure proper disinfection.
  3. Compatibility with Surfaces – Verify that the disinfectant is compatible with the types of surfaces commonly found in your facility.
  4. Safety for Users – Consider the safety of healthcare workers and patients. Look for wipes that have low toxicity and minimal odour.

Why did we remove “universal” from Sani-Cloth® AF?

It is important to note that an alcohol-free wipe certainly has its place in healthcare. It is a great solution for everyday cleaning and disinfecting, which can be used on common surfaces where there is no known risk of C. diff infection or outbreak. What is key to protecting the patients, healthcare workers, and surfaces is to understand why we made the change:

Sani-Cloth® AF Efficacy Table

Efficacy: Sani-Cloth® AF wipes work well against many types of germs—killing tuberculosis, viruses, bacteria, and yeast in just 2 minutes. However, they don’t work against C. difficile (C. diff), a specific type of germ. C. diff is a gram-positive, spore-forming bacteria that requires a sporicidal solution such as Sani-Cloth® Chlor. These spores are an inactive form of the germ and have a protective coating, which lets them stay alive on surfaces for a long time. If there’s a C. diff outbreak, using Sani-Cloth® AF would be ineffective and potentially dangerous because the sporicidal bacteria would continue to spread via contaminated surfaces.

Compatibility: Secondly, whilst Sani-Cloth® AF and other disinfectants can generally be used on hard, non-porous surfaces, there can be instances of incompatibility. Compatibility is all about how a material reacts when exposed to disinfectants. If things like plastics start to break down, that’s a sign of incompatibility. It’s important to remove residual build-up with a detergent solution on a regular basis to maintain the integrity of surfaces; otherwise, this could result in costly replacements and repairs or an ineffective clean, compromising the health of patients and healthcare workers.

At PDI International, we believe we have a Sani-Cloth® solution for every situation. This reflects our understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to disinfection. From daily, facility-wide use to outbreak situations, PDI’s complete line of disinfectants and cleaners address your specific environment of care needs. Discover our Made in Britain Sani-Cloth® range of cleaning and disinfection surface solutions for every environment, including the number one cleaning and disinfectant wipe in healthcare, Super Sani-Cloth®, visit https://pdi-intl.com/family/environment-of-care/.