Disinfecting Sterilizing Sanitizing and Hot Water Extraction

Tuesday, Feb. 16th 2021

 I was looking at this sign recently on our refrigerator at home. My wife had put a sign up about reminding us to wash our hands. I stopped and thought, you know, that’s really simple, but it does speak a lot of truth about the health of our indoor environment today.

I am an IICRC master textile cleaner with over 26 years of experience dealing with indoor deep cleaning systems.  I just want to share some information pertaining to healthy, deep cleaning systems. I’d like to explain some terms that are out there that can cause confusion so you can make smart business decisions.

Let’s first start with definitions of some terms that have been thrown around that I’ve been hearing a lot about disinfection versus sterilization and sanitization. Disinfection and sterilization are both decontamination processes. Disinfection is the process of eliminating or reducing harmful microorganisms from inanimate objects and surfaces. Sterilization is the process of killing all microorganisms. Now here’s the point. They are not possible on soft goods or textiles. When I say soft goods and textiles, I mean carpets, upholstery, cubicle panels, and things of that nature. Our goal should be sanitizing. Sanitizing is bringing a textile back to a safe level for human occupancy. It’s dependent on what is affecting the material as to what needs done. For instance, applying a detergent and deep cleaning with high-performance hot water extraction unit might be all that is needed for a normal indoor environment such as a commercial office space. Others may need removal of contaminated materials and applications of disinfectants, or even ULV fogging, electrostatic fogging, thermal fogging, or other things designed for that surface. This is applied following the product instructions, in order to achieve the claims the product states.  It is a good thing to read the label so you know what is actually designed for the surface.

It’s also important to note, no one can make claims that they are killing anything or disinfecting anything without someone doing field testing; swabbing, air sampling. An industrial hygienist might be involved. Be careful with the claims out there. We can certainly be applying sanitizers for the health of the indoors. All those things are good and might be necessary, but are they always necessary? Do we really need them? Not always!

This leads me back to the hand washing scenario again. The fact is that proper cleaning of surfaces, like washing your hands, offers more protection than the application of hand sanitizers alone. It removes the contamination, rather than just trying to kill it or destroy it. Our system is kind of like that. We use detergents first, we agitate, we get proper dwell time and then rinse with really, really hot water. CDC also recommends cleaning the entire indoor environment, not just touchpoints. So, soft goods should be deep cleaned too.

Let’s review a little bit. First, you can’t disinfect soft goods and textiles, but detergents and really hot water are a good thing. You may or may not need a disinfectant to achieve a sanitary level. Secondly, deep cleaning via hot water extraction with a high performance truck mount has always been healthy for the indoor environment. And lastly, it’s better to remove as much of the contamination as possible rather than just trying to kill or destroy it.

We are available to discuss your commercial and residential deep cleaning needs of your carpets, upholstery, tile, cubicle panels, rugs, and even hardwoods. Let us know if you have questions.  We will try to help if we can and be an honest operator with you too.  direct you to other areas and friends that we have in the industry. God bless you. Stay healthy and stay clean out there.


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