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Are “faster kill time” disinfectants needed to improve infection control outcomes?

Several new disinfectants have come on the market touting faster kill times for pathogens than most disinfectants available today.  This seemingly might offer a way for healthcare institutions to improve infection control outcomes.   It is our opinion that these products offer little to improve infection control or reduce healthcare associated infections (HAI).  It takes the focus off the real problem, which is the process of disinfecting, NOT the product.

A little background:  For years, disinfectants have been tested for efficacy using a standard test method called the AOAC Use Dilution Test.  The test method evaluates the disinfectant in the presence of pathogens with a contact time of 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes, a pass or fail criteria is applied that determines whether the disinfectant is effective on the particular pathogen.

This pass fail test has been adapted to determine pass fail rates at times less than 10 minutes, hence the new faster kill time products.  To achieve the faster kill times, often it requires the use of higher levels of active ingredients and/or the use of more toxic compounds.  For example, sporicidal disinfectants containing a mixture of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide (peroxyacetic acid) are more hazardous and can have an objectionable “vinegar” odor.

Don’t have 10 minutes to wait?  Enter the faster kill disinfectants with the sales pitch that cleaners don’t have the time to wait 10 minutes!  Therefore, the faster kill products are superior.  Forget the fact they can be 2x more expensive, or they may require more toxic and/or have higher levels of active ingredients to get the faster kill time.

You better know what pathogens you are trying to kill?  Most faster kill disinfectants have variable kill times depending on the pathogen.  In addition, it may require a stronger dilution for a particular pathogen.

Case in point, one product on the market has a 1 minute claim for Influenza, a 3 minute claim for E-Coli, a 5 minute claim for Norovirus, and a 10 minute claim for Multi-Drug Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and the SARS Virus.

Don't have 10 minutes?
If you don't have 10 minutes to wait you better know what pathogens you are trying to kill.  Most faster kill products have variable kill times depending upon the pathogen.  One example of a commercially available product, 10 minutes for Multi-Drug S. Aureus, 5 minutes for Novovirus, 3 minutes for E-Coli, and 1 minute for Influenza"

You can’t change the dry time:    While you may be able to find disinfectantswith a faster kill time, it is important to note the evaporating medium is water.  So regardless of the disinfectant used, the dry time cannot be changed using the same procedure.  The perceived benefit of faster kill time is no benefit at all, because the dry time will be the same.  Note that all disinfectants state on the label that the surface must be allowed to air dry.  By definition, applying fans or heat are not appropriate to accelerate drying.

Focus on the process of disinfecting, not the product:  Disinfecting is different than cleaning.  When someone cleans a surface via wiping, they might intuitively wipe the surface to dryness, this however is NOT disinfecting.

Most modern disinfectants are tested in the presence of hard water and “organic serum”.  The organic serum is to simulate contamination from bodily fluids and organic matter.   What this means the products clean and disinfectant in one step.  But note, proper disinfecting protocol recalls removing gross filth (visible soil) first, then application of the disinfectant.

Conclusion:  The process of disinfecting that leaves a surface visibly moist and allowed to air dry will insure the appropriate contact time is achieved, whether it is 1 minute, 3, 5 or 10 minutes.  Training employees on the correct process will ultimately improve infection rates and reduce the spread of contagious illnesses.

Some Do’s and Don’ts of disinfecting:

  • DO leaves surfaces visibly moist and allow to them to air dry.
  • DO remove visible soil first before disinfecting.
  • DO wear proper personal protection equipment.
  • DO focus disinfecting on frequently touches surfaces (high touch).
  • DO take extra personal protection precautions when cleaning up blood or bodily fluid spills.


  • DO NOT wipe surfaces to dryness.
  • DO NOT use visibly soiled disinfectant solutions.  Change visibly soiled solutions as needed.
  • DO NOT use the same cloth over and over.  Consider having multiple pre-moistened cloths to make frequent changes simple.
  • DO NOT speed dry surfaces with fans or heaters.
  • DO NOT use cotton cloths or cellulosic sponges, use microfiber towels to make the process efficient and effective.


Visit the Multi-Clean website for more resources on disinfectant products.

VIDEO:  How to properly disinfect surfaces kill viruses and germs










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