Understanding clean: Disinfecting vs. Cleaning?

By: The Cleancult Team

March 13, 2020

There’s an ongoing debate of whether antibacterial products are the only effective alternative at keeping bacteria, germs, and viruses away. Our main goal here at cleancult is to keep you safe and clean. As such, given the current situation in the world, we wanted to be absolutely clear about how our products do just that. Our cleaning products, including all purpose cleaners and hand soap, are incredibly effective at removing bacteria and viruses from your skin and home surfaces. Our hero ingredient, Saponified Coconut oil, is the heavy lifter that helps do just that. Even though we have these effective ingredients, we do not use antibacterial agents or disinfectants. Here’s a great overview to what the difference is between cleaning and disinfecting:

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Huh, then just with these definitions we should go straight for the soap labeled “antibacterial”, right? Well, not so fast. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven.“

So what’s the real difference between a soap labeled “antibacterial” and one that isn’t labeled as such? Easy. The antibacterial soap contains certain chemicals not found in regular soap. However, some of these, like triclosan, can actually be harmful to humans. Triclosan has been of concern to many environmental, regulatory groups and has been shown to alter the way some hormones work in animals. Yikes!

You might have seen a decline in products marketed as antibacterial in the last couple of months. This is because the FDA has issued a final rule under which liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes containing the majority of the antibacterial active ingredients (including triclosan and triclocarban) will no longer be able to be marketed. However, it’s important to state that this rule only applies to consumer antibacterial soap and body washes that are used with water. It does not apply to hand sanitizer or hand wipes!

But, what does the FDA recommend? “Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” says Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”

To stay safest, though, we recommend cleaning often and well and combining cleaning with effective disinfectants. For hands, the World Health Organization recommends washing them for at least 20 seconds. For surfaces, we recommend that you spray multi-surface cleaners, wait for a couple of seconds, and then wipe away with a towel. Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to say about preventative measures we should all take:

“Household members should clean hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.”

Household members should follow normal preventive actions while at work and home including recommended hand hygiene and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Additional key times to clean hands include: - After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing - After using the restroom - Before eating or preparing food - After contact with animals or pets - Before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g. a child)

From all of us here at cleancult, we hope you all stay safe and healthy through this trying time.