Can You Really Trust Those Antibacterial Wipes?

Posted by Jeff Bell on

Just Because You Used an Antibacterial Wipe, Doesn’t Mean Your Surface is Clean!

Those sanitizing wipes are everywhere. Not just hospitals, there are cart wipes at supermarkets, department stores, and pharmacies (and as a slight germaphobe, even in my own kitchen…and bathroom…and car).

They are so enticing. Just swipe a wipe and you’re clean…right? Not So much.

I worked as a nurse for 8 years in an ICU. We were meticulous about handwashing. Signs were posted everywhere about washing upon entering and leaving a patient's room. Scrub for at least 14 seconds in order to get rid of all the bacteria and viruses. But at no point during my career, training, or education did anyone ever discuss how to properly clean surfaces with the ubiquitous surface wipes or liquid disinfectants. I had to open up Beyond Surgical Supply in order to learn about something that should be known industry wide. Not just in the healthcare setting, but in tattoo parlors, nail salons, and even with those tempting cart wipes.

There are a few concepts that are vital to obtaining a sanitized surface. Unfortunately, not very many people are aware of them. Contact time (also called Kill Time) is fundamental in order to achieve proper disinfection. Just because the wipe or liquid touched the surface doesn’t mean it will kill the bacteria or viruses sitting there. The moisture has to sit for the appropriate amount of time (Contact Time). If the wetness doesn’t sit on the surface per the manufacturer’s instruction, then the chemicals won’t have enough time to kill the infectious organisms.

So what is a good amount of time to let the wetness sit?

Well, there is no easy answer. Each disinfecting wipe or liquid is different, and each organism is different as well. Some organisms are hardier than others (anthrax spores can live for centuries)1. Many bacteria such as MRSA or VRE can live on a surface for months if the conditions are correct. Viruses such as HIV or HSV (Herpes) can live for hours to weeks on a surface. Typically a lower temperature and higher humidity means the organism can live longer2. Depending on the hardiness of the organism, it might take a longer amount of chemical exposure to be destroyed.

In order to kill these organisms you’ll have to read the disinfectant to find out its contact/kill time and make sure the surface stays moist for that length of time. This might mean you’ll have to apply the cleaner more than once. If a disinfectant has a short Drying Time (the amount of time is takes the liquid to dry up) but a long kill time (like 10 minutes) that means the surface won’t stay wet for very long and you’ll have to reapply. Factors that affect the contact time can be the method used to apply the sanitizer (wipe, spray or pour), the temperature or humidity in the room, and the ingredients of the disinfectant (alcohol evaporates more quickly).

Spread the word, not the germs!

Check out our disinfecting products at


1. Kim, S. (2015). Why Anthrax Spores are so Hard to Kill. Abc News Online. June 3, 2015.
2. Kramer, A., Schwebke, I., & Kampf, G. (2006). How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC Infectious Diseases, 6

Some products offer a 10 minute kill time others boast as low as a 2 minute kill time. Lexicon Medical Supply has a wide variety of sanitizing wipes and liquid surface and instrument disinfectants available.  

Next time you walk into a healthcare setting or nail salon take a look at their cleaning practices.


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