The bleach section definitely needs a re-write, but in the meantime see
[**Please let me know how to improve this entry. 2007-04-12.
Now that the fall bird hunting season is here, please let me know how you modified your field sanitation so I can improve this entry. This post may read better printed out. I don’t have control over that, but perhaps folks would like me to create a printed version to download and print out? Quyana. revised 2007-Aug-21]
These guidelines are a draft ** localized version which can be used by ordinary people at camp, field, or at home. These guidelines have been taken from technical documents produced by the World Health Organization, Reckitt Benckiser Inc., Clorox.com, and other technical sources (listing at end).
Unlike the “masks” and “hand sanitizer” guidelines, “disinfection” turned out to be surprisingly more difficult to track down. This is because in the USA, chemicals which act as “disinfectants” must not only comply with scientific standards but also EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulatory standards.
- Disinfectant — A chemical agent that destroys pathogenic microorganisms (not spores). The term is generally used for an agent that destroys organisms on inanimate objects (surfaces) rather than on people or animals.Sanitizer — An agent that reduces (through killing) the number of bacteria to a safe level. This means a 99.9% kill as set by public health requirements. This term is also applied to agents used to control the microbial population in food service, food preparation and food processing areas. These are called food-contact surface sanitizers and require a 99.999% kill.Disinfectants and sanitizers, therefore, are considered pesticides because they destroy microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are found in the environment (excluding microorganisms on or in humans and animals). All claims, and changes in claims, on disinfectants and sanitizers must be made with the EPA’s registration and acceptance.
keep in mind—
Viruses, especially the influenza viruses and HIV, are actually pretty delicate. However, like other living creatures, viruses have evolved their own defenses and they are incredibly small. This means we, as their possible new hosts, must not be careless in our efforts to avoid or deactivate them. Viruses and several other types of microbes can be killed through heat, desiccation (drying out), radiation (a form of heat or energy), and chemical disruption, among others.
For field and home situations, we’re talking about the use of chemical disinfectants. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) —
AI (avian influenza) virus is inactivated by a range of disinfectants, including:
o phenolic disinfectants [such as Lysol®]
o quaternary ammonia compounds [Lysol® all purpose cleaner, Reckitt Benckiser Inc.]
o peroxygen compounds (peroxide)
o sodium hypochlorite (household bleach [or Clorox®])
o alcohol (isopropyl alcohol [but especially ethyl alcohol])
o other germicides with a tuberculocidal claim on the label
o other registered/licensed disinfectants
• Any germicide with a tuberculocidal claim on the label (i.e., an intermediate-level disinfectant) is considered capable of inactivating influenza.
Peroxygen (hydrogen peroxide) breaks down easily to plain water (that’s why it comes in a brown bottle, to keep light from breaking it down). Disinfecting alcohols or surgical spirits (Ethyl alcohol 70%) are difficult to get in our region, are flammable, and can dry out the skin (see sanitizer gels
- Sanitizers — Handwashing –
. Alcohol may also cause discoloration, swelling, hardening, and cracking of rubber and certain plastics after prolonged and repeated use. Iodine (Betadine) is often used to clean wounds in a clinical setting, but isn’t available or cost effective for general disinfection. Iodine tablets will disinfect drinking water.
Therefore our two readily available and effective disinfectants are phenolic base chemicals or cresols [Lysol®] and bleach. Both must be treated with respect.
The Household Products Database is a new offering from the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine that contains information on over 4,000 consumer brands, allowing consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients. The database “helps answer questions such as: What are the chemical ingredients and their percentage in specific brands? Which products contain specific chemical ingredients? Who manufactures a specific brand? How do I contact this manufacturer? What are the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in a specific brand? What other information is available about chemicals in the toxicology- related databases of the National Library of Medicine?” Users can browse or search the well-designed database by products, ingredients, or Material Safety Data Sheets to easily locate the desired information.
⇒DON’T MIX DISINFECTANTS OR CLEANERS, EITHER IN A BUCKET OR ON A SURFACE. ⇐
[Don’t use one then the other soon after, either. I nearly passed out once while cleaning the tub.]
“Household grade” is more dilute or is a less hazardous chemical than “hospital” or “professional” grade disinfectants. Both grades require care in their use. Both grades will have different directions for use.
“Bleach” uses chlorine as the active ingredient. Chlorine is an oxidizing agent; it will pit steel tools, remove coloring (bleach out), and chew holes in clothing (cotton, leather) or furniture. A thin piece of wood, less than 1/8 inch, will dissolve over several days in an ordinary solution of bleach, leaving translucent or transparent treerings. [Only try this in a chemistry lab.] Bleach is cheap, effective if directions are followed, and can disinfect drinking water.
“Lysol” has several chemical varieties, costs more, is unlikely to pit knives or ruin clothes, is less noxious, but can’t be used to disinfect water. Lysol® is actually a registered trademark as well as a generic term for a type of disinfectant. I’ll try to clarify below.
Environmental cleaning and disinfection is intended to remove pathogens from contaminated surfaces and items, thus breaking the chain of transmission. Disinfection is a process of killing microorganisms without complete sterilization. Cleaning MUST precede disinfection. Items and surfaces cannot be disinfected if they are not first cleaned of any kind of organic matter (patient excretions, secretions, dirt, soil, etc.).
• Cleaning MUST precede disinfection.
Use manufacturer’s recommendations for use/dilution, contact time, and handling.
• Do not spray (i.e., fog) occupied or unoccupied rooms with disinfectant. This is a potentially dangerous practice that has no proven disease control benefit.
Plain old-fashioned elbow grease is an important part of maximizing results. Bacteria are mixed with film and dirt on surfaces, so if the film and dirt are removed, the bacteria will be removed as well. [just as in handwashing, don’t do a careless job—this will only spread germs around, not remove them.]
Contaminated cleaning tools are a common cause of poor results with germicides and sanitizers. “Clean tools” doesn’t mean just free of visible soil, but free of bacteria. Freshly laundered and thoroughly dried cleaning cloths, mops and brushes are sufficiently bacteria-free to prevent problems.
Q. What’s the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting?
Sanitizing is a lower level of killing germs, reducing the germs to a level that is acceptable by public health codes or regulations. Disinfection, on the other hand, is a higher level of germ killing. Any solid surface can be either sanitized or disinfected, when using the appropriate product as directed. Disinfecting kills a larger proportion of germs.
Q. What’s the difference between a disinfectant and anti-bacterial products like soaps and dishwashing liquids?
A. Disinfectants, such as Clorox® Regular-Bleach, kill a broad variety of bacteria, including Salmonella and Staph on hard surfaces. To claim that it disinfects germs on surfaces, a product must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Anti-bacterial dishwashing liquids and hand soaps are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. They contain an ingredient that kills bacteria on skin, but are not formulated for killing other germs such as cold and flu viruses. [Please don’t use anti-microbial soaps. See
Q. Isn’t cleaning with soap and hot water good enough?
No. Soap and water remove some germs from surfaces, but they cannot kill those germs. In fact, they may spread them around. Just because a surface looks clean, it doesn’t mean it’s clean from a health standpoint. Only a disinfectant – like Clorox® Regular-Bleach or Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes – can claim to kill a broad spectrum of harmful bacteria and viruses.
[This is mostly true. But, read carefully. Soap and water are effective cleansers and are the first choice. Soap itself can strip the coating on some microorganisms and thereby make them vulnerable to dying or disabling by disinfectants. Dettol and Lysol all contain soaps in addition to the active disinfecting agent. But soap and water by themselves aren’t disinfectants.]
see also follow-up post: Castor oil soap and Dettol Lysol
Lysol® is a particular chemical class of disinfectants and the brand name of a group of cleaners and disinfectants. (see photo) Unfortunately, no one seems to use the specific identifiers for the type of Lysol® under discussion.
For those in the US, use any Lysol® brand item IF it is labelled “disinfectant” and has the EPA registration number on the bottle (see photo 2 below). Use whatever says “tuberculocidal”. Note that the kitchen cleaner pictured is NOT labelled as a “tuberculocidal”.
There is a chlorine atom involved, so there is a possibility of pitting metals, but bleach is worse.
photo 2, read the label on a disinfecting Lysol®.
photo 3, read the label on a Lysol® without EPA registration.
[Professional LYSOL® Brand Disinfectant Basin Tub & Tile Cleaner (Ready-To-Use), Formula is tuberculocidal, virucidal, fungicidal and bactericidal, product code 12 36241-04685, EPA Registration No: 675-55]
Most of the LYSOL®s are cleaners and disinfectants. However, to kill microbes, the chemical must be in contact with the microbes, usually for about 10 minutes.
Spray and swipe does not disinfect.
Outside the US, “lysol” refers to the cresol and soap concentrate (to the left in picture 1). This is the stuff with the mediciny smell.
Lysol® CAS No. 12772-68-8. [“Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) monitors, indexes, and abstracts chemical literature and patents. CAS has developed a systematic nomenclature standard to describe the substances found in literature and patents. ”
http://iaspub.epa.gov/srs/] I don’t know why the US EPA site has disappeared. It seems to have gone for good, without any forwarding info. Try searching at this website from the US National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine), http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov
WHO says a 5% Chlorophenol concentrate, such as Lysol® Concentrate, universal product code (UPC) 19200-02201, when diluted according to the bottle, is effective as an influenza disinfectant. The Lysol® company in the US says the oily brown stuff is NOT a disinfectant because the US Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t say it is. However, it’s efficacy against several microorganisms including flu virus has been documented very well.
Cresols are organic compounds which are methylphenols. They are a widely occurring natural and manufactured group of aromatic organic compounds which are categorized as phenols (sometimes called phenolics).
Another name for lysol is
Dettol is one of those chemicals which we instantly recognise by its distinctive smell. It is an aromatic compound derived from phenol, which contains a significant chlorine atom, helping us in our continuous fight against unwanted bacteria.
Dettol (also called parachlorometaxylenol, or PCMX) is the name of a commercial liquid antiseptic belonging to a product line of household products manufactured by the Reckitt Benckiser corporation, known in the United Kingdom and in various parts of North America for famous brand names such as Lysol and Veet.
The key ingredient which defines its unique antiseptic property is an aromatic chemical compound in chemistry known as chloroxylenol (C8H9ClO), which causes dettol to turn white when mixed into a solution with water. This makes up 4.8% of Dettol’s total mixture, with the rest composed of pine oil, isopropanol, castor oil soap, caramel, and water. It has a characteristic phenolic odour similar to trichlorophenol and the explosive compound known as trinitrotoluene (TNT). Apart from its low toxicity and low metal corrosivity, it is also relatively cheap compared to other disinfectants and is effective against gram positive and gram negative bacteria, fungi, yeast, mildew and even the frightening “super-bug” MRSA, thus giving it a broad spectrum of antimicrobial action. It is able to kill 98% of microbes in just 15 seconds as shown in agar patch studies, by disrupting the bacterial cells’ membrane potential, drastically affecting its ability to produce Adenosine triphosphate and thus leading to its rapid death.
Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
Bleach is a strong and effective disinfectant, but it is readily inactivated in the presence of organic material. Its active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is effective in killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including influenza virus.
Diluted household bleach works at variable contact times (from 10 to 60 min), is widely available at a low cost, and can be recommended for disinfection in health care facilities. However, bleach irritates mucous membranes, the skin and the airway, decomposes under heat or light, and reacts readily with other chemicals. Therefore, caution is advised when bleach is used. Improper use of bleach may reduce its effectiveness for disinfection and can also result in health care worker injury.
Procedures for preparing/using diluted bleach
• Use mask, rubber gloves, and waterproof apron. Goggles are also recommended to protect the eyes from splashes.
• Mix and use bleach solutions in well-ventilated areas.
• Mix bleach with cold water because hot water decomposes the sodium hypochlorite and renders it ineffective.
• Bleach containing 5% sodium hypochlorite should be diluted as in the table below: [Clorox® is 6 %. Therefore, the Feds suggestion to use a 10% bleach solution makes no sense.]
• Bleach can be corrosive to metals and damage painted surfaces.
• Avoid touching the eyes. If bleach gets into the eyes, immediately rinse with water for at least 15 minutes and consult a doctor.
• Bleach should not be used together or mixed with other household detergents because this reduces its effectiveness and can cause chemical reactions.
• A toxic gas is produced when bleach is mixed with acidic detergents such as those used for toilet cleaning and this gas can cause death or injury. If necessary, use detergents first and rinse thoroughly with water before using bleach for disinfection.
• Undiluted bleach liberates a toxic gas when exposed to sunlight and should be stored in a cool and shaded place out of the reach of children and animals.
• Sodium hypochlorite decomposes with time. To ensure its effectiveness, it is advised to purchase recently produced bleach and avoid over-stocking.
• Diluted bleach should be made fresh daily, labeled, dated, and unused portions discarded 24 hours after preparation.
• Organic materials inactivate bleach; surfaces must be cleaned of organic materials prior to disinfection with bleach.
• Keep diluted bleach covered, protected from sunlight, in a dark container (if possible) and keep out of the reach of children.
Table: Sodium hypochlorite: concentration and use.
Most household bleach preparations contain 5% sodium hypochlorite (50,000 parts per million of available chlorine). However, because concentrations can vary, please check bleach labels carefully to determine the concentration of sodium hypochlorite.
Usually a 1:100 dilution of 5% sodium hypochlorite is recommended. For bleach containing 5% sodium hypochlorite, use 1 part bleach to 99 parts cold tap water (1:100 dilution) for disinfection of surfaces. Adjust ratio of bleach to water as needed to achieve appropriate concentration of sodium hypochlorite, e.g., for bleach preparations containing 2.5% sodium hypochlorite, twice as much bleach should be used (2 parts bleach to 98 parts water).
For bleach preparations containing 5% sodium hypochlorite, a 1:100 dilution will yield 0.05% or 500 parts per million available chlorine. Bleach solutions containing other concentrations of sodium hypochlorite will contain differing amounts of available chlorine when diluted.
Disinfection by wiping of nonporous surfaces.
Surfaces must be cleaned of organic materials, such as secretions, mucous, vomitus, faeces, blood, or other body fluids prior to disinfection. A contact time of ≥ 10 minutes is recommended.
Disinfection by immersion of items. Items must be cleaned of organic materials, such as secretions, mucous, vomitus, faeces, blood, or other body fluids prior to immersion. A contact time of 30 minutes is recommended.
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are an easy way to disinfect many hard, nonporous surfaces around the house including kitchen counters and appliances exteriors, bathrooms, doorknobs, telephones, and baby changing tables. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes do not contain bleach. Another way to disinfect a hard, non-porous surface is to use a disinfecting solution of liquid bleach after removing visible dirt. To sanitize a surface, wash first with hot soapy water, rinse, then use a sanitizing solution of Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Follow label instructions for proper dilution and contact times.
Q. Do Clorox® Bleach Citrus Blend, Mountain Fresh and Fresh Meadow® and Clorox Splash-less Liquid Gel bleaches disinfect?
Our fragranced and Splash-less® Clorox® Bleaches are not registered disinfectants. If you need a registered disinfectant, you can purchase EPA registered Clorox® Regular-Bleach at almost any store that sell laundry products. Make sure that “Disinfects” or “Kills germs” appears on the label. [and look for EPA approval]
Q. Can Clorox® Regular-Bleach be used to disinfect water?
Emergency Disinfection: When boiling water is not practical, water can be made potable by using Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Before the addition of the disinfectant, remove all suspended material by filtration or by allowing it to settle to the bottom. Decant the clarified contaminated water to a clean container and add 8 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach to one gallon of water (2 drops to 1 quart). Allow the treated water to stand for 30 minutes. Properly treated water should have a slight chlorine odor. If not, repeat dosage and allow water to stand an additional 15 minutes. The treated water can then be made palatable by pouring it between clean containers for several times. For cloudy water, use 16 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water (4 drops to 1 quart). If no chlorine odor is apparent after 30 minutes, repeat dosage and wait an additional 15 minutes. Do not use scented or Splash-less Clorox® Bleaches for this purpose.
Q. What organisms does Clorox® Regular-Bleach kill?
- For hard non-porous surface disinfection:
- ¾ cup diluted in one gallon of water
- 5 minute contact time
Kills the following bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses:
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep)
Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli)
Trichophyton mentagrophytes (Athlete’s Foot)
Candida albicans (yeast)
Rhinovirus (Cold virus)
Influenza A2 (Flu virus)
Respiratory Syncytial virus
HIV-1 (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)** For health care settings only.
Herpes simplex virus 2
Adenovirus Type 2
- For non-porous food contact surface sanitizing (refrigerators, freezers, plastic cutting boards, stainless cutlery, dishes, glassware, countertops, pots and pans, stainless utensils):
- Use 1 tablespoon of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water.
- Wash, wipe or rinse items with detergent and water
- then apply sanitizing solution.
- Let stand 2 minutes.
- Air dry.
Kills the following:
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli)
- For hard non-porous surface disinfection:
- ¾ cup dilution in one gallon of water
- 10 minute contact time
kills the following:
- For hard non-porous surface disinfection:
- 1 ¾ cup solution in one gallon of water
- 5 minute contact time
Kills the following:
Mycobacterium bovis (Tuberculosis).
Q. What is the shelf life of Clorox® Regular-Bleach?
Clorox® Regular-Bleach should be replaced every three months to six months for optimum performance
Q. Can I use Clorox® Bleach to gargle, brush my teeth or clean cuts and scrapes?
No. Clorox® Bleach is not for personal usage.
Avian Influenza, including Influenza A (H5N1), in Humans: WHO Interim Infection Control, Guidelines for Health Care Facilities (9 February 2006) and other technical literature. Available from
Infection control, http://www.who.int/entity/csr/disease/avian_influenza/ guidelinestopics/en/index3.html