Disposable disinfectant wipes may seem like a convenient way to keep your house clean and family healthy, but how effective are they?
“We think of them as easy to use, but the problem is that they don’t work unless you use them properly,” Dr. Neha Pathak, a board-certified internal medicine doctor and WebMD medical editor, told TODAY Home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (e.g., letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes).”
In other words, it may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the length of time stated on the product’s instructions label. For instance, both labels for Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfecting Wipes state that the surface should remain wet for four minutes after application to fully disinfect the area.
And some, like Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes, specify that the surface should remain visibly wet for 10 whole minutes for it to properly disinfect.
“Think about how many wipes you’d need to use to make sure the surface you are cleaning stays wet for the full 10 minutes required by most products,” Pathak said.
Another question to ponder: When do you really need to use a disinfectant?
Pathak said regular cleaning with good old-fashioned soap and water is the best way to lower the number of germs and reduce the risk of spreading infection. (Not to mention, create less waste.)
But sometimes disinfectants are the best bet. “Disinfectants should be used in specific circumstances, like when you are cleaning up your countertops after working with raw meats, cleaning up after a sick kid or during flu season,” she said. “Ideally, the disinfecting products should be used only on high-touch point areas like phones, light switches and doorknobs.”
“If you chose wipes, make sure you only use them on one surface and then dispose of them,” Pathak said. “Don’t keep reusing a single wipe because you are likely just to move germs from one surface to another.”
Overusing disinfectants can lead to the development of superbugs, she added. But if you have to use them, make sure you’re doing it correctly — otherwise, germs are staying in place, which totally defeats the purpose of cleaning.