Coronavirus Disinfecting: Why Dwell on Dwell Time?

Monday, May 04, 2020

The current COVID-19 (coronavirus 2019) pandemic has served as a powerful reminder of the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation in communal spaces. Indeed, when life returns to some sense of normalcy, businesses and other public facilities should rekindle their cleaning and disinfecting efforts in every way possible. Unfortunately, there is plenty of confusion surrounding proper disinfection. Most people don’t know what to look for in a disinfectant, or, more particularly, whether or not it will be effective against COVID-19. For instance, the term “dwell time” might be foreign to you, but it’s a crucial concept in proper disinfection.

Let’s go over what disinfecting services mean by “dwell time” and why it’s so important.

What is Dwell Time?

“Dwell time” measures different metrics depending on the context or industry in which it’s used. In the realm of cleaning and disinfecting, dwell time (also called contact time) refers to the duration that a disinfecting product must stay in wet contact with a given surface to effectively kill or neutralize targeted microbes before wiping it down. For example, if a disinfectant boasts a 10-minute dwell time, any surface covered with the product must remain wet and undisturbed for at least that amount of time before wiping it down. If the surface is wiped earlier than the product’s advertised dwell time, the disinfectant won’t work as effectively, if at all, at killing the targeted viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.

Why Does Dwell Time Matter When Disinfecting Surfaces?

Simply put, understanding a disinfectant’s dwell time is necessary for ensuring your surfaces are properly free from harmful microbes, including the recent COVID-19 virus. It isn’t enough to simply use a product that claims to kill coronavirus -- these products must also be used as instructed, or else they will not work as intended. Failing to adhere to a disinfectant’s dwell time guidelines can create a false sense of security within a workplace or communal setting. Employees and customers might assume that surfaces are free from infectious materials after witnessing them being sprayed and wiped down when in reality the pathogens still live. Before long, infectious outbreaks can run rampant.

Additional Dwell Time Considerations

Fortunately, finding a product’s dwell time is generally straightforward. All EPA-approved disinfectant products feature dwell time info (as well as other safety information such as dilution, efficacy against specific microbes, etc.) on their label, and additional info can often be found online. However, as you might imagine, disinfectants with longer dwell times can present several challenges for commercial cleaning teams. Our fast-paced society tends to incentivize speed over long-term efficacy, meaning those in charge of cleaning and disinfecting might feel pressured to spray and wipe down surfaces as fast as possible, as opposed to waiting the suggested amount of time for a product to kill the target.

To combat this efficiency dilemma, more and more EPA-registered disinfectants now feature shorter dwell times. At Painters USA, our coronavirus cleaning staff uses Gurtler Industries’ Mint Disinfectant Plus, which has a dwell time of just one minute for killing influenza type A and human coronavirus. This product also combats a vast range of bacteria, fungi, and other viruses (including salmonella, staph, hepatitis, and much more), though a dwell time of 10 minutes is recommended for killing these other harmful microbes.

Dwelling on the Future

The U.S. has been in the midst of this pandemic for over a month now, and no one is entirely sure of what the future will hold. One thing is certain, though -- communal facilities must take the proper steps to ensure the health and safety of everyone inside. Following disinfectant dwell time requirements is key in achieving this goal. So, make sure you and/or your office cleaning services aren’t just using the right products for the job -- make sure these products are being used as instructed.

For more information on dwell times and our specific office cleaning and disinfecting protocols at Painters USA, call us at 1-800-999-8715.