12 Disinfectant Myths, Debunked By Experts

We've gathered a team of experts to debunk some of the most common surface disinfectant myths & misconceptions out there.
22 November, 2022 by
12 Disinfectant Myths, Debunked By Experts
XO2® Pty Ltd, David Blamire

Disinfection of surfaces has become more important than ever before. With so much emphasis on keeping our homes and workplaces clean and germ-free, it's no wonder that there are so many myths and misconceptions now out there about disinfectants. From all-natural alternatives to one-and-done solutions, it can be hard to work out fact from fiction. That's why we've gathered a team of experts to debunk some of the most common disinfectant myths. Here they are...

Myth #1: All disinfectants are created equal.

Nope. It would be nice if it was that simple. There's lots of different types of disinfectants and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are more effective against certain types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi than others. Some need longer contact times or higher concentrations to be effective. Some are hospital-grade or commercial-grade. Some are fragrance-free and others come in fancy fragrance options. Some are made for food areas and others are not. Some have made completely false efficacy claims with no laboratory testing to back it up. Just because a product is called a disinfectant doesn't mean it will do the job you need it to do.

Myth #2: Disinfecting, sanitising and cleaning are all the same thing.

Incorrect! Cleaning removes the dirt, grime, dust and debris from surfaces. Sanitising reduces the number of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi on surfaces using a chemical product but is designed as a preventative maintenance solution to keep surfaces hygienic. Disinfectants kill specific pathogens including viruses and bacteria on surfaces using chemical products that have a higher standard of effectiveness than sanitisers.

Myth #3: More disinfectant is always better.

Wrong. Sorry to burst your bubble. Using more disinfectant than directed isn't going to make your surfaces any more hygienic. In fact, when you use too much disinfectant it can be a problem. Too much disinfectant can leave behind excessive residues that attract dirt and bacteria. That means surfaces can get dirtier faster. It's always best to stick to the recommended dilution rates, directions, and dwell times. Disinfectant wipes are a great way to use the correct amount of disinfectant and avoid the safety issues of mixing and diluting solutions.

Myth #4: Disinfectants kill all germs instantly.

This is not correct. A disinfectant is not a magic potion that can instantly kill everything it comes into contact with. Most disinfectants need a certain amount of contact time to work. That means you'll need to let the disinfectant dwell on the surface for a specified period of time (specified on the bottle label) to achieve the desired level of disinfection. Some bacteria and viruses can be more resistant than others so make sure you are using the correct disinfectant for your application.

Myth #5: Disinfectants are safe to use on all surfaces.

Almost correct. It is true that most disinfectants are safe to use on a wide variety of surfaces, but it's not always the case. You need to do a little research and make sure the disinfectant you are using is suitable for your surfaces. It's best to play it safe to avoid any possible damage or discolouration to certain materials. Read the label and follow the instructions. If you still have doubts about a product's surface compatibility, do a little test in an inconspicuous area before disinfecting the whole area to make sure it's OK.

Myth #6: Disinfectants are the only way to keep surfaces clean and hygienic.

Definitely not. This is possibly one of the biggest myths of all. Disinfectants are a very important tool in the fight against germs and viruses, but they're definitely not the be-all and end-all of cleaning. In fact, disinfectants work a lot better on surfaces that have been pre-cleaned. That's why in a deep cleaning procedure, disinfection is the final step (not the only step!).

Myth #7: Natural disinfectants are always safer and better.

Not true. Some natural ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice and tea tree oil may have some antimicrobial properties. There is a good reason why these types of products are not recognised by regulatory authorities. The simple reason is they would not pass the testing required. Some natural alternatives are better than others but understand when you use some natural disinfectant alternatives they may not be effective. It's always a good idea to do your own research and then choose a disinfectant that has been tested and proven to be effective. People often say natural disinfectants are effective but they are most often just repeating what each other says and cannot provide any solid proof.

Myth #8: If it looks and smells clean it is clean.

Wrong. You can see dirt and grime with the naked eye but you can't see bacteria and viruses. While a dirty looking surface may be more likely to harbour bacteria, a clean looking surface is not an indication of a hygienic germ-free surface.

Myth #9: Disinfectants are only for use in hospitals or other medical settings.

No, incorrect! Hospital and healthcare facilities are considered high-risk areas for germ and virus transmission but that doesn't mean they are the only places that need disinfection. Germs can be transmitted wherever people gather especially during the cold and flu season. Schools also experience regular gastro outbreaks where regular disinfection may help reduce these occurrences. Regular disinfection of high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and light switches is an important part of keeping yourself and those around you healthy.

Myth #10: Disinfectants are a one-and-done solution.

It's a myth. Disinfection is not a one-time event. Some companies in the past have made marketing claims about longer term disinfection results which have confused this subject. Because moisture levels and surface wear cannot be accurately estimated in all cases any across-the-board promises about long term disinfection from a single application should be looked at with extreme caution. Germs are constantly being introduced into our environments so regular cleaning and disinfection is required. How often you disinfect will depend on a variety of factors like the number of people using a space, the level of transmission in the community, and the type of germs and viruses you're trying to prevent. In general, it's a good idea to disinfect high-touch surfaces at least once a day, or more frequently if necessary.

Myth #11: Bleach is the best disinfectant

False. Bleach has limitations. Pre-cleaning is required for Bleach to function properly as a disinfectant. Keep in mind Bleach has a very limited shelf life and requires specific storage conditions. It needs to be kept away from sunlight and stored in a cool dry place. The amount of active chlorine within the bleach will vary from product to product and reduces day by day. You should always mix fresh solutions of Bleach each day. Water hardness and soil contaminants from a dirty container can adversely affect the disinfecting strength of the bleach (chlorine ppm).

Myth 12: Vinegar kills germs and viruses

At XO2 we manufacture White Cleaning Vinegar. It is a very effective cleaner for certain cleaning tasks and it has some antibacterial action. While it's a great cleaning product, White Cleaning Vinegar is not recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as a disinfectant and its effectiveness against germs and viruses has not been proven. To ensure you're properly disinfecting, we recommend choosing a TGA listed hospital-grade disinfectant like Disso and not relying on white vinegar for your disinfection needs.

So there you have it, folks: a few of the most common disinfectant myths, debunked. Remember, when it comes to keeping your surfaces clean and germ-free, knowledge is power. And a little elbow grease never hurts either! As always, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch.

David Blamire, CEO at XO2

David is one of Australia's leading cleaning industry innovators. He's spent his entire working life solving cleaning challenges others thought were impossible. He's best known for his product creation and development skills along with a deep knowledge of business operations and all things ERP. In his spare time, David's a keen fisherman and adventurer. And he doesn't mind if you call him Davo.

Get in touch with David at www.xo2.com.au. He works from XO2's national headquarters and manufacturing centre in Queensland, Australia.

Related articles:

How To Disinfect Hard Surfaces
Disinfectant Wipes vs Sprays: Which Is More Effective?
How to Choose the Best Disinfectant for Cleaning Surfaces: A Comprehensive Guide
17 Disinfectant Safety Tips Everyone Should Know
The Power of Disinfectant Wipes: Benefits You Need to Know
Are Disinfectants Septic Safe?
Is It Safe to Use Cleaning Chemicals & Disinfectants During Pregnancy?
How to Use a Disinfectant Fogger to Clean Your Facility, Workplace or Home

Share this post