Cleaning vs. Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing, though often used synonymously. Disinfecting is KILLING the bacteria and viruses on a surface. While cleaning is the REMOVING of VISIBLE foreign mater from a surface. It is possible to be clean but not disinfected, and similarly disinfected but not clean.
CLEAN but not DISINFECT - In the first, case we may have a beautifully clean surface on which someone sneezes and then casually wipes the surface. In this case, bacteria smaller than viewable unaided by the human eye may and likely are still present. The only way to be sure is to utilize an ATP meter, which measures adenosine triphosphate, a luminescent chemical present in all living cells, that quickly degrades with the death or “disinfection” of the cell. The ATP meter can provide us an objective measurement of just how much living mater in on a surface. To put it in perspective a clean surface may return a reading of 500, while a dirty surface is 1500 or greater. You would be surprised what you find. Did-You-Know: the filthiest surface in a hotel room is typically not the toilet which gets lots of janitorial attention, but the TV remote, which we have seen as high as 8500, but looks clean (and you thought you could not get injured sitting their playing couch-potatoe.)
DISINFECT but not CLEAN – Similarly, one can disinfect a surface and it may still appear dirty. Sand is not a living surface but a disinfected surface with sand or salt scattered across it would not appear clean.
While these inconsistencies exist, the reality is that our preference for a clean appearing surface guides us well in most cases to avoid unhealthy situations. The desire for a clean home or business environment as a measure of healthy living space, is in general on the mark.
So what is one to do?
Consider this, If you were to clean up after working with raw chicken on a countertop, you may use a disinfectant or a bleach wipe thinking that you have protected yourself from the potentially harmful bacteria common with raw chicken. In reality you may well have killed off the bacteria, but created a different hazard all together, as many disinfectants can cause skin and eye irritation. Now we have potentially traded one hazard for another. In reality, we want a CLEAN surface free from bacteria and viruses but also free from oils and chemical residues. MARBLELIFE cleaners surfactant technology surrounds oils with a water loving surfactant, making them easier to lift off the surface and wipe away. Similarly, this some approach is used to trap acids, and is so effective that it can effectively hide the acid from the water or from an acid sensitive surface such as marble while in solution. This allows these chemicals to be lifted, surrounded, and wiped away more easily for a cleaner surface.
The impact sealing has on the ease of cleaning and disinfecting.
Harken back to your days taking high school chemistry, and the difficulty one had in cleaning a test tube. You will recall it was virtually impossible to clean the interior bottom of that test tube with a cloth, or paper towel, but needed a long pipe cleaner to get down to the bottom. Now imagine your counter surface. If you have a natural surface such as marble, travertine, or granite, or a tiled surface that has sanded or non-sanded cementious grout then you have a naturally porous surface. Each pore, like our test tube, creates a catch point for any dirt, liquid or bacteria that is seen on the surface, and unless properly sealed is virtually impossible to clean and disinfect. Worsed of oil is the fact that if you have gotten grease or oil into these pores, and then clean the surface, the oils will literally climb back out of the pores and back onto the surface as these surface active elements re-equilibrate. You read that right, if you wipe down an unsealed surface that has seen an oil spill, that grease or oil will re-spread out from the unsealed pore. The answer to avoiding this is to insure your natural stone, grout, terrazzo and concrete surfaces have been sealed or resonated.
Resonation is a new process that has been employed in the past 10 years or so to infuse a stone slab with a polyester resin in order to make it less brittle and easier to transport from the quarry to the fabricator. It has the side benefit that it seals the majority of these pores. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to determine whether a slab has or has not been resonated (if it was not easy then they could not claim the process did not change the appearance of the slab).
Sealing is therefore recommended for any natural stone surface or grout surface. By sealing the surface we literally fill in the pore, forcing any oil or dirt to remain on the surface where it is easier to remove. This eliminates the potential for oil re-equilibration as there is no reservoir of oil to draw from.
What to do to insure the healthiest conditions in your home, and on your surface in question?
1. SEAL - Insure that it is sealed to avoid providing hiding places for bacteria or viruses to gather, grow and hide out from the cleaning and disinfection process
2. DISINFECT & CLEAN – Now we can get at everything ON the surface with some comfort we do not have to deal with what is BELOW the surface. After Disinfecting we clean with our daily cleaner to remove residual chemicals.
3. RESEAL – As much as we would love to think that sealing is forever the reality is that UV and natural acids can eat away at a seal over time. As such, one should plan on resealing a surface every couple of years. This is the most overlooked and forgotten element of our cleaning processes, insuring we have a prepared surface. We recommend that homeowners with natural surfaces establish a maintenance schedule to have your porous surfaces resealed every 2 to 3 years.
Proper preparation and understanding is the key to best results. When those results impact the health of your working and home environments where our families spend most of our time, a little preparation becomes an act of love.