San 4 - Selecting Cleaning Products



Part 4: Selecting Cleaning Products


Cleaning is only a preliminary step in making equipment safe for use, but it is an essential step before disinfection. Because cleaning involves the physical removal of dirt and pathogens, detergents that assist in the process of suspending the contaminants in a water/detergent solution are helpful. These detergents need not be strong; in fact, milder, non-lotion detergents (such as mild dishwashing liquids) are recommended for use on some types of home medical equipment.


Products designed for specific home applications may not be suitable for cleaning durable medical equipment and other assistive technology. Similar branding can be misleading. Some products used in hospitals are highly effective against many bacteria, fungi and some viruses, but products with the same brand that are sold in supermarkets and discount stores for home use may have a different chemical formulation.


The cleaning process alone may be sufficient protection for some objects, but others may require disinfection using a chemical agent. The different types of microorganisms that pose risks respond to chemical products in different ways. Given the objective to make the assistive technology “safe” but not “sterile,” the selection of disinfectant products must balance several factors:1

Effectiveness Convenience Residual effects on surface materials Human and environmental considerations Cost




The most important consideration in the selection of disinfectants is effectiveness – how well it accomplishes the task of removing microorganisms. After identifying several products that meet this requirement, the center may then weigh other factors.


The strength of disinfectants is usually categorized as low level, intermediate level, high level or a chemical sterilant. The highest level might seem to be the logical solution because it covers the entire range of pathogens, but other factors must be considered. First, the likelihood of encountering the need for a chemical sterilant is minimal, so other factors would point toward the use of disinfectants. A disinfectant is needed that covers a broad range of the pathogens likely to be present and to pose risks. Intermediate level disinfectants usually meet this need for the applications encountered in an AT center.




Convenience is a secondary factor in selecting a disinfectant. Some considerations are: Is it a product that combines cleaning and disinfecting into a single step? Is it readily available? Is it packaged in a convenient form, such as a pre-moistened wipe or a spray container? Does disposal of leftover solution present a problem? Is extensive rinsing required after use of the disinfectant? How long is the required exposure time for effectiveness? Is it easily mixed and applied without the need for unusual safety precautions?


Residual effects on surface materials


Some disinfectants may be effective and convenient, but potentially damaging to the items being disinfected. They may be corrosive to metal or change the consistency of rubber. The label information usually contains information about surfaces on which the disinfectant can be safely used. It is easier to avoid disinfectants that pose potential harm to the objects themselves.


Human and environmental considerations


The safety of the persons performing the cleaning and disinfecting is very important. The disinfectant selected should not pose a serious risk to health through direct contact or environmental contamination. Some chemical disinfectants are irritating to the skin or mucous membranes; some vapors trigger asthma attacks. Some chemicals damage clothing on contact, while others leave a residue on the disinfected surface.




After narrowing the choices to those that meet the requirements for effectiveness, convenience and safety, the cost should be analyzed. This requires estimation of the volume of disinfectant required for operations for a year, sources for the disinfectant and the pricing implications. The center will probably choose to use the least expensive alternative that meets the need.




Selections for use at the AT center may be made after analyzing the key factors and the types of equipment to be cleaned and disinfected. After reaching a decision, the sample attached table may be completed with the selections for a specific center. This document can be added to the cleaning procedures manual and posted in the work area.


1A Guide to the Selection and Use of Disinfectants (2003). B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Used with permission. Retrieved from



Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.



This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.


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Other Information

Title: San 4 - Selecting Cleaning Products
Module: Program Operations
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It On Center
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 6:05 PM