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'Is There a Right Way to Use Antibacterial Wipes?'

Antiseptic Wipe
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNJuly 31, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

Remember when you could walk into any store and buy as many antibacterial wipes as you wanted? Those were the days.

COVID-19 has made us all obsess over disinfecting our living spaces, and antibacterial wipes – if you can find any – offer a convenient way to do this. At least, that’s true if you use them correctly.

If you don’t use them the right way, then you’re not actually killing any germs, which can give you a false sense of security about how germ-free your environment really is.

Antibacterial wipes are soaked with chemicals that destroy almost any type of germ (including the virus that causes COVID-19). But killing those germs requires exposing them to the chemicals for three to 10 minutes (depending on which brand of antibacterial wipe you buy). If you grab a wipe and swipe it quickly across a surface, the cleaning solution is going to evaporate within seconds. That’s not enough time to kill any germs.

To use an antibacterial wipe correctly, you should go slowly and make sure the surface remains damp for the length of time required to kill germs. (You can find that information on the product label.) You may find it’s difficult to keep a surface like a granite countertop damp for three, five, or even 10 minutes. To accomplish that, you might need to use multiple wipes, one right after the other.

If you now realize you’ve been using antibacterial wipes wrong all this time, don’t despair! Even if the wipes weren’t killing the germs, they were still helping to get rid of them. That’s because getting rid of germs in the home is a two-step process: 1. Cleaning (removing germs, like by wiping them away), and 2. Disinfecting (killing germs with chemicals). So, at the very least, you were removing germs by wiping down your counters – and that helps reduce the chance of getting sick from them. (Note, though, that this wiping-away benefit could be accomplished with a cheap paper towel.)

Antibacterial wipes are precious these days – so if you have some on hand, make sure you’re using them right.



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