Are You Using Bleach Properly? Its Easy to Know.
Many concerns have been raised in recent years over the routine use of household bleach as a sanitizer and disinfectant in early childhood centers. Bleach can be a safe and effective method of reducing or eliminating germs in pre-schools when diluted and used properly. Pre-school staff and cleaning crews should be familiar with the guidelines set forth by health regulatory agencies such as the CDC and EPA concerning the proper methods to dilute and use bleach.
What is Bleach? Household bleach is a chemical solution that contains sodium hypochlorite (a.k.a chlorine), the active ingredient that kills germs. Bleach continues to be the disinfectant of choice for many health care and educational facilities.
Before 2013 most household bleach products contained 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. After 2013 many companies have increased the concentration to 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.
Tip 1: Always check the bleach concentration on your bottle before diluting.
Use Bleach Products that are registered with the EPA:
In order to be used as a disinfectant or sanitizing agent, the bleach product must be registered with the EPA. Look on the bottle for the EPA registration number to see if the product you are using has been registered with the EPA.
Tip 2: The EPA website has dilution directions for all registered bleach products
Does Bleach Have Bad Side Effects?
Bleach products that are registered with the EPA have safety data sheets that list the potential health hazards and toxicity if diluted or used improperly. Your staff and cleaning company should be familiar with these potential hazards when using bleach in your facility. Bleach can be safely used when material safety data sheets (a.k.a. MSDS sheets) guidelines are followed.
Tip 3: Material safety data sheets (MSDS) for EPA registered bleach products list the product’s precautions and are easily obtained.
What does Parts Per Million Mean and Why is it Important?
Parts per million (PPM) refers to the concentration of chlorine that is present in a bleach solution. Bleach should be diluted according to the product’s instructions to achieve the desired concentration.
Tip 4: Household bleach must be diluted before it is used to disinfect or sanitize objects or surfaces that children come in contact with.
What’s the Difference between Sanitizers and Disinfectants?
Sanitizers vs. Disinfectants:
Sanitizers reduce the amount of germs on inanimate surfaces to levels considered safe by health regulatory agencies. They are usually used for food contact surfaces (or cleaning toys). Disinfectants are stronger than sanitizers and kill more types and greater amounts of germs and are used for cleaning toilets, changing tables, etc.
Bleach can be used as a sanitizer or disinfectant, depending on how much it is diluted. Bleach can be used in lower concentrations to safely sanitize objects that children may place in their mouth (e.g. toys).
Tip 5: Refer to the label to see if bleach needs be rinsed off in the concentration you are using.
How to Dilute Bleach to use as a Sanitizer?
The desired concentrations to sanitize objects/surfaces using bleach are:
1)100-200 ppm for spraying or wiping down surfaces or objects;
2)50-100ppm for immersing the object in a bleach solution (30 minutes recommended);
Locate the EPA registration number on the bottle of bleach and search on the EPA website for product information (www.epa.gov). The product you are using should have dilution instructions when using the bleach solution as a sanitizer or disinfectant.
How to Dilute Household Bleach for use as a Sanitizer:
1) Use bleach that doesn’t contain fragrances, thickeners or other additives (check the label);
2) Use cool drinking water to dilute the bleach solution;
3) Check the bottle of bleach to determine the percentage of Sodium Hypochlorite present;
4) Dilute to a concentration of 100-200 parts per million (rinsing is often not required at these concentrations, but check the label to make sure);
5) Change bleach solutions daily or when the concentration of bleach goes below recommended levels.
Tip 6: Use Chlorine Strips to verify that you have diluted the bleach solution correctly and that the solution has maintained the correct concentration.
What are Disinfectants?
Disinfectants are stronger than sanitizers and are capable of killing most of the germs (including viruses) that are responsible for childhood illnesses. Household bleach is considered a disinfectant (i.e. capable of killing most germs) when diluted to concentrations of 500ppm and above.
When bleach is used at higher concentrations (500ppm and above) it must be rinsed off after being applied. To disinfect and kill germs effectively, bleach must be left on the surface for 10 minutes (before rinsing). This is known as dwell time.
When Should Disinfectants be used?
Disinfectants should be used periodically on all high touch surfaces to reduce the probability of a contagious disease outbreak. Higher concentrations are indicated after an infectious disease outbreak has occurred. Disinfectants should be used after cleaning toilet and diapering areas.
Guidelines for diluting bleach as a disinfectant:
Dilute bleach to be used as a disinfectant on high touch surfaces/objects as follows:
For General Disinfection: dilute to 500 PPM
For breakout of contagious viral infections: dilute to 5,000 PPM.
Pre-schools are challenged with providing a safe environment for the children in their care. This includes taking precautions to prevent the spread of infection from one child to another. Cleaning and disinfection guidelines should be developed for each facility to provide a safe and healthy guideline for the children in our pre-school facilities. Contact a professional cleaning service for more information on the safe use of bleach in your facility or click here to learn more about modern cleaning and disinfectant procedures.
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