The Science Behind Disinfectant Wipes

Disinfectants kill germs by destroying them entirely (destructive action) or breaking down their components so they can’t reproduce.

These disinfectants come in various chemistries, including hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, and quaternary ammonium compounds.

The best way to use disinfectant wipes is to follow the product’s instructions and let surfaces air dry before reusing. This helps ensure that the disinfectant is working its best and preventing cross-contamination.

Kills Germs

Disinfecting wipes, also called alcohol wipes, are easy to kill surface germs. They work by putting a robust and antimicrobial solution onto the wipe and then rubbing it on the surface. They are especially effective on high-touch, nonporous surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops in homes and schools.

Many use these wipes daily, often in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Clorox reports that about half of U.S. homes use disinfecting wipes, and some schools provide them as part of back-to-school supplies.

They also are popular in restaurants, as they can clean and sanitize the food. They are also great for cleaning hard-to-reach places, like the kitchen counter and bathroom sinks.

However, disinfecting wipes aren’t a substitute for hand washing with soap and water. They only stop the spread of germs if you use them correctly and follow their instructions.

To ensure you’re using them safely, check the label to see what germs the disinfectant wipes are designed to kill. Some are made with antimicrobial pesticides, so ensure the products are EPA registered disinfectant wipes before use.

If you use disinfecting wipes in a workplace, ensure they are certified to kill coronavirus (COVID-19) germs. These wipes are usually labeled with a number or a letter on the package to show their effectiveness against COVID-19.

disinfectant wipes
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Inhibits Germ Growth

Disinfectant wipes, formulated with alcohol and other antimicrobials, kill germs on touch surfaces. They are effective in hospitals, grocery stores, and other workplaces to sanitize high-touch surfaces and prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and other diseases.

These wipes prevent germs from spreading on hard surfaces and should only be used as directed. They should not be absorbed into the skin or consumed in any way.

The EPA lists disinfectants that can kill most germs, including bacteria and viruses. You can find these products by checking the label or using the EPA’s website.

Benzalkonium chloride is one of the most common active ingredients in the formulated solution. This chemical compound is a cationic detergent that won’t burn your skin in low concentrations. It can be found in many household disinfecting wipes, such as Clorox and Lysol (SmartLabel).

Another critical ingredient is propene, a chemical derived from fossil fuels. This chemical is often added to disinfecting solutions because of its antimicrobial properties.

Several factors influence the effectiveness of disinfectant-impregnated wipes, such as their type of disinfectant, application method, and wiping strategy. This research has shown that these factors can impact the overall decontamination process by influencing microbial killing efficacy.

Inhibits Germ Transmission

Most disinfectant wipes contain quaternary ammonium compounds like Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (Clorox) or a Benzalkonium Chloride (Lysol). These two chemicals are known for their antimicrobial properties.

In addition to killing bacteria, wipes inhibit germ transmission when used correctly. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that handwashing with soap and water is still the best way to prevent infections.

The efficacy of disinfectant wipes depends on various factors, such as the type of disinfectant, the surface to be disinfected, the wiping strategy, and storage time. These factors can significantly affect the disinfection performance.

Despite their effectiveness, some products have been reported to not thoroughly disinfect surfaces after use, resulting in the transfer of pathogens. This can occur because the disinfectant solution dissolved in the wipe does not have enough time to kill the spores that are picked up on the surface.

This can be especially true when disinfectant wipes have no sporicidal claims. It is common for disinfectant wipes to retain C. difficile spores, which may be transmitted when reused and reused on other surfaces.

To address this problem, a three-step test system was developed to evaluate the ability of disinfectant wipes to remove pathogens from surfaces and to determine their transmission potential. The system tested the effectiveness of a range of commercially available wipes to remove strains of Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA and MSSA.

white tissue paper in blue box
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash


Disinfectant wipes kill germs that may be present on the surface they’re wiping. They can also prevent the transfer of germs between surfaces and hands. However, disinfectant wipes can’t replace a thorough cleaning procedure and should not be used on the skin or in the food chain.

Use one wipe at a time for small or medium-sized areas to get the most out of disinfecting wipes. Depending on the type of wipe and the surface being disinfected, it might take several disinfecting wipes to disinfect a large area adequately.

When disinfecting a surface, wipe from top to bottom, ensuring the consistency is thoroughly wet. Then allow the area to dry for a minimum contact time of 4 minutes as directed on the package.

The contact time is the time it takes for a disinfectant to sit on a surface and destroy the present germs. This contact time depends on the type of wipe and the material it’s made from.

Antibacterial wipes are formulated to remove bacteria and viruses from hard surfaces like desks, doors, and keyboards. They’re EPA-registered and FDA-approved, meaning they’ve been proven to do what they say they will.

Also read: HEPA Filter Air Cleaner: Choose the Right One!

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