Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live on every surface and even inside your body. Most of them are harmless or even beneficial to humans – some bacteria can even aid in digestion. However, there are very harmful bacteria as well, which can cause sickness or even death if allowed to multiply.
This is why, after a home incident that has left biohazardous residue, the cleanup process should include thorough decontamination in order to minimize future issues. The risk is even greater when blood is present since it can cause exposure to bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis, HIV or bacteria, such as MRSA.
Types of Decontaminates
Decontamination is any process by which biohazardous material is reduced to an acceptable level or one that does not cause disease. This level will vary depending on the type of work being done, and the material being cleaned up so if you’re hiring a cleanup company, inquire about the specifics of the process.
Depending on the types of products used, your cleanup company will do one of the following:
- Sanitizers – Reduce the overall amount of bacteria to a safe level
- Antiseptics – Rarely used during biohazard cleanup, these kill bacteria on living tissue.
- Disinfectants – The most common product used, these kill bacteria on inanimate objects
- Sterilization – Kills all microbes, most commonly used for surgical equipment.
Know when to call professionals
Before we move on to the best chemicals you can use to clean up biohazardous materials, we must point out that when major incidents take place, you SHOULD NOT perform your own cleanup. Chances are that you do not own the proper protective equipment to deal with pathogens and bacteria, nor the equipment needed to perform a proper cleanup.
With that said, with minor incidents, you may be able to disinfect the area yourself. In these cases, make sure to wear protective gloves and clean up the area thoroughly with one of the products below.
What chemical is the most powerful disinfectant?
Formaldehyde is one of the strongest disinfectants commercially available today. In the US it can be found as a water-based solution that contains 37% formaldehyde. Thanks to its bactericidal, tuberculocidal, fungicidal, virucidal, and sporicidal effects it is used as a high-level disinfectant for industrial settings and surgical equipment.
However, formaldehyde is a chemical that should be handled only by professionals wearing the appropriate gear, since it has been ruled by the FDA as a potential carcinogen. It’s ingestion can be fatal, and low exposure through steam or skin contact can cause eye, throat, lung, and skin irritation. For small incidents in your home, formaldehyde is overkill, there are other, safer chemicals that can get the job done without such risks.
Best household chemicals to kill bacteria
For smaller home incidents or for keeping your home free of germs, the best chemicals to kill bacteria are:
Bleach, which is technically a chloride and water solution, is one of the best disinfectants you can get. It’s cheap, fast-acting, does not leave toxic residues and can even remove blood stains if necessary. Even better, it has broad-spectrum microbicidal activity, which means it kills a broad host of microorganisms and bacteria.
However, as most people already know, bleach can also be harmful. It can irritate your skin, your eyes, discolor fabric and even corrode certain metals. Finally, you should never mix bleach with other household cleaning products, as it can react and release chlorine gas, which is extremely dangerous if inhaled.
In 2021, everyone should be aware of the disinfectant and anti-microbial properties of alcohol. It kills bacteria by destroying their cell walls, but only when used at a concentration of 60% or higher.
Much like bleach, alcohol is cheap, safe, and can be put together at home by mixing isopropyl alcohol and water in a 60/40 ratio, put it in a spritz bottle and spray the area you want to clean.
Unlike bleach, alcohol will not cause irritation of the skin or release noxious fumes when mixed with other products, but it still should not be ingested and should be kept away from open flames since it is highly flammable.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is another disinfectant that is safe to use in a home environment and that is commonly found in stores. It is not as strong as bleach, but it is much safer to use on clothes and fabric. While it can still react with specific dyes, it is much more unlikely to bleach it. What we suggest is you test it by rubbing a small amount in an inconspicuous spot – the hem or seam – to test whether your specific fabric is safe.
The one thing you should keep in mind is that hydrogen peroxide loses potency when exposed to light, so to keep it stable and useful you need to store it in a dark container. That’s why peroxide is usually sold in dark brown or black containers.
Vinegar kills microbes and bacteria by breaking it down thanks to its acidic properties. It is by far the safest and easiest to use on the list, since it can be found just about anywhere, but the flip side is that it is not as strong.
Unlike alcohol or bleach, vinegar needs at least 30 minutes to properly disinfect, and in some cases, we suggest leaving it overnight to get better results. Much like alcohol, vinegar won’t harm you directly, but you should still keep it away from your eyes.
Where to find a biohazard clean up crew?
In the unfortunate case that a major event has taken place and you need professional help, you should consider reaching out to us. Unfortunately, biohazard licenses are easy to acquire, which results in a lot of inexperienced, unprofessional businesses trying to take advantage of people in a terrible situation. Here at RestorationUSA, we work only with the best companies in all 50 states to help you and your family by restoring your home. Our professionals are covered by insurance companies and licensed to disinfect even commercial-sized buildings for COVID-19 or other virus outbreaks.