What disinfectant is nontoxic, practical, available, and flexible enough for use by hospital environmental services (EVS for hospitals) in a wide variety of areas? OK, the article’s title might have provided a clue, but if you guessed hypochlorous acid (HOCl), you are correct.
HOCI has been gaining notoriety for its use by hospital cleaning services for some time. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. When the EPA added it to its List N as a disinfectant effective in killing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the formula moved to center stage—and for a good reason.
HOCI: The Superior Chlorine Solution
EVS providers and other commercial cleaning services providers are familiar with chlorine-based solutions, including sodium hypochlorite, better known as bleach. HOCI is the most effective disinfectant in the chlorine family available in a dilutable solution. It is suggested that HOCI is 80 to 120 times more efficacious than bleach. Yet, HOCI is what human white blood cells use to fight infection and is gentle enough to treat human wounds. It is so safe for humans it is even used in many eye care products.
How can something so gentle be so tough on infections? The answer gets a little scientific, but in the simplest terms: HOCI is neutrally charged and has a low molecular weight. These attributes allow HOCI to penetrate the cell walls and other protective layers of microbial pathogens, causing their cells to die or preventing reproduction. HOCI also oxidizes with organic matter faster than other chlorine-based disinfectants.
Conversely, compare this to another commonly used chlorine-based disinfectant, bleach. Because pathogenic microorganisms are negatively charged, they repel bleach molecules, which are also negatively charged. Bleach molecules are also much larger, so they diffuse slower. Perhaps most important, bleach is inactivated by organic materials.
From a safety standpoint, bleach can irritate eyes, lungs, and skin and poses serious hazards, including death, if mixed improperly or with other chemicals.
More HOCI Benefits
In addition to effectiveness, HOCI offers many characteristics alluded to above that make it especially well-suited for use by hospital cleaning services, including:
- Nontoxic—presents no health or safety threats to humans or the environment
- Has a reasonable dwell time
- Safe, easy disposal.
The benefits of these HOCI attributes add up quickly.
- Superior cleaning and disinfecting
- Lower healthcare-associated infections
- Reduced health and safety risks for EVS for hospitals workers and patients
- Increased throughput
- Greater patient satisfaction
- Higher HCAHPS scores
- Reduced worker sick days.
For more information on the efficacy of HOCI, download Servicon’s complimentary whitepaper, which compares the effectiveness of three popular EPA-registered disinfectants in a real healthcare environment.