The pandemic caused a greater awareness of the importance of disinfection and cleaning to cleaning companies as well as people in general. The use, overuse, and mostly the misuse of chemical disinfectants have led to an increase in concern over exposure to harmful chemicals (Reminder that disinfectants are classified as pesticides according to the EPA) as well as the possibility of antimicrobial resistance. This has led to a renewed interest in alternative methods of disinfection, particularly the use of UV lights and steam. Let’s take a close review of steam.
Steam has been utilized for many years to disinfect the environment. For instance, the autoclave, in which surgical tools are cleaned using high-temperature steam (under pressure) for about 20 minutes. Steam is also a common cleaning tool for steam mops, as well as dry generators of steam. Steam mops aren’t disinfecting devices and are not advertised as such, however the dry machines are appearing as viable alternative to chemicals for disinfecting. There is evidence to suggest that steam has the ability to eliminate or inhibit bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens; however, it requires more than just passing steam over a surface in order to achieve actual disinfection.
What is a dry steam generator? It is a machine that uses a boiler where water is superheated in order to create steam with a large amount of heat but a low moisture content, usually at around 5 percent. The sizes of units vary greatly in terms of steam heat, water as well as steam pressure. Some units only have an electric boiler, which means they have shorter run intervals when refilling and then repressurizing. Others contain reservoir tanks that aren’t pressurized, that can be replenished. Most of these models perform a passable or even better job at cleaning, some of them advertise themselves as effective disinfection devices. But do they really work?
To qualify as an disinfection device, the unit must be able to show a reduction of 99.999 percent of the desired pathogen within the time limit. The test results must be submitted to the EPA for an Establishment Number, which will be displayed on every device. Anyone who claims to disinfect must provide their results from tests conducted on their equipment. Certain companies are referring to studies published in the past which were conducted with specific machines, not their own. If you’re looking for the best disinfection equipment, It is crucial to check the manufacturer’s test results for the particular machine you’re examining.
However, when I looked through the websites of several big companies, I could find only two websites with test results. One of them had test results that were not complete, which showed that the disinfection process was completed after 30 seconds of exposure. This is the expected contact time required to disinfect. The issue is that the 30-second contact time isn’t realistic due to the fact that a prolonged exposure can damage surfaces, and also be incredibly difficult to cleanse any large area. The website Advap.com has provided specific test results that confirm their claims of speedy disinfection. (3-7 seconds!). This is a significantly less time-consuming contact and allows for disinfection to be more achievable. The difference lies in their exclusive method of thermal disinfection. Thermal
Rapid Nano Crystal Sanitation ( TANCS(r)) which claims to allow for the speedy disinfection rate. They have met the EPA standards for a disinfecting device, and they clearly state the EPA Establishment Number. Another thing worth looking up on the website are three peer-reviewed research studies that show remarkable results with their system. However, other manufacturers could have misrepresented their products using these studies, which are specific to TANCS-equipped systems.
If all you’re seeking is cleaning, some of these devices are able to do the job. If you are looking for actual disinfection, make sure you take the time to research what tests the manufacturers employ to support their assertions, particularly if you’re an in-house or contractor, service provider that claims to provide disinfection.