Care homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings face unique infection control challenges that demand high-performance and reliable cleaning products.
One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection is through the use of powerful biocide disinfectants formulated to kill bacteria, viruses and other harmful pathogens.
Traditional disinfection methods such as spray bottles, mops and cloths can be time-consuming and lead to inconsistent results, increasing the risk of infections.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-prepared disinfecting wipes have become widely adopted into healthcare cleaning routines as a more convenient and effective solution to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
In this article, we will explore the advantages and limitations of medical disinfectant wipes, as well as provide guidance on how to choose the best product for your facility.
What are Medical Disinfectant Wipes?
Medical disinfectant wipes are a type of industrial wipe made from a light non-woven fabric which is pre-saturated with a solution designed to kill or inhibit the spread of harmful pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
They are used to clean and disinfect hard surfaces or medical devices in high-touch areas, but are not suitable for direct skin cleansing.
Wipe disinfectants typically contain a variety of hospital grade biocides, which are chemical agents designed to be effective against a range of bacteria and viruses like MRSA and Covid-19.
Some common biocide agents found in these wet wipes include Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA), Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs), and more powerful solutions like Peracetic Acid or Hydrogen Peroxide which can act as a sterilant against hard to kill pathogens like spores and fungi.
Benefits and Limitations
Medical wipes offer several advantages over traditional disinfection methods such as spray and cloth or manual cleaning.
- They are convenient and easy to use with minimal training required.
- Provide a consistent level of disinfection, reducing the risk of human error.
- Reduce the need for extra equipment such as spray bottles or cloths.
- Minimise patient and staff exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals.
Like any product, wipes also have their limitations which you should be fully aware of before considering their use in a healthcare setting.
- They may not be suitable for all surfaces.
- Efficacy can be reduced if the surface is visibly dirty or greasy.
- They have specific contact time requirements for proper disinfection, which may not be practical or realistic for some applications.
- If not stored correctly, disinfectant solutions can evaporate, reducing their efficacy.
Types of Medical Disinfectant Wipes
When selecting a medical disinfectant wipe, it’s essential to understand the type of surface being cleaned and the level of disinfection required.
By using the appropriate type, healthcare professionals can ensure that surfaces are adequately disinfected, and the risk of infection transmission is minimised.
Medical wipes come in three types or levels: low-level for cleaning and sanitising, intermediate-level for disinfecting, and high-level for sterilising.
Low-level cleaning and sanitising wipes
These solutions are specifically formulated for cleaning and sanitising surfaces that may come in contact with skin but not bodily fluids.
With an IPA saturation level of 70% and a contact time of 1–2 minutes, these wipes are capable of killing bacteria and some viruses.
Intermediate-level disinfecting wipes
These can be used for disinfecting surfaces and non-invasive medical equipment.
The typical contact time for intermediate-level wipes is 30 seconds to 1 minute, and can kill viruses, bacteria, yeast and some fungi.
High-level disinfectant and sterilising wipes
High level disinfectant wipes are impregnated with more powerful biocides like Peracetic Acid or Hydrogen Peroxide for sterilising high risk surfaces and invasive medical devices that may come into contact with bodily fluids.
Typical contact times range from 30 seconds to 5+ minutes, depending on the formulation and target pathogen, but are highly effective at killing bacteria, enveloped viruses, fungi and spores.
It’s important to note that different brands have varying formulations and contact times, so it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using disinfectant wipes for medical purposes.
Wipes are highly versatile and can be adapted for use in various clinical settings, but the table below highlights some of the most common uses.
|Use Case||Specific Application||Wipes to Consider||Typical Contact Time|
|Cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces||Small surface areas like nurse stations, keyboards, trolleys, tables, chairs, examination couches, mattresses, and bed frames||Intermediate-level disinfecting wipes containing broad-spectrum Quaternary Ammonium Compound (QAC) biocides such as Ammonium Chloride or Benzalkonium chloride||30 sec – 2 minutes|
|Disinfecting non-invasive medical devices||Blood pressure cuffs, intravenous pumps, and pulse oximeters||Intermediate or high level disinfectant wipes containing broad-spectrum QAC or chlorine based biocides||30 secs – 2 minutes|
|Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces or medical equipment contaminated with bodily fluids or infectious agents||Small to medium size areas like floors, walls, ceilings, furniture and other surfaces||High-level sterilizing wipes containing more powerful disinfectants like Peracetic Acid or Hydrogen Peroxide based biocides||1-5 minutes|
|Wiping down personal protective equipment (PPE)||Face shields, goggles, masks, gloves, and gowns||Low-level cleaning and sanitizing wipes containing agents such as 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) for use on hard surfaces that may be in contact with skin but not bodily fluids||30 secs – 2 minutes|
Effective use of medical disinfectant wipes in clinical settings requires a combination of consistent cleaning processes and well-developed staff training. This should include a thorough understanding of manufacturer guidance.
While that’s beyond the scope of this article, some common best practices include:
- Only use wipes after receiving training and reading manufacturers instructions.
- Wear appropriate PPE for the product being used.
- Check product expiry dates before use.
- Ensure the correct product is used for each surface and area being cleaned following any colour coding policies in place.
- Pre-clean surfaces before disinfection to ensure maximum contact between the disinfectant and target microorganisms.
- Follow the 1 wipe, 1 surface, 1 direction technique, cleaning from the most soiled area to the least.
- Use enough to ensure surfaces are visibly wet for the required contact time.
- Dispose of used wipes, following manufacturers instructions and local protocols.
- Re-seal the pack or container and store correctly to prevent remaining wipes from drying out.
A 10 Point Checklist for Choosing the Right Product
With so many wiping products, varying formulations and confusing terminology, it can be a challenge to find the best medical wipe for your specific application.
To make your job a little easier, here’s a checklist that summarises some of the main factors to consider as a starting point:
- Check for any existing infection control policies relevant to the use of disinfectant wipes, including national colour coding systems.
- Determine the purpose of the wipe (cleaning/sanitising, disinfecting, or sterilising).
- Consider the active ingredient, and it’s efficacy against the specific pathogen(s) you’re targeting. For example, if you want to disinfect against viruses and spores, consider high-level wipes which contain broad spectrum viricidal and sporicidal biocides.
- Look for products that comply with disinfectant testing standards such as BS EN 16615 for efficacy against microorganisms, BS EN 14476 for viricidal activity and BS EN 13727 or BS EN 14561 for bactericidal activity.
- Look for disinfecting solutions with fast contact times and broad-spectrum activity.
- Choose a product that is compatible with the surface being disinfected. For example, some IPA alcohol wipes may cause damage to rubber and deteriorate glue bonding parts together.
- Ensure wipes are safe to use around patients and staff by checking their safety profile for potential skin irritation or allergic reactions.
- Consider storage and stock rotation requirements to prevent using out of date wipes and unnecessary wastage.
- Consider product shelf life as disinfectant biocides are less effective once they start to dry out.
- Check the cost and availability of shortlisted products.
Action Plan for Integrating Disinfectant Wipes into Healthcare Infection Control
Successful integration of medical disinfectant wipes into clinical environments takes careful planning that’s focused on correct use and patient safety.
While most healthcare organisations will have existing policies and procedures for this, here’s a list of steps to check when formulating your own action plan.
- Comply with any existing infection control policies for your organisation.
- Determine the specific cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection tasks that require the use of medical wipes in your healthcare environment.
- Review the different types of wiping products available and their specific features and benefits, including their efficacy, size, and durability.
- Consider the environmental impact and explore options for reducing waste, such as using biodegradable alternatives.
- Request any additional information from manufacturers or suppliers on their suitability for different tasks and surfaces, as well as any safety precautions or special instructions.
- Develop protocols for selecting and using the most appropriate type of wipe for each task. Consider national colour coding systems for different areas and surfaces to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
- Train healthcare staff on the proper use of pre-prepared wipes, including how to select the appropriate type for each task, how to follow manufacturer instructions, and how to ensure their correct storage and disposal.
- Run small scale product trials to evaluate the suitability of shortlisted products for your specific site needs.
- Monitor wipe performance and compare against existing cleaning products and methods.
- Monitor compliance with local protocols to ensure wipes are being used correctly and effectively, and make adjustments to your selection criteria and training program as needed.
- Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of wiping products compared to current choices and their impact on reducing healthcare associated infections.
- Regularly review and update your selection criteria and training program to ensure they remain up-to-date with the latest information and best practices in healthcare settings.
Common Medical Wipe Questions
If you have a question not answered here, please contact us for free advice using the details below.
Are disinfectant wipes safe?
Yes, disinfecting wipes are safe to use when following manufacturers instructions, but some people may be sensitive to the chemicals they contain and experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. To prevent this, always read the product label and safety data sheet carefully.
What disinfectant wipes do hospitals use?
Hospitals typically use a variety of wipes as part of strict hygiene protocols. Intermediate-level disinfectant wipes are often used for general purpose cleaning of non-critical surfaces and objects such as chairs, bed frames and examination equipment. High-level wipes are used for sterilising surfaces and instruments against a wider range of pathogens, including bacterial spores.
Are medical wipes really proven to kill germs?
Products that meet strict testing standards such as BS EN 16615, BS EN 14476 and BS EN 13727 are clinically proven to kill a wide range of germs and other harmful pathogens as long as they are used correctly following manufacturer’s instructions. Compliance with these standards is usually found on the packaging or the safety data sheet.
Are disinfectant wipes effective against COVID-19?
Yes, disinfectants like 70% isopropyl alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds or Peracetic acid are proven to kill the Covid-19 virus when used correctly. They work by breaking down the lipid layer that envelops the virus, making it inactive.
Bear in mind that wipe formulations and their required contact times vary, so it’s important to read product labels and manufacturers instructions carefully before use. Also look for brands that are certified to meet the BS EN 14476 standard, which tests for the viricidal activity of chemical disinfectants.
How long does it take for disinfectant wipes to properly sanitize germs?
The disinfecting solutions in medical wipes require a certain amount of contact time to effectively kill germs. This contact time can vary depending on the type of germ and the specific product being used, but generally ranges from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
Can you use disinfectant wipes on your hands?
Medical disinfecting wipes are not suitable as hand cleansers as they may contain harsh chemicals or solvents that can cause skin irritation. For regular use, it is recommended to wear chemical resistant disposable gloves and other PPE recommended by the manufacturer.
Wipe Selection Help and Advice
With over 30 years of expertise in the cleaning chemicals industry, we understand the unique and demanding challenges of healthcare infection control.
If you’re ready to look at specific products with bulk order discounts, you can browse our range of leading medical disinfectant wipes online.
Or, if you’d prefer to discuss your needs without obligation, please contact us on 0114 269 7107 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.