Why surface absorption matters

When we talk about the safety of disinfectants in healthcare environments, we’re often referring to their safety in use and whether or not they pose a risk to health through inhalation or direct skin contact.

It’s for these key reasons that people must be excluded from spaces that have been treated with disinfectants either until the treated surfaces have dried, or until a spray-format product has fallen out of airborne suspension.

But there are other ways that disinfectants can continue to cause problems for the safety of both people and environments – via surface absorption, and subsequent leaching.

What is surface absorption?

Surface absorption means exactly what you’d think – it’s the amount of liquid disinfectant that is absorbed into a porous surface after it is applied.  

In hospitals, porous surfaces like waterproof mattresses, upholstered furniture and curtains etc… are frequently disinfected.  When a disinfectant formula is absorbed into these surfaces, it can pass right through and be absorbed by the core material which is often a plastic or latex-based foam.

Over time, this causes the surface and core material to degrade – it becomes brittle and tends to crumble or crack.  In the case of frequently-disinfected items, this process can happen very quickly and results in significant expense for health trusts due to the cost of replacing these items.  In the interim period when the item is beginning to degrade but not yet ready to be replaced, damage to its surfaces can provide cracks and crevices where bacteria and viruses can lurk.

The level of surface absorption is dependent upon the method of application.  In the case of spray application, a key determining factor is the size of the spray droplets, or spray density.  Large droplets increase surface wetting and subsequent absorption, but deliver less reliable coverage over large areas.  Small droplets give good surface area coverage and low absorption, but can increase inhalation risks because they remain airborne for a long time.  For optimal efficacy, safety and convenience, there is a careful balance to be struck.

What about disinfectant leaching?

Surface absorption can have another, even more sinister side effect – leaching.  This is when chemicals in the disinfectant that has been absorbed by the surface or substrate are released back into the environment over time.  This has particular implications for toxic disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide that can cause a serious health risk and therefore cannot be used in the presence of any porous material that might act as a ‘sink’.

VIRONEX has low surface absorption.  This means that the spray droplets created by our spray wand and nozzle are an optimised size, creating a fine mist that gives excellent surface area coverage, but also dries quickly and falls out of suspension fast.

VIRONEX is safe to use on all porous and non-porous surfaces, including vinyls.  In a healthcare setting, this means less disruption and faster terminal disinfection of patient spaces because rooms and cubicles don’t need to be emptied of furniture and equipment prior to use – in fact, many of these items can be safely and quickly disinfected as part of the same process.  It also means surfaces won’t become faded, stained, dried out or cracked – so they stay looking good for longer, and are easier to keep clean.

VIRONEX facilitates turnarounds of equipment, rooms, communal facilities and vehicles in minutes with a short exclusion time that minimises delays and helps hospitals and other public sector facilities to keep people safe while also protecting building interiors from harm.

For further information or to arrange a consultation, get in touch.